Whether you’re walking down a staircase in stilettos or prepping to make a jump shot on the basketball court, balance is a key component to all functional movements. This is why balance training exercises should be a part of everyone’s fitness regimen, regardless of your fitness level.
Balance is the ability to sustain or return the body’s center of mass or line of gravity over its base of support. The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) explains the purpose of balance training is to improve dynamic joint stabilization, which is the ability of the body to stabilize of keep the joints in proper alignment during movement. (One example: stabilization of the hip during a squat by the gluteus medius and adductor complex.)
Countless studies have been done which show a direct correlation between balance training and injury prevention. I think it’s safe to say we’d all agree anything that can help decrease our risk of injury is worth spending some time on.
So how do you do it? The idea is to perform exercises that constantly stress a person’s balance threshold. This is the limit a person can perform an exercise without losing control of his or her center of gravity. In “big-word terminology,” the idea is to push that threshold in a proprioceptively enriched environment. This is an environment that challenges the internal balance and stabilization mechanisms of the body.
In simple terms, balance training is typically performed on a single-leg and/or on unstable surfaces such as a half-foam roll, Airex pad or Dyna disc. For beginners, examples of balance training exercises include single-leg balance and single-leg balance reach. More “seasoned” fitness buffs may perform single-leg squats or single-leg Romanian deadlifts. Finally, balance training exercises for the experienced athlete may include multiplanar hop with stabilization or single-leg box hop-ups with stabilization.
I found this link very helpful in describing the purpose for balance training along with this one from the Mayo Clinic featuring examples of exercises. At the end of the day, balance training can be a challenging part of your exercise program and just one more way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!