The thing I love about balance training is that you can use it to level up your workout, no matter your fitness level. I program balance drills for my clients that are wobbly just standing on one foot. It can be used to challenge clients that are able to string together multiple exercises on one foot with ease.
Balance training should be part of a progressive fitness program. If you want to move better, get strong, feel more stable, challenge your body, you need exercises that:
- stress your limit of stability
- are performed in a multi-planar, proprioceptively enriched environment
- use functional movement patterns
- improve neuromuscular efficiently and dynamic balance
Limit of Stability refers to the distance outside your base of support that you can move, without losing control or your center of gravity.
Proprioceptively Enriched Environment refers to an unstable, yet controlled environment.
Dynamic Balance is the ability to move or change directions, without falling, under various conditions.
Benefits of Balance Training:
- improve coordination, specifically neuromuscular (It improves our brain to muscle communication)
- reduce the rate of ankle and other lower extremity injuries
- strengthen your core muscles(not just those abdominals, but the quads and glutes)
- strongly influence speed, endurance, strength and flexibility
- help improve athletic performance
- easily be added to any training program, as a warm-up, cool down, or within the workout itself
How to Add Balance Training to a Workout Program:
Let’s go through how we can progress an exercise like a squat. First, make sure your form is on point and work on any corrective exercise variables that need to be addressed!
We start with a basic squat – both feet are planted, eyes open. Then, maybe we switch up the tempo – moving slow through all portions, then slow through the bottom portion. Maybe change foot position next. Then squats on a foam pad, to squats with heels raised, to single leg squat to box, to bulgarian split squat, to single leg squat, to pistol squat to pistol squat on a balance beam.
And we would keep going! The whole idea is progressing. Continuing to challenge our body in new ways. We don’t always need crazy new exercises for every workout. It can just be a matter of switching up variables and environments!
I’d recommend starting with progressing 1-2 variables at a time and/or progressing through 1-2 components in the exercise selection section.
Keep in mind, this will vary from person to person, and be dependent on your current fitness level. The key is to increase your awareness of your limit of stability and complete exercises in a proprioceptively enriched environment.
Please stay smart and do not push your body beyond your limits. Progression takes time and practice!
Jen Elliott, CES, CPT, PN1
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