Whether participating in a workout routine, playing a sport, or just engaging in everyday tasks like walking up the stairs or reaching for something from the top shelf, maintaining balance plays a key role in all functional movement.
Often times, people overlook balance training and the importance it plays in our everyday life. Personally, I use to only occasionally train balance, but it never was a focus during my fitness routine. In the last year or so I have gotten more into yoga which deals a lot with balance and stability. Furthermore, the more involved I've gotten with personal training and furthering my fitness education the last 6 months, the more I've realized just how vital it is to incorporate balance training on a regular basis.
Why Incorporate Balance Training?
Balance training is incredibly beneficial at improving dynamic joint stabilization. This refers to one's ability to stabilize a joint during movement. In order to avoid injury, this stabilization of the joint is necessary. The more we age, the more challenging maintaining our center of gravity can be. This is one reason the elderly are at high risk of falling the older they get, which can result in debilitating injuries'. In order to mitigate this problem as we naturally age, it is important to incorporate balance training into your routine. Injuries stemming from lack of joint stabilization can happen at any age though which is why balance training is important for everyone. Aside from reducing injuries, improving balance can help better functional movement throughout the day.
The key focus of balance training is to constantly stress your body's limits of stabilization. According to NASM, "An individual's limit of stability is the distance outside of the base of support that he or she can go without losing control of his or her center of gravity." Getting outside your comfort zone is a good thing here. Training in an unstable, yet controlled environment is the goal. It's not just about balancing on one leg for 30 seconds. It's about incorporating functional movements and balance together in order to challenge the body to maintain stabilization. By doing so, this greatly improves dynamic balance and neuromuscular efficiency. Balance training exercises should progress from basic to more advanced. For instance, a middle-aged individual who has never trained balance before should not jump right into single-leg box jumps, instead a single-leg hip rotation exercise may be more in line with their current abilities.
For my personal training clients, I always include a small portion within their program that focuses in on balance. Sometimes in my own training, I will have workout days where I just train balance and stability. I often times incorporate yoga into my routine which challenges stability as well. Luckily there are many fun and exciting ways to add balance into your fitness routine.
Below are a few workouts I've designed that have a strong focus on balance and stability. These workouts are general workouts without a specific client in mind. If you are looking for a customized workout plan specifically geared towards your goals, abilities, and body, I encourage you to reach out regarding my Fitness Training programs.
Balance is not the main focus of this last workout, but there are a few great (and challenging) balance exercises which I think are worth sharing. Enjoy!
NASM essentials of personal fitness training: National Academy of Sports Medicine, 3rd edition, 2012, pg220