What’s the best way to train to improve ones balance? If you Google balance training you will find all the latest and greatest devices, Bosu balls, dynadisks, rocker boards, along with hundreds of websites filled with thousands of exercises utilizing the aforementioned devices. These devices allow us to challenge our bodies in some amazing ways, but before we jump into the world of balance training we may want to ask…what is balance?
Balance is essentially one’s ability to maintain a constant center of gravity, regardless of position. In order to maintain a center of gravity or an optimal axis of instantaneous rotation (OAIR), one’s muscular system must maintain optimal length-tension relationships. So, what does all this mean? Let’s take a look. As you read this you will likely notice your shoulders being rounded and your head protruding forward. This is termed forward head posture (FHP), and is very common in our technology driven society. When one has adopted FHP as a motor engram the head leads the body and puts undo strain on the neck, as a result of the neck strain the shoulders start to round and so on down the body. This constant strain can make balancing very difficult, secondary to joint instability.
If we look at the fact that instability + instability = more instability we have to ask, is the current trend in balance training increasing or decreasing our balance. Current balance training trends focus on putting the body on an unstable device and asking the body to compensate in an effort to increase neural output and hence balance. This is great for someone who already has a solid foundation and good balance, it can be a nightmare for someone with joint instability secondary to postural imbalances. Take a quick test, get up and see how long you can balance on one leg, then the other. You will probably notice a couple of things. You will likely notice that one leg is easier than the other and that you probably can’t balance for more than one minute on either. If this is the case then you will want to take a look at your posture and see if your body is out of balance. Look for your head being out in front of your body, look for one hip sitting higher than the other, and for any side bending. These will all affect your balance relative to the degree you are out of alignment. So, if you are really looking to improve your balance you should address your postural imbalances and save the instability training for another day.
BS Exercise Science