Instructor Tatiana demonstrating chest press on ball

Why You Should Add Balance Training to Your Workout

Hi, my name is Tatiana. I’m a former competitor in Rhythmic Gymnastics and a personal trainer at Complete by CompleteBody. In my 10 years of experience as a personal trainer, pain and lack of performance are some of the most common problems people face. 

When building a house, it is essential that you have a solid foundation to support the structure placed on it. The human body is no different. Muscle imbalances, postural issues, and improper movement patterns jeopardize our structure and hinder our movement potential.

When it comes to training clients, mobility and stability are primary components in their training programs to establish a strong foundation.

Balance is the neuromuscular skill that allows the body to adapt to shifts in weight distribution to stay upright or in control while moving.  It is also known as your ability to not fall over while doing everyday activities.  To improve your balance is to improve the function of the entire body. The key components of balance training are joint stability and mobility.  Training for better balance includes doing specific exercises that are meant to challenge the stability and mobility of joints. Maintaining good balance by incorporating stability and mobility training into your workouts will help you feel and look your best while aging gracefully.  

When someone is ‘unbalanced’, such as disproportionately mobile in a stable joint or stable in a mobile joint, poor movement patterns develop which can result in issues later on.  All joints demonstrate varying levels of stability and mobility but tend to favor one over the other, depending on their role in the exercise.  Individuals who exhibit limited mobility and stability often resort to compensated movement patterns when performing complex exercises or using advanced techniques.  This leads to a higher risk of injury and/or muscular imbalances.  Once the body parts are stable and mobile in the right way, we can teach the body to move.

Balance Training

Balance can be considered a ‘Use it or Lose it’ type skill.  It usually declines with age, but it is essential to preserve it and can typically be improved through exercise.  Balance training should be considered the cornerstone of  quality movements. Efficient movement requires strong proprioception at the joints and a stable core, both of which are improved through balance training. Moreover, balance training improves overall fitness, quality of life, sports performance, and decreases the risk of injury. Balance training can even give you an aerobic workout that helps control blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure.

Balance and Core Stability

Balance training involves doing exercises that strengthen the muscles that help keep you upright, including your legs and core.  The core is a complex group of muscles, extending far beyond your abs. Many of these muscles are hidden beneath the exterior musculature people typically train. Major muscles included are the pelvic floor muscles, transverse abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae and diaphragm. These muscles act to stabilize your spine providing a firm support for all the activities we do. They transfer force through your body and prevent us from having undesired back, hip, knee and even neck pain.  Many core stability exercises, like planks, help develop balance skills.  These  exercises can be intense, like very challenging yoga poses, while others are as simple as standing on one leg for a few seconds. You can also use equipment that forces your body to stabilize itself, such as a Bosu half-circle stability ball or a balance board.

Anyone can, and should, include stability training in their workouts. If you’re new to exercise, it’s a great place to start. Focusing on your core stability will  improve your overall strength and gets your body ready for more advanced exercises. Stability training also works well for people with certain health conditions like back pain.  Stability training is one of the best ways to strengthen your core and prevent issues from developing in your back and hips.  Incorporating joint-specific stability exercises can also help arthritis by giving more support to joints to keep them moving the right way, decreasing pain and inflammation. 

Benefits of Mobility Training for Balance.

Joint stability and mobility are equally important. Mobility is the ability to actively move through the full range of motion of the joint and is one of the most important aspects of fitness. 

People often confuse flexibility with mobility.  Flexibility refers to the ability of a muscle to be lengthened pain-free and without stiffness through a range of motion, in a passive state.  The difference is the ability to move into a position using muscle control versus being moved into a position without control.

Mobility allows you to move as efficiently as possible through the full range of motion. This means better performance and less risk of injury. Mobility movements are essential because they prepare our bodies for the stress of training. It is a vital contributor to reducing the risk of injuries as well as improving technique and range of movement.  With age, our muscles become stiff and our joints are less mobile, and as a result, less responsive. If you focus only on strength, resistance, and cardio exercises, you compound the problem. Eventually, your body will start losing suppleness causing your movements to be stiff and uncomfortable. If you want to combat this problem and keep your body youthful, you need to incorporate mobility training into your regimen.

Assessing Your Balance

Mobility and stability training should be a part of every workout routine to improve balance. Regularly performing exercises to help improve your balance, increasing your mobility and stability, will enhance your overall strength and performance. 

A few effective movement assessments  to challenge these are:

2. Static Postural Assessment
2. Overhead Squat assessment

Movement assessments should be the first step for a fitness professional to identify imbalances and create a comprehensive program for the client. Once areas for improvement are identified, an appropriate stability and mobility program can be developed to help you maintain your balance and improve your overall fitness.

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