Saturday 4 August 2018

Implementing balance training

Following on from the why's and the benefits of balance training detailed in my post Balance your way to fitness, it is important to focus on how to implement balance training into your routine.

Table of contents

Progression & regression

Implementing balance training must follow a progressive and systematic method working alongside whatever phase of training you are in:

  • Stabilisation: this involves little joint motion such as standing on one leg, which helps to improve automatic stabilisation contractions around the joint to maintain balance.
  • Strength: involves more dynamic motions such as one-legged squats, helping your nervous system to adapt to a dynamically shifting center of gravity.
  • Power: involving dynamic motions that end in a static position, such as a one-legged hop onto a box and holding the landing for a specified amount of time.

Ideally you should perform between one to four balance exercises and one to three sets of each. So depending on your phase of training:

  • Stabilisation: sets of 12 to 20 repetitions for exercises involving motion done at a slow tempo. 6 to 12 repetitions should be done if doing one-legged exercises.
  • Strength: sets of 8 to 12 repetitions done a medium tempo.
  • Power: sets of 8 to 12 repetitions, done explosively with a controlled landing holding it for 3 to 5 seconds.

According to NASM, 10 minutes of balance training three times a week is sufficient for improving proprioception.

It stands to reason that if you find it too hard then you should regress the exercise to an easier form.

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Acute variables

Once a balance exercise can be performed with ease you need to alter the acute variables to ensure further progression. These include:

  • Stable to unstable surfaces
  • Simple to complex movements
  • From eyes open to eyes closed
  • From slow to faster tempo
  • From static to dynamic
  • Use of proprioceptively challenging equipment such as half-foam rolls, wobble-boards, Bosu balls etc.

The key is to alter only one variable at a time. Too many too quick and you will overload your nervous system and make little progress.

Balance training also doesn't need to be restricted to specifically balance work outs. It can be added into your normal gym routine, for example doing biceps curls whilst standing one-legged on a half-foam roll or doing bodyweight squats on a Bosu ball or press-ups with feet on a medicine ball. Doing press-ups on gym rings really challenges the stability of your arms and makes it far harder.

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Closing thoughts

Hopefully this has helped you devise a progressive and systematic routine for improving your balance and proprioceptive abilities. It is a vital component of health and fitness that every one of all ages and abilities needs to focus on as it becomes more and more important to retain as we get older.

If you would like more information on integrating balance training into your routine or anything, then feel free to comment below or send me some feedback!

Lyle Richardson,
Gym Pal - Your Friend In Fitness


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