When you think of being physically “fit,” I’m sure the obvious attributes of strength, conditioning, and possibly flexibility come to mind.
But an essential, and often overlooked, attribute that carries over to athletic endeavors and daily tasks alike, is balance. If your balance is off, you won’t be as stable and confident in your movements throughout your day and training activities.
In this article, I’ll talk about why balance is so important and how it works, and I’ll show you how it can be trained and improved at any skill level.
Why Balance is So Damn Important
Whether or not you actively train for balance now, you probably intuitively know how relevant balance is in your life.
Every time you hop over a puddle, you have to balance on the stance leg while quickly stretching the extending muscles, which gives you extra power to clear the puddle. If you play soccer and you kick the ball high to make a goal, balance is necessary so you don’t wipe out immediately.
And, of course, in your regular training, balance is essential for controlling your movements.
Still, balance is something most of us don’t really think about until we get older and it becomes more of a challenge. But it’s important at every stage and every level of skill, and putting it on the back burner for a later time isn’t a good idea.
Balance and Proprioception: A Love Story
Balance is intimately tied to proprioception, which is the ability to tell where your body and its parts are in space.
Without proprioception, we cannot have good balance, but good proprioception does not guarantee good balance. For good balance, we need both good proprioception and a reactive neuromuscular system, as well as enough muscular strength to maintain balance.
We know this relationship to be true from people with certain spinal cord conditions, where the proprioceptive pathways are damaged, while the motor pathways remain intact. When this happens, their muscles work just fine, but their balance is terrible.
And conversely, you need a certain level of strength for balance as well. We see this in the aged that haven’t maintained their strength, which leads to increased risk of falling.
But if your proprioception is good (and you can improve it by working on these coordination drills) and you have adequate strength and proper motor recruitment, your balance will be good, especially if you spend time specifically training your balance, which we’ll discuss next.
Everyone Needs Balance and Everyone Can Train It
So how do you train balance? Sure, you could just stand on one leg as much as possible, but that’s probably not much fun, and having fun along with effective training is a big part of how we do things here at GMB.
In the following video, you’ll see several balance drills performed at different skill levels.
This is not meant to be a comprehensive balance training routine, as there are many ways to train balance. But these are some examples to give you some good ideas.
- Spinning your body while jumping helps you work on balance when landing in a particular spot.
- Walking and turning with your eyes closed challenges your balance in ways you’re probably not used to. You may even try just standing still with your eyes closed initially.
- Learning to balance on your hands involves balance throughout your body.
As you can see, balance can be trained and improved no matter what skill level you’re starting from. Here are those drills, for easy reference:
|Type of Balance Drill||Skill Progressions|
|Jump Spins||• 90-degree turn
• 180-degree turn
• 360-degree turn
|Eyes Closed||• Walking
|Hand Balancing||• Frogger
• High Frogger
Improve Your Balance, Proprioception, and Control
Balance is a fundamental physical attribute that’s necessary for making sure you can move confidently through your day-to-day activities and training endeavors.
But, as with all body systems, balance doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You don’t train just any one thing at a time. Some attributes will be more affected in any particular exercise, but there is always more than one aspect going on in any action you do.
When you work on your balance alongside body control, proprioception, mobility, and more, you’ll be far more successful in your endeavors.
Move With Better Balance and Control
With Elements, you’ll learn to move better by improving your balance, proprioception, body control, and mobility.