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Balance Training

April 14, 2010

By Gerard Bochese

As fitness routines and personal trainers have begun to rely less on seated exercise equipment and focus more on functional training, we have seen an increase in balance training.

There are two forms of balance training:

1) Surface balance – this is where the surface that the participant is standing on is unstable and requires a stability component from the core and lower body.

2) Upper extremity balance – this is where the external force that is being lifted and maneuvered is unstable.

In the past, most training programs relied primarily on increasing weight to increase the difficulty or intensity of the exercise. But balance training has become an excellent way to increase the difficulty of an exercise and challenge the strength and stabilizing abilities of the participant.

Utilizing surface balance a person can increase the intensity of basic exercises such as bicep curls, shoulder presses, and chest presses. For example, try doing dumbbell curls while standing on one leg. Grab a set of dumbbells and perform your overhead shoulder presses while standing on an unstable surface such as a bosu ball or foam airex pads. Instead of lying on a stable bench, perform your chest presses from a swiss ball. In all of these situations the body is forced to call on a variety of stabilizing muscles in the legs and especially the core to complete the exercises. Many of these stabilizing muscles are difficult to activate consciously but will fire and contract when the body is put in a position of “danger”. Though it is not dangerous to perform these exercises, the body views instability as “danger” and will sub-consciously call on various stabilizing muscle groups during the exercise. These extra activating muscles will help to increase your core and postural strength and help you to burn more calories because more muscles are hard at work. As you progress with these basic balance exercises there are a variety of challenging and difficult balance progressions that can be incorporated into your fitness routine that will really dial up the intensity of the program and create a foundational strong, athletic and toned body.

With upper extremity balance the participant is standing on a stable surface but the external force being lifted, rotated, or maneuvered is unstable, such as a water-filled pipe, sand-filled kettlebells, or other creative apparatus. This type of training engages the stability muscles of the upper extremities and also the deep core muscles from a top to bottom line of gravity. This type of training is a little more relative to the real world as we are usually positioned on a stable surface but carrying things that are unstable – small children, loose groceries in a bag, etc.

Balance training is an excellent way to improve functional strength and core stability and create a fun and interesting way to work out and progress and challenge workouts.

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