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Entries in Balance (3)
Video: Balance Work (Practice)
Balance - the ability to control the body's stability whilst moving (or stationary) regardless of its base of support. One of the 20 Components of Fitness.
The video below is of me attempting to use a park bench as a balance beam.
How to improve your balance:
There is no need to use a BOSU, swiss ball, balance board or a park bench for that matter. There are much simpler methods.
Aim to stand on one leg for the duration of brushing e.g. 2 minutes in the morning on the left leg, and then the other leg at night. You may only manage a few seconds to begin with, but this will increase over time as your skills improve.
The intention is not to hold on to anything or to put the other foot down to gain support.
Vary the amount of knee bend each time, this will not only strengthen the muscles that support the knee but also help prevent injury and knee pain. This may be uncomfortable to begin with but is necessary to promote stability in the joints.
Also spend time balancing on the heel, balls of feet, inside and outside of foot. This will help to sensitise the foot whilst improving ankle mobility and strength.
To control and minimise re-balancing use the hip/core as the primary area of control (rather than the arms) to maintain balance.
The hips, knees and ankles should work together in an integrated fashion.
I'm not a big fan of Swiss/BOSU balls. Although I do feel these can offer a 'challenge' in testing one's balance ability.
There is no doubt they are a common sight in gyms, and the argument often used to justify their proliferation is an increase in core engagement because of the additional inherent stabilisation required by the body.
A recent study by Brandon Uribe and his team casts doubts on their effectiveness. The investigation tested muscle activation performing presses (bench/shoulder) on a fixed bench versus a stability ball. They tested the muscles involved in this activity (including the abs) and they concluded using an unstable surface made no difference during muscle recruitment.
Makes you wonder why you would bother using a nonstable surface - if there is no gain? I can think of a good reason to be as 'stable' as possible though (apart from safety). Using a stable support is more likely to increase total muscle activation due to the greater loads possible during lifting i.e. you can go heavier with a solid platform!
To test balance simply perform an exercise or activity you normally perform bilaterally (i.e. on two legs) and do the same on one leg - such as a squat. Or even perform an exercise with your eyes closed such as a deadlift. You will most likely find the above a significant challenge to the stabiliser muscles, without the use of a 'ball' of any kind.