A collaboration between Hannah Oguz and Jeff Malan (Biokineticist)
Last week we shared with you information pertaining to balance and its importance in daily physical activity and sport. This week we provide some tips for you on how to improve your child’s balance through a simple training sequence that can be done daily at home.
How to improve balance
To improve one’s balance confidence and improve physical capabilities, we can specifically train to create movement symmetry between the right and left sides of the body. The starting point for a training program should be mobility and stability, these must exist together to form an effective foundation for movement and activity. Core training is about stability and coordination. Strength is the ability to produce force, whereas stability is the act of controlling force. The core is the body’s gyroscope; it tries to balance the network of forces acting on it and redistribute those forces appropriately. The core will try and compensate for differences between the right and left sides of the body, which may limit the power produced and therefore performance. The core is the powerhouse of the body, the foundation of strength and power, and creating greater stability in the core can accelerate performance.
‘My strength comes from my abdomen. It’s the centre of gravity and the source of real power.’ (Bruce Lee, 2008)
Training to improve balance
Balance is affected by the following training variables:
- Base of support (e.g. smaller base would be standing on one leg instead of two, or an unstable base of support such as standing on a foam pillow or BOSU ball)
- Sensory input (e.g. performing the drill with eyes closed to reduce input, or with joint support to enhance proprioception)
- Static vs. Dynamic exercise (e.g. merely holding balance in place, or while throwing medicine balls from that same position)
- Speed of execution (Slowly and carefully performing a movement may require more balance than merely relying on momentum to carry you through the motion)
You can improve your own balance by following the sequence below, one item at a time. Remember, start from the first item and do not go on to the next item unless you have mastered the previous:
- Stand barefoot, feet touching, for 30 seconds. (remain barefoot for all the challenges)
- Repeat the above challenge with eyes closed.
- Stand with feet aligned, so heel of left foot is in front of toes of right foot – 30 seconds, eyes open.
- Now close your eyes and stand again for 30 seconds.
- Do a single leg stand with your eyes open. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Do a single leg stand with your eyes closed. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Single leg stand on BOSU / thick foam pillow for 30 seconds.
- Repeat with eyes closed.
- Perform 10 single leg half squats, slowly, on a BOSU with eyes open.
- Repeat with closed eyes.
- If still too easy, find an exercise ball and attempt balancing on all fours.
- Repeat with eyes closed.
- Finally, try standing on the ball.
Always keep your knee aligned with your foot, and your body position must be upright and stable. Be warned that attempting balancing on a skill level that is too great can lead to injury. Always have proper supervision and a safe, obstacle free environment with adequate fall protection. When you find a level which is challenging but do-able then perform 3 sets of 1 min every day.
Clark, R. & T. Kraemer (2009). Clinical Use of Nintendo Wii™ Bowling Simulation to Decrease Fall Risk in an Elderly Resident of a Nursing Home: A Case Report. Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy 32(4): 174 – 180.
Cook, G. (2003). Athletic Body in Balance: Optimal movement skills and conditioning for performance, Human Kinetics:USA.
Houghlum, P. (2001). Therapeutic exercise for musculoskeletal injuries, Human Kinetics:USA.
Laessoe, U. & Hoeck, H. (2007). Fall risk in an active elderly population – can it be assessed?. Journal of Negative Results in BioMedicine, 6(2): 11.
Lee, B. compiled and edited by Little, J. (2008). The art of expressing the human body. Tuttle Publishing: Boston. Chapter 9. pp 80.
Liu-Ambrosea, T. & Khana, K. (2004). Balance Confidence Improves with Resistance or Agility Training. Gerontology, 50: 9.
Prentice, W. (2004). Rehabilitation techniques for Sports Medicine and Athletic Training, McGraw Hill:UK.