Have you ever said, "I don't have great balance"? Whether you're referring to balance in general or balance in a specific skill. If you've never had to say this, I'm sure you're aware of the idea of feeling unbalanced from time to time. Quite often, balance gets brought up in the training world and people speculate on ways they think how they can improve it. In this Blog I'm going to explain to you how most people think to improve balance and how to actually improve balance, both generally and specifically!
What Most People Think Is Balance Training
When people think of training methods to improve balance, both generally and physically, they would assume to train on unstable objects. For example, Bosu Balls, Swiss Balls, Indo Boards, are just a couple of options. They believe that if you make the surface unstable, that it will help the "small muscles," "core," and "coordination" with everything else that you do physically.
There is a flaw to thinking this way. Training on unstable surfaces can be great for the rehab setting. Going from unhealthy, back to baseline health. But in the world of going from baseline to improve performance, training on unstable surfaces majority of the time, is a waste of time and can even be counter intuitive to your training.
When you train on something unstable, you drastically decrease the amount of force that you can produce. This means you become weaker. Imagine that you're walking with shoes on a sheet of ice. You stop and tell yourself to either jump as high as possible or to start sprinting as fast as possible. What will happen next is that you can't, your body will shut itself down to purposely to make you weaker as a defensive mechanism to provide you safety.
The second reality is that, training on these objects, you will just improve the skill of training on that specific object. Say for example, you start doing Squats on a Bosu Ball, you may realize it becomes easier after a couple weeks. What's happening? You're simply improving by learning the skill of standing/squatting on a Bosu Ball, not really by getting stronger. This will actually have very little, to no carrying over to training balance in real life. It's like saying learning how to throw darts will make you better at typing on a key board.
So What Should I Do To Improve Balance Then?
You know how earlier I told you that there's General and Specific Balance? We're going to go over these concepts and I'm going to give you a background on how to approach these to give you direction on how to improve both qualities.
General Balance- This is just your overall balance as a person. It's knowing we're your center of gravity is. The best way to improve this, simply just moving through ranges of motion and moving as a person. What also drastically helps this, is having stability in your joints, especially the hip and ankle joints. When you can create stability, it will help give your body frame a stronger foundation to keep you stable.
Specific Balance- Specific Balance is having spacial awareness in whatever activity (skill) that you're performing. Meaning, recognizing what your body is doing without having to think about it. So just like with General Balance, you can learn to know where your center of gravity is, but we can take this concept further in developing Specific Balance. It's very helpful to just create drills to have landmarks to control your body. For example, Line Hops, Altitude Landings, and Agility Drills. Once you master these types of drills, these will help the balance in your Specific Skills (sport).
Improving balance isn't about training on objects to make you less balanced. It's about building stabilization throughout your body and then learning and improving your spacial awareness. If you have a specific activity that you need to perform, mastering the correct technique of that skill will almost always help improve your balance for that!
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Physical Prep Coach & Owner of Joel Younkins Training.