Read these 31 Balance Training Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Balance tips and hundreds of other topics.
Editors at Fitness Magazine say this is one of many good balance exercises using a stability ball. This is an exercise to improve balance that also targets your abs. Here is how to do it: (work up to three sets).
1. Stand with feet together about a foot behind a stability ball.
2. Bend from the hips, placing hands on ball.
3. Keeping torso extended and abs and glutes tight, raise left leg behind you until it's parallel to the floor.
4. Keep your foot flexed and your inner thigh facing the floor.
5. Rotate your torso to the left and extend left arm overhead.
6. Turn head to gaze at left hand.
7. Hold for three counts.
8. Lower and return to starting position.
Repeat on opposite leg.
A ski trainer will tell you there are muscles that need to be focused on before the winter sport season. These include your leg muscles such as quadriceps, hamstrings, calf muscles, and shins. You also have to do some knee exercises since knee injuries are one of the most common lower body injuries in skiing.
Below is an extensive list of exercises, courtesy of abc-of-skiing.com, to target the areas of your body used in skiing.
For outer and inner thighs:
Lie on your side. For your outer thigh, lift and lower your top leg with slightly bent knee. Then pulse it near the top of the range. Lift the top leg. With a flexed foot, bend and flex your knee. Afterwards, put it back on its original position.
For the inner thigh, bend the top leg with your knee forward and out of way. Then lift and lower your bottom leg.
These are the big leg muscles located in front of the thighs. You can work on quadriceps by doing several squats. This is the least complicated but the most effective exercise for quadriceps.
Opposite the quadriceps are the hamstrings. To strengthen hamstrings, lie on your abdomen and bend your knee so you flex your hamstrings. This exercise will be more effective if you put ankle weights after some repetitions.
For calf muscles:
Skiing involves forward leg pressure so it is important to strengthen and stretch your calf muscles. You can do some calf raises to avoid aching calf muscles in skiing. To do this strengthening exercise, stand flat on the ground, lift up to your toes, then lower your heels to the floor. You can do this with your feet in parallel position, with heels together and toes apart, and heels apart and toes together.
Likewise, you need to stretch your calf muscles. Stand around 18 inches from a wall. Reach and touch the wall with your hands to give you support. Move one foot as far back as you can while slowly pressing your heel against the ground. Hold the stretch. After this, do the same with your other foot.
Shins are particularly helpful when you tend to keep your weight way far back and you attempt to correct it by pulling forward with your shin muscles. You can strengthen your shins through this simple exercise: sit down and attach a light weight on your toes. Lift your toes and pull them toward you while maintaining your heels on the floor.
Do some squats with or without additional weights. You can likewise perform leg presses by first lying down, then lift your legs perpendicular to your body, and then push up against a platform.
Sit on a chair, and then lift your lower legs. Do this with or without ankle weights. You can also use a leg extension bench. Just sit down at one end of the bench and put both your feet under a weight bar. Bend and flex your legs to lift and lower the weights.
Be in a standing position. Step far back with your right leg while bending your front knee and your body weight slightly moving forward. Make sure that the forward knee does not extend beyond the foot. Do this exercise alternately and with or without weights.
Lie down on your stomach with your legs outstretched. After this, flex your lower legs toward your buttocks. You can do this exercise with or without weights. You can also make use of an apparatus to do leg curls. Just lie on your abdomen, position your ankles under the weight bar, and flex your legs toward your buttocks.
Aside from leg and knee exercises, make sure you also have training in strengthening your upper body. Some exercises include back stretch, chest and arm stretch, and shoulder stretch.
Balance training starts simply with the proper stance. Pay careful attention to forming a good arch in your foot without bending your toes. This can be harder than it sounds! To achieve the arch, soften your knees and then turn them out without moving your feet; this should naturally lift the arch of your foot. Once you have mastered the correct, arched-foot stance, you can begin incorporating balance exercises into your routine. These exercises proceed from sitting to standing positions and from unstable to stable surfaces. Maintain the slightly arched foot stance throughout the exercises, except where you are explicitly instructed to alter your stance.
One basic exercise is to stand on one leg in a doorway. Start with your eyes open, holding the pose for 30 seconds. As you develop your balance, you can try to hold the position for longer, and you can also try it with your eyes closed. As you get more comfortable, you can incorporate leaning movements to further develop your balance and focus on specific goals. For example, taking a single step forward and leaning forward to hold a lunge position will emphasizes alignment, coordination and balance. Do the same going backwards and to the side to strengthen all of the muscle groups and to develop more complete lower-body balance.
The Bongo board gained popularity in the 1960's as an off-season device for surfers and skiers. Now the Bongo board has been transformed into an affordable and fun balance/training device that offers quite a workout for fitness enthusiasts.
Bongo boards are touted by fitness professionals as a great way to improve your balance and work your muscles.
The Bongo board develops balance and coordination skills essential to almost all sports and activities by toning the muscles used to maintain balance and stability, and by teaching the proper distribution of body weight to achieve constant equilibrium.
The board's design includes a skate-style deck, independently rotating barrel roller, and an elastic retention cord.
Experts say that exercise charts are a great way to keep track of your exercise progress.
For the technical portion, make a chart similar to a calendar with the days of the weeks listed and write in the exercise you do, the amount of time spent doing it and how many reps you have completed.
For the emotional portion, write your goals down. Write down motivational quotes or thoughts. Write down how you will reward yourself for certain goals reached. Experts say it's a great way to keep your exercise regimen on track.
The goal of functional training is to train or retrain muscles to work properly (“function”) through the use of specialized exercises. Functional training is based on the premise that you only improve what you've specifically trained, and that - since muscle form dictates the role and function of each muscle – a muscle must be trained the way it is designed to function. Functional training differs significantly from traditional strength training, which develops strength and builds muscle through the isolation of specific muscle groups. While adequate for building muscle, traditional strength training will not train the body to meet the specific demands of life and sports because it does not reproduce real life conditions.
Research shows that balance training can improve strength in the knee flexors and extensors. (The largest of these muscle groups would be the hamstrings and quadriceps.) One-leg balance training equalized muscular imbalance. Balance training with a large rubber ball and a rolling board yielded the same strength gains as training on leg machines.
If you have a foam roller you are using for pilates or balance training, you have a great tool for relaxation. Line it up with your spine, lie down on it and get yourself balanced. Then allow yourself to totally relax. The tightness in your back and shoulders from the day's activities will disappear.
Medicine balls date back hundreds of years and recently have come back as one of the main golf training aids for improved golf performance.
Core training with medicine ball:
One of the most effective ways to train your core (torso) for a powerful golf swing is with weighted medicine balls. You can do many rotary movements that mimic the golf swing, but with the added benefit of resistance from the weight of the medicine ball.
Well-rounded hockey players need to strengthen their core as well as their legs. There's no doubt that hockey players need strong legs. Hockey players also need speed. However, some may not realize the stress placed on a hockey player's midsection during the game. For this reason, simple weight lifting is not as effective as an all-body workout that includes a hockey slide board.
As a player races toward the puck, his or her center of gravity is slightly shifted forward due to the forward lean of the trunk in the skating motion. The trunk actually rotates left to right. The center of gravity for the player shifts as well.
Because of all this, experts recommend hockey players do 30 seconds on a hockey slide board (quality reps, stay low and make sure to get full extension in the hip, knee and ankle) as part of his or her overall workout regimen.
If one-stop fitness is your goal, consider the increasingly popular ski machine. Since you move both your arms and legs when using ski machines, they provide an excellent all-over workout.
Designed to simulate cross-country skiing, ski machines use either a rope and pulley system or swiveling poles to mimic the movement of traditional ski poles. In place of skis, ski machines have long, narrow boards or foot pads that glide on rollers. The machine's goal is to provide a non-impact workout that goes easy on the joints and feels just like skiing.
Cross-country skiing is often touted as one of the best forms of exercise. That's because it provides a total workout minus heavy impact. The poling motion builds all-over upper body strength, while leg movement builds the leg muscles and tones the lower back. The benefits of cross-country skiing come from repetitive movement with minimal resistance. A good ski machine will do all this for you.
Which type is right for you?
You can buy machines with either independent or dependent leg motion. Independents use unlinked skis, which can be hard for novices to use. But they provide a more intense workout since you use a more natural leg motion that simulates actual skiing. Dependent models have linked skis so that when one foot slides forward, the other automatically slides back, and vice versa. These machines can help beginners from sliding their legs too far, but they also can force a stiff shuffle movement.
Golfing has a reputation for being less than a rigorous sport. However, studies show that golfers are really receiving a golf workout on the course. That is, provided they don't use a golf cart!
Prevention Magazine reported that when 55 sedentary, middle-age men started playing golf two or three times a week, over a 5-month period they:
- Burned an average of 1,750 calories per game
- Walked 5 miles on average per game
- Decreased abdominal fat by 8 percent
- Lost 5 pounds
- Increased "good" HDL cholesterol by 5 percent
- Shrank their waistlines by an inch
- Lowered "bad" LDL cholesterol and triglycerides by 4 percent each
- Cut total cholesterol by 2 percent
- Decreased blood pressure
- Became more aerobically fit
- Improved endurance in their trunk muscles
- Stuck with the program
The men in the study were healthy and less than 10 pounds overweight to begin with. So if you're overweight or have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, you're likely to see even greater results.
There are ski trainer machines on the market designed to simulate the skiing movements in the off season. They can burn 810 to more than 1,100 calories per hour. They will increase your fitness and skiing versatility on the slopes.
Testimonials from skiers say they are stronger, more agile and can handle moguls and jumps better after training on these machines in the off season.
The motion of the ski machine will teach you modern ski technique and help you to capture the feeling of confident, powerful skiing.
A cross trainer machine adds variety to your workout and gives the body a thorough workout. It also benefits people of all ages.
Interestingly, studies have shown that the elliptical trainer allows the user to burn the same amount of calories as on a treadmill, but with much less effort.
An elliptical cross trainer machine is perfect for:
1. Seniors whose joints could not endure the impact of a treadmill
2. For those in rehabilitation with leg, foot or joint problems.
3. For those looking to add variety to a cardiovascular workout.
Cross-country skiing is a great calorie burning exercise. In fact, skiing or simulated skiing, is one of the best overall workouts you can have, according to many experts.
Vigorous cross-country ski exercise will burn between 531 and 776 calories an hour for a person who weighs between 130 and 190 pounds, according to www.shapefit.com
Calories burned during exercise is affected by body weight, intensity of workout, conditioning level and metabolism.
Balance boards are used for sports training, rehabilitation and fun, but balance boarding has also emerged as a sport.
Check out the Web and you'll find videos of balance boarders performing tricks such as jumps, one leg stands and spins on their balance boards. It has become an extreme sport to some.
The balance board has proved it has many uses. From helping snowboarders and surfers train in the off-season to helping people recover from injuries to offering a competitive arena for balance seekers looking for a thrill.
Used on a dry flat surface, a traditional balance board is a deck, which sits atop of a cylinder whereby an individual stands and attempts to balance on the apparatus while spanning the rock in various directions and geometrical planes.
A great ski exercise that will help you achieve quick feet, lower-body strength and muscle strength is what is called a "side step." Use resistance bands for an even more intense workout.
Increase your agility and quickness and push yourself toward a more confident, explosive skiing style by following these directions for a side step, courtesy of Ski Magazine.
Stand in a semi-squat position and step side to side, maintaining the stance throughout the exercise. Keep your head up, avoid hunching your back, and focus on your "inside edge" as you push off. Try this quad burner for 30 seconds, rest for one minute, and repeat three times.
As you improve, attach a sport cord or resistance band to a doorjamb or any secure point off to the side of you. Place the belt around your waist, and get into the starting semi-squat position. Position yourself far enough from the door so that there is constant tension on the band. As you perform the exercise, you may find that your body feels unstable - that's ok; as you continue, you'll build stability and power. Do the exercise for 30 seconds on one side, then switch to the other. Do three sets on each side. Soon you'll feel more power in your lateral leaping - and in the ski bumps.
Poor balance is associated with ataxia, or a general loss of coordination. Poor balance can contribute to lower-back pain, neck pain, arm numbness and tingling, as well as chronic ankle and knee pain or instability. People with poor balance can suffer serious musculoskeletal injury: acute ankle sprains, osteoarthritis, damage to the ACL, and dangerous falls that can cause fractures. Such falls are a significant risk for older people, as their bones are more susceptible to fracture and healing can be difficult, further limiting their mobility and again increasing the risks associated with poor balance.
Slide boards provide a dynamic range of motion requiring balance throughout all planes.
Training and rehabilitation with a slide board allows you to work in the sagittal, frontal, and transverse plane while utilizing movement. Slide boards are very popular for upper body stabilization and strength as well as lower body balance and power.
A slide board provides you an opportunity to get a low-impact aerobic workout as you work on balance and leg strength. You can purchase a slide board and special nylon booties for your feet from a sporting goods store. You can also improvise and slide with thick socks on a finished hardwood floor.
Start by standing at one side of the board. Raise your leg and push off toward the other side of the board as if you were skating.
Repeat in the opposite direction.
Proprioception deficits in the lower extremities are pretty easy to identify. If you lose balance or compensatory shoulder motion when you stand or hop on a single leg, you might be receiving suboptimal proprioceptive feedback. If you have suffered an injury and are concerned about your physical responsiveness, consult a professional who can help you diagnose your problem and begin working with you on a rehabilitative program.
Balance is the state of equilibrium; physically, balance is the condition during which the body's center of gravity is maintained within its base of support. Balance is a function of joint stability, which is influenced by the strength and proprioceptive abilities of the musculoskeletal system. Three sensors drive a sense of balance: the eyes, the inner ear and proprioceptors, or tiny sensors in each joint and muscle that sense the position of a joint relative to the rest of the body. While the eyes, the inner ear and proprioceptors contribute roughly equally to the sense of balance while standing still, dynamic activities, such as walking, running or jumping, engage proprioceptors disproportionately.
Functional training creates a healthy, well-conditioned body. Specifically, functional training helps you develop kinesthetic awareness and body control, will improve your posture and balance, thus decreasing your risk for injury and improving your athletic performance. Moreover, functional training will positively affect your spinal health and make your movement more efficient. People who use functional training tend to have a more balanced musculature, tight abdominals, and a generally toned appearance. Functionally trained muscles are a solid foundation upon which you can then layer traditional strength training if there are specific body parts your want to build. Always perform functional training first, since your nervous system will be most fresh and responsive, and traditional strength training afterward.
If you think about it, movements involved in your daily activities do not require isolated muscle function. Rather, your day to day movements – getting into a car, lifting your child, running to catch the train – all require an integration of various muscles. Functional training exercises aim to reproduce those demands and develop your muscles, and the relation of your muscles to one another, so that you can perform those activities effectively, efficiently, and without injury. To train function, an exercise must engage the superficial core muscles to help produce force, reduce force, or dynamically stabilize the spine, and they must engage the deep, underlying musculature to provide stability. Functional exercises also activate shoulder stabilizers and neutralizers in the upper body, and the hip, knee and ankle joint stabilizers in the lower body. Meanwhile, functional exercises balance body segments over your base of support and challenge the body to maintain ideal posture. Functional training often incorporates the use of balance boards, Swiss balls, and other tools that create instability because the body responds better to training in an unstable environment.
Prevention Magazine advisor Wayne Westcott, studied 77 golfers and found that when they did strength-training exercises over the winter months, they lost an average of 4 pounds of fat from their bellies and added 4 pounds of muscle in their upper body and legs. As a bonus, the training enhanced their golf swings, too.
Westcott's quick, at-home golf workout will help you achieve a better game and better health. Here's his program:
Use dumbbells. For arms, use 10 to 15 pounds; upper body, 15 to 20 pounds; and legs, 20 to 25 pounds. Do two sets of repetitions three times a week, with a day of rest between sessions.
Squats (works legs):
Do 10 to 15 reps. Stand tall, holding dumbbells at sides. Lower hips until legs are bent at a 90-degree angle, then rise back to standing position.
Bench Press with Dumbbells (works chest and triceps):
Do 10 to 15 reps. Lie face up on a bench, holding dumbbells end to end with arms extended above chest. Lower dumbbells to outer chest, then press up to starting position.
Bent-over row (works upper back and biceps):
Do 10 to 15 reps. Put left hand and left knee on bench, and hold dumbbell in right hand with arm extended. Pull dumbbell up to outer chest, then lower to starting position. Repeat on opposite side.
After two to three weeks, add:
Shoulder press (works shoulders and triceps)
Do 10 to 15 reps. Stand tall, holding dumbbells so they rest on shoulders. Press dumbbells up until arms are extended above head, then lower again.
Standing dumbbell curl (works biceps):
Do 10 to 15 reps. Stand tall with arms extended, holding dumbbells at sides. Curl dumbbells up to shoulders, and return to starting position.
Trunk curl (works abs - no weights needed)
Do 10 to 15 reps. Lie on back, curl upper body slowly up, and hold for 3 to 5 seconds. Then roll back down slowly.
Trunk extension (works lower back):
Do five to 10 reps. Lie on stomach, fold hands under chin, and lift hands, head, and chest off floor. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds, then lower.
Proprioception refers to the body's ability to sense movement within joints and joint position, enabling us to know where our limbs are in space without having to look. Proprioception underlies everyday movements, and is especially important for complicated sporting movements that require precise coordination. When a joint or other body part is injured, one's ability to properly coordinate muscular efforts is inhibited and body-spatial perceptions are altered. Such skewed perceptions limit the ability of a patient to perform therapeutic flexibility, strength and endurance exercises correctly, increasing the risk for incomplete rehabilitation and chronic pain or other problems. Therefore, reestablishing proprioception is critical to a functional rehabilitation program.
Once you have developed enough balance that doing the exercises on a solid surface seems natural, try adding unstable surfaces to your routine. You want to be sure to have a spotter or position yourself near a wall or doorway, in case you need to catch yourself. To start, place a balance board on a thick, soft mat or a on a thick carpet. Stand on the board – at first, just try to maintain your balance! Once you have your balance and feel comfortable, try gently rocking the board from front to back or from side to side by hinging at your ankles - avoid bending at your waist. Play around with facing different directions, shifting your weight, or doing semi-squats. You'll feel how your body responds differently based on what you are doing. Once you feel comfortable, try standing on the board on one foot.
Improving your balance will indeed improve your golf game. And there are plenty of golf training aids out there designed to help with your balance. Here are some of them:
Balance rod: good balance is essential to consistent shots – putts, chips, and full swings. Standing on the Balance Rod will show you where your weight is located and will tune your body for great balance. Cost is about $20.
Foot wedge: a high-impact plastic wedge developed to teach proper balance. Especially helpful in reducing swaying and maintaining a steady swing center by keeping your weight on the insides of your feet during the golf swing. Cost is about $15.
GolfGym balance ball: a proven, time-tested fitness tool designed to help any golfer improve core strength, flexibility, posture and balance. It also comes with a handy DVD which shows exercises specific to improving your golf game. Cost is about $35.
Fitter1 Tip: You can use a foam roller as an aid for stretching. The foam roller is popular for fitness and therapeutic applications. They are especially good for spinal stabilization and developing core strength. Foam rollers are 36 inches long by 6 inches in diameter, and come in full or half round. They are durable and inexpensive, so many people get more than one so they have more exercise options.
Fitter1 Tip: When working out with balance trainers, focus on keeping a proper stance as opposed to doing reps quickly.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|