By: Dr. Chad Kuntz, PT, OCS, SCS, CSCS, CISSN, TPI-1
This article is essentially applicable to everyone because at one point in time or another, it would most likely benefit you to have improved balance. This may range from a basketball player who is in 8th grade to someone who is 80 who is trying to stay independent in their house and avoid a fall. Before we can sink our teeth into the training balance continuum, it would benefit us to know exactly what composes balance.
What is “Balance?”
While it seems perhaps simplistic, it is far from it. In fact, this article can only briefly skim upon the surface of the answer, however it will be plenty for the brain to initially digest.
Our ability to balance is determined by three crucial components. Our eyesight, our sensation, and our vestibular system. Eyesight is said to play roughly around 60-70% of the role to help us with our balance. This is why when we perform balancing exercises with our eyes closed, we immediately notice an increase in difficulty.
Secondly, our sensation, or fancily known as the “Somatosensory System,” helps us stay balanced. This is our ability to feel the ground and the interface between our feet and the ground. In addition, our proprioception, or our ability to determine where we are in space at that point in time, also help us stay steady. The Somatosensory System is said to comprise around 20-30% of our balance. Understand that when we walk on unstable or undulating ground, the ability to cope and balance is diminished and challenged.
Thirdly, and the smaller of the three components for our balance, is the Vestibular System. The Vestibular System is located in our ear and is said to only assist with around 10% of our balance. Now with that being said it does make a significant difference if it is impaired.
Although the above three components truly make up what is known as our balance, it would be doing you a disservice if you didn’t know that strength plays a vital role in balance as well. In particular, gluteus medius, maximus, as well as the proximal hip musculature, need to be strong to control the ball and socket joint.
As stated above, to train our balance is to train all three components well and in different fashions. In addition, we have to understand that the world will present with many different challenges for our balance, including but not limited to; light exposure, unstable surfacing, speed, strength requirements, etc. Furthermore, different combinations such as vestibular and vision, vision and somatosensory, only somatosensory, etc., can be challenging us at any time and our bodies have to be prepared for these experiences by appropriately challenging our balance with different exercises.
The training progression listed below in the tables will be in order from EASIEST to HARDEST. Also, not everyone has fancy equipment like an airex or a bosu ball, so therefore the progression will shown with simple to no equipment so that you could easily do it at home.
Time: Perform all balance exercises for a goal of 30 seconds.
Progression: As you will see in the figures below, they are listed in terms of easiest to most difficult. The tables are also listed in order from easiest to hardest (Double leg stance < Tandem stance < Single leg stance).
Vision: All exercises shown below are with vision. Understand that you should be able to complete all balance exercises appropriately with vision prior to challenging it without vision.
Key: The “X’s” mark which component of balance is being utilized the most for that particular balance exercise. A picture on the right depicts more information about that particular exercise. A yoga mat is also substituted for the pillow as an unstable surface.
There are a lot of balance exercises listed here with different integrations of the balance components we require for stability. In order to progress your balance, you need to find the first exercise that you can not complete for the full 30 seconds without losing your balance once. If you can easily maintain the position for 30 seconds, it most likely is not doing you any benefit. If you’re fearful of falling and hurting yourself, please keep a hand on a stable surface but try to not rely on it for the stability.
About the Author
My name is Chad Kuntz and I want you to know that I’m here to help you with your balance no matter where you are in your age, fitness level or health and fitness journey. If you’d like to be personally guided by me through an online Strength and Conditioning Telehealth Consultation, please feel free to contact me by any of social means below. In addition, I do write personal, customized workout programs and would love to help you progress your health and fitness in that journey as well.
Dr. Chad Kuntz, PT, OCS, SCS, CSCS, CISSN, TPI-1.
Phone Number: 704-835-0831
Address: 601 N Polk Street, Pineville, NC 28134
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