Saturday, December 29, 2012

Article # 173. Balance Excercises Part 1



Balance Excerises (How to improve your Balance)
Balance is an essential part of sports performance. It is one part of proprioception, and it helps to keep your muscles working efficiently, and to improve your strength, power, and endurance.
How It Works
Balancing is often referred to as proprioception in the rehab environment. This is not exactly true. Proprioception is a combination of joint position sense, body awareness, and neuromuscular control. Balancing is part of proprioception, and is the easiest way to improve this important function.
When you have an injury, the proprioceptors in the joints are disrupted. In order to improve their communication with the muscles, you must challenge them to adapt to specific stresses. This is where the balancing exercises come in.

There are infinite variations of the single leg stand. Here are some ideas to get you started. The Tree Pose (left) is a personal favourite! It's easy to incorporate balance exercises into your everyday activities. Balance on one leg while talking on the phone, brushing your teeth, or standing in line at the post office.
The simplest of balancing exercises is the single leg stance. It is exactly as it sounds...you simply stand on one foot for a certain amount of time. I have my patients start out with 20 seconds, and then progress all the way up to 1 minute as they become more comfortable.

The single leg stance is a great way to start working on your proprioception and balance after an injury, especially an ankle, foot, or knee injury. Once you master this exercise, it is time to challenge the body and joints even more.
 
SINGLE LEG STAND

Single Leg Stand, unassisted

Try moving your free leg forward, to the side, then back, while balancing on your standing leg, or try swinging your free leg front and back. At first you may need to hold on to the back of a chair or other stable surface, but work towards the goal of balancing on one leg without holding on to anything (including your breath -- remember to breathe while balancing!).

Single Leg Balance, using bench for assistance



 
Single Leg Stand with Knee Bend and Arm Reach









DYNAMIC BALANCE
It is also important to work on maintaining your balance while moving through changes in body position (e.g., when you're walking) and when moving over unstable surfaces (grass, cobblestone).
Pictured at left is what I call the "Rolling Stride." Focus on a natural stride where the heel hits first and you push off with your toes. Concentrate on lifting your toes as your heel makes contact with the ground. No shuffling!




 

 

A LITTLE MORE ADVANCED...


Walking on Balance Disks

This exercise is quite advanced. Try it with pillows if you don't have balance discs on hand (and let's face it: who else but a fitness instructor would have those around the house?). Start by holding on to a counter or other stable surface until you feel confident enough about your balance to go 'hands-free'.

  

 








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