Balance is best trained by speaking to the body in a language it understands. Andrea Wasylow, PT explains: “Balance requires the ability of the neurological system to successfully receive information, process that information, and then convey an appropriate motor plan for task completion – all while controlling the center of mass against gravity.”
If someone gave me instructions in a language other than English, I’d be unable to follow. The same is true when talking to the body. To improve balance, you must feed information to the proprioceptors, that’s the body’s sensory system, in a language it can understand.
Wasylow explains, “Though there is a small amount of information generated to the proprioceptive system in a static position, it is motion that truly ‘turns on’ and feeds these systems the information required for function”.
Sensing Information From Movement
We depend most heavily on the visual system for information about body position and where the joints are relative to one another over the base of support. In the absence of vision, the proprioceptors are the primary source of sensory information.
Just like we use multiple senses of sight, smell and taste to deliver the complete taste profile of food, the proprioceptors sense information in a variety of ways to help with balance. They gather information in response to changes in tension within the joint capsule and muscle fibers; compression forces; and changes to speed and velocity. Practically speaking, you can add a balance enhancing component to any exercise by talking to the proprioceptors in their language.
- Use changes in direction
- Incorporate full range of motion
- Vary range, direction and speed of movement
- Do exercises safely at a joints end range of motion
- Vary the load
- Include stretching and strengthening in all 3 planes
Last week I shared a story about two basic exercises we used to improve balance. Here’s a demonstration of that routine:
In the case of my client, the strategies employed:
|Strategies||Exercise #1||Exercise #2|
|Changes in direction||x||x|
|Full range of motion||x||x|
|Varied range of motion and speed||x|
|Stretching in all 3 planes||x|
|Strengthening in all 3 planes||x|
Take it to the Pool
Balance activities are more easily done in the water as the support of buoyancy reduces fear of falling. This same exercise progression can be used in the pool. For the first exercise, just tap the toe at end range rather than loading weight into the moving leg. The second exercise can be done just as explained on land, however now you have increased the load working against water’s resistance.
Balance is best trained by speaking to the body in a language it understands. Being fluid in a vocabulary that all bodies speak for better balance is simple: Move in 6 directions, diversifying movement angle, speed, direction, load and distance!
Learn these tricks, how to diversify your workouts, and build better balance using WECOACH Workouts – online water workouts for all abilities.