DID YOU KNOW water currents increase core activity? Why is this important, and how can you use this information to get better results from your training? A stronger core can mean no more back pain, improved posture and even better balance.
Thanks to our reader, Diana H., for posing this question to our blog request page.
“I have a client that I train to improve balance in the water. I use the Speedo step for single leg squats, leg extensions, knee lifts and hamstring curls. I also use a resistance band for walking squats. What other exercises can I include to improve strength on her weak side and improve balance?”
First off, great thinking to include the use of a step to increase the gravitational load while doing the strength exercises. Traveling is another great technique that takes advantage of buoyancy’s support while training gait. To expand this training, lets first take a look at what is balance to help develop a plan and guide exercise selection.
What is Balance?
In an article called Balance in Motion, written by physical therapist, Andrea Wasylow, she explains:
“Balance is dynamic and three-dimensional. It is our body’s ability to integrate the information from all of our body systems (visual, vestibular and proprioceptive) and use that information to displace our center of gravity. The systems must then decelerate that motion and either bring the body back or more likely, move in a completely different direction. Though there is a minimal amount of information generated to those systems in a static position, it is motion that truly turns on and feeds the body information required.”
To summarize her key points, Andrea explains that balance requires:
- Range of motion for proper muscular loading
- Strength to be able to control motion
- Three-dimensional control beyond that of the functional task
Water Exercise for Balance
If we use these three truths about how the body works, we can develop a strategic water exercise program to improve balance.
Let’s begin with range of motion for proper muscular loading. Water is an ideal training environment. The support of buoyancy makes movements that are impossible or difficult to do on land possible! Take advantage of this support.
Next, strength is important to be able to successfully control motion. Pools are perfect for this! You have a built in gym with resistance no matter what direction you move. For walking balance, you’ll need good mobility and strength at the ankles, hips and thoracic spine. With that, keep in mind the third consideration and remember that both mobility and ability control of that range need to be three-dimensional.
This way of thinking is foundational to WECOACH Workouts as our exercises move the body in six directions. Whenever we use all 6 directions in a single exercise we call that exercise “3D”. Check out this video to see how this applies to a: 3D Pelvis Reach and 3D Single Leg Balance.
Best Exercises for Improved Balance
There are thousands of exercises that can be used to improve balance. All you need to do is check to see if they are meeting the three criteria discussed earlier.
Back to our example, in search of ideas to improve walking balance, single leg squats, leg extensions and knee lifts all help to improve mobility and strength. To enhance these moves, try moving them in more directions. For the single leg squat, reach the suspended foot below the step in six directions:
- Forward (5-10x)
- Behind (5-10x)
- Same side lateral (5-10x)
- Opposite side lateral (5-10x)
- Rotational right (5-10x)
- Rotational left (5-10x)
On the leg extensions try reaching:
- Posterior, same side lateral (back corner)
- Posterior, opposite side lateral (other back corner crossing behind the standing leg)
On the knee lifts, try using a variety of foot positions. For a visual demonstration, you can check out my previous article: “7 Basic Foot Positions That Will Help you Move Better.”
You might also want to check out some previous articles with more exercise ideas for balance that will not only target the hips and ankles but also the thoracic spine.
Progress your Training with Turbulence
I started this article asking you this question:
Evidence suggests significant improvements in strength and balance is possible by participating in water based training programs that use turbulence. When teaching in groups, this is a fun partner activity. While one person is doing any of the recommended exercises, try stirring up the water. Go easy at first. The goal is to find the line where an individual is challenged but successfully able to stand their ground!
Want to take it a step further? Feel your way to better results with my WECOACH Workouts membership. Access a growing library of video and audio pool workouts, plus NEW video tips each month to help keep you safe and progressing. See you over there.