In this article we talk about the definition of balance, what are the benefits of improving balance and best balance exercises. We also introduce the concept of coordination and how it is important in athletics
What is Balance and Why is it Important?
Balance is our body’s ability to stay in control of its movement when placed under stress. Balance can be static, (that is maintaining a position for long periods of time) or it can be dynamic (that is staying in control of your body while moving). Balance is not just about our muscles; we also use our eyes and ears to maintain balance.
Almost every physical activity, be it walking, running, jumping, hiking, skiing, or playing sports all require balance. Without balance all of us will just fall down on ground, never to able to get up again. A good balance hence is very important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle
Maintaining a good balance also significantly decreases your chances of falling and breaking something in our body. This becomes especially important as you age, when our bones become weak and we are susceptible to serious injuries.
How to Improve Balance
If balance is not being challenged on a regular basis, we tend to lose this skill with age. That is why balance is a crucial part of any program designed for someone who is over 50.
Exercises to Develop Balance
Bosu on two feet
Simply standing on a Bosu (which is that strange looking half ball that you might have seen in the gym) is a great way to develop balance. Once you have mastered this, the next level would be standing in a partial squat on Bosu. Finally, try doing shoulder presses, squats, or a combination of both to further increase the difficulty
In a curtsey squat, start with feet in a normal position (about shoulder width apart), but then step to place one leg crossed behind the other. For example, step the left foot backwards, reaching down and behind the right. It should be placed further right than the right foot, and behind similar to a lunge.
Stand on one foot + variations
Standing on one foot is a basic and simple drill to improve balance. Once you’ve mastered about 20 seconds of this, increase the difficulty by closing your eyes. If you can balance on both feet well, then you can increase the complexity by performing it on an unstable surface such as a Bosu ball or squatting on one foot. Next level of complexity will to a combination of both squatting and unstable surface.
Lunges are a classic exercise, which challenges your balance. Place one foot in front of the other, in a straight line, but with a large stance. Dip down bringing the back knee to the floor. Once you master a lunge, challenge yourself by adding a single weight into one hand, held at your side or at your shoulder.
Single-leg Romanian Deadlift + variations
Single leg Romanian deadlift is another single leg exercise, which challenges your balance. Stand on one foot with the other leg lifted and behind. You then bend forward from the hip, bringing your hand towards the ground.
What is Coordination and How to Improve it?
Coordination is our body’s ability to move two or more parts of our body in a smooth way to perform a certain task. It is an essential skill to learn in sports and daily life. A typical example will be mastering the movements of hand and feet while performing a swimming stroke.
Coordination is an essential skill for improving sport performance and is generally developed through drills, where as specific movement is practiced again and again to improve the skill. A simple example is the practice of hitting the ball in tennis, which improves the hand eye coordination. For complicated movements such as Olympic weightlifting or gymnastics, there are numerous drills which breakdown the movement into simpler sub-movements, This drills are performed many times to improve the whole movement, and results in improved sport performance.
Authors: FD Bulsara and Rahul Yadav