I was first introduced to balance exercises when recovering from an ankle and lower back injury. With a ski-ing holiday booked, and not wanting to miss out, I need to get fit and quick so I needed to try something that was different for me.
My trainer at the time suggested that part of the reason I was having recurring injuries was because my balance was poor. In truth, this wasn’t something I had considered and didn’t think was a problem until he give me some simple tests. It’s kind of like a sobriety test, try it and see how you get on.
Stand up straight putting one foot in front of the other heel to toe keeping both feet flat on the ground. Close your eyes and see if you can hold that position perfectly still for 20 second. How did you get on? Not as easy as it sounds is it.
Another balance problem I have seen is if you use free weights when exercising. With weight training, keeping perfect form is important, not only so you are getting the maximum benefit from the exercise but also to prevent injury. I’ve always had a balance problem when doing single leg calf raises. Since doing balance exercises, this has improved dramatically, as has the amount of weight I can use.
A real plus for balance exercises is that you don’t need and fancy equipment so they can be done any time anywhere. A kitchen chair is useful just to steady yourself when starting out. But that’s pretty much it. You can invest in a balance ball (which looks like a ball cut in half on a flat disc) if you wish. I have to say, they are very good but not inexpensive. See what works best for you.
What are the benefits of balance exercises?
There are many benefits form balance exercises. They are not just for the serious athlete but also if you just want to maintain a good general standard of fitness. There are a number of ways that thinking about you balance can help when doing different forms of exercise too. Sometimes if I’m doing bicep curls with dumb bells, I’ll sit on a Pilates Ball. I find that by doing this and having to keep balanced, it stops the temptation to swing the weights so I keep better form throughout the exercise. I also find a secondary benefit to my abdominals and overall core strength and all you muscles are making small adjustments to keep you balanced on the ball.
(By the way, Pilates is great for improving overall balance and core strength. Find a teacher near you and book in for a few sessions. Your posture will improve too.)
After a short time, just a few weeks, you will begin to see measureable improvements in you coordination and ultimately you will become a better and stronger player in your chosen sport. And that from just a few minutes a day of balance exercises.
How to start balance exercises?
Start slowly by just adding 5 or 10 minutes of balance exercised to the end of your work-out routine two or three times a week and work up from there. You will be able to tell is your balance is improving by the length of time you can hold a position and good form without wobbling.
Stick to the basic exercises. Don’t try anything too advanced or anything that causes discomfort. Ease yourself into the exercises.
As you improve, add some small weights into the routine.
Remember to concentrate on you abs. Pull the tummy in and use you core muscles to help you balance.
Try closing your eyes to help focus on being balanced.
Balance exercises are as easy not to do as they are to do! They’re not as macho as lifting weights and perhaps not as satisfying as completing a 10k but trust me on this one. You will improve every exercise you do and every sport you play if you improve your balance.
Here are a few balance exercises to get you going: