One thing people often asked me to help them improve is balance.
Balance is not something that improves on its own and degrades with age. In order to improve your balance, you need to work on strengthening your stabilizer muscles that work on engaging balance.
Before we go over an exercise plan to improve balance, lets discuss stabilization, what stabilizer muscles are and which muscle we need to focus on.
Stabilization is defined as the act of being stable or balanced and the stabilizer muscles are defined as a muscle that stabilizes (or fixes) a bone so that movement can occur efficiently at another bone articulating with the stabilized bone. In other words, when you engage in a movement, there are muscles that are creating the movement, and there are other muscles that are engaging or contracting to keep you stabilized as you do that movement. The muscles that keep you stabilized are considered the stabilizer muscles.
The stabilizer muscles play a huge role in balance and stability because they keep your body steady as you engage in movement and activities. The stronger your stabilizer muscles are, the stronger your balance will be in both static and functional movement.
The stabilizer muscles that are specifically engaged when it comes to balance stem from the core down through to the feet including the major muscles of the abs, hips, glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves and shins. These muscles connect to the joints of the hips, knees and ankles to provide movement through those joints. In order to improve balance you must strengthen these specific muscles groups.
There are two ways in which I approach strengthening these muscles to help aide in better balance.
1) First, you must strengthen each muscle group and it’s opposing muscle group to ensure proper balance between these muscles with resistance training.
The muscles you want to focus on and their opposing muscle groups are:
Calves and Shins
Quads and Hamstrings
Hips - Inner, outer, anterior and posterior (glutes)
Abs - Upper, lower, obliques, lower back
It is important to strengthen all of these muscle groups with some sort of exercise that requires movement of reps and sets using dumbbells, cable machines, body weight or other form of resistance. In order to ensure that you hit all these muscle groups and keep them balanced devise a training plan that includes at least one or more exercises for each of these muscle groups.
Here is a list of exercises per muscle group you can include in your routine.
Calves - calf raises
Shins - toe lifts
Quads - leg extension
Hamstrings - hamstring curl
Inner - ball squeezes
Outer - hip abduction
Anterior - knee raise
Posterior - bridges
Upper - crunches
Lower - reverse crunches
Obliques - cable twist
Lower back - good mornings or Superman
2) Another way to strengthen the stabilizer muscles is with isometric exercises.
Isometric exercises include an isometric contraction which is defined as a muscular contraction in which the muscle retains its length while increasing in tension, but no movement occurs. Also called static contraction. This means the joint is not moving but the muscles are contracting in some way.
The way I approach this method is through various balancing exercises in multiple holding poses both standing and grounded. This directly trains the stabilizer muscles to make adjustments to become more steady.
Here is a list of isometric balancing exercises to add into your plan:
- Stand on one leg in varied poses
- Stand on bosu ball
- Stand on balancing board
- Opposite arm and leg extension
- Plank hold - forearm, full, side and reverse
Incorporate these exercises into your daily routine to ensure you are hitting the muscles that directly affect your balance. Improving balance comes with consistent strengthening of these muscles both in movement and isometric contractions. This will train the muscles to do there job and fire up when necessary.
• ISSA Certified Personal Fitness Trainer
• AFFA Certified Group Fitness Instructor
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• Specialize in: - Kickboxing - Strength Training - High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)