Balance is an extremely important, and often overlooked, portion of a complete training program. Here, we will briefly explore how and why we incorporate balance training into our Warrior Athletic Training System. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to check out our WATS explanation article before diving into this one. Enjoy!
What is Balance?
Balance is the ability to maintain the body’s center of gravity on it’s base of support (two legs while standing, one leg while walking, etc.). Put simply, it’s the ability to stay upright. This seems like a simple enough thing, but the process of actually maintaining balance is extremely complicated.
The purpose of this article is to explain the importance of balance training, and why you should integrate balance training into your routine. I will only skim the surface on how we keep balance, to illustrate the complexity of the matter. An in-depth explanation will be saved for our Complete Balance Training Program that will be released in the near future. Not only will that cover the science of balance, it will give you complete balance training programs and routines to add into your workout regimen. Stay tuned for that! On we go.
Why Train Balance?
The thought of carving out time to train balance may not seem appealing at first, but when you take into account how important balance is to overall performance in all that you do, it’s easy to see why you need to start incorporating this into your routine.
Neuromuscular control is the name of the game when it comes to balance. (NOTE: When I refer to Neuromuscular, I am talking about the nerve impulses that are traveling to your muscles. These are the messages that are telling the muscles what to do.) Anyways, Neuromuscular Control is the body’s ability to send signals to and from your musculature, telling them to when to work and when to relax. This forms the baseline for all movement and postural control. Here’s an example:
Walking is an extremely complex pattern of movements. You are basically ‘controlled falling’, moving your legs out one at a time to catch your descent, producing forward momentum. Leg musculature is constantly receiving neuro input on when to contract and when to relax. This muscle contraction produces a force which acts upon your ligaments, thereby producing a force upon a joint. This energy pattern causes your leg to bend. Further contractions and relaxation of musculature elsewhere propels your leg forward. Now, this is just the act of moving a leg. While this leg is airborne, your other leg is stabilizing the entirety of your weight; contracting musclature in the ankles, legs, hips, and core, providing your body with balance so you don’t just tip over. Pretty amazing, huh?
Each step of that journey requires impulses, neuromuscular messages, to be sent, received and acted upon for this movement to work. Walking is suddenly a highly complex feat of balance, strength, and control. Now consider running, jumping, and dynamic movement. There exist all the same impulses, but they must be acted upon much faster.
When we have poor neuromuscular control, these stabilization signals are not acted upon in a timely manner. This alters length-tension relationships, force-couple relationships, and joint kinematics. Put simply, this decreases balance and performance, leading to tissue overload and injury.
Let me expand. If you take anything out of this long winded section, it needs to be this: A lack of balance forces the body to compensate with less familiar movement patterns. Your nervous system still wants the body to produce high amounts of force, but the prime movers that typically produce and handle this force are slow to react. This forces the body to choose synergistic musculature to take over. These synergists fatigue quickly, and lack the neuromuscular control that the prime movers have. This fatigue and lack of control leads to faulty movement patterns, decreased performance, and injury.
Balance Training is shown to:
– Improve neuromuscular efficiency
– Restore Dynamic Stabilization
– Improve performance
– Reduce injury
Balance – Warrior Athletic Training System Approach
The objective of WATS Balance Training is to continually increase your awareness of your balance threshold and limit of stability by creating controlled instability.
Like our other WATS programs, our balance training follows a systematic, progressive, and functional approach. Balance does not work in isolation, therefore this program is designed to be implemented in addition to your current workout regimen. You will notice tangible improvements to your overall athletic performance and stability with consistent training.
Our balance program follows a continuum of function, with movements progressing from slow to fast, simple to complex, known to unknown, low force to high force, and static to dynamic. As with any exercise, the crucial factor focus is quality over quantity. Lets touch on each of the three phases WATS Balance Training utilizes:
Minimal joint motion is involved. Workouts consist of single leg balances in a progression of difficulty by the addition of external factors. The goal here is the sensitization of muscle spindles, leading to improved neuromuscular efficiency, as well as improved reflexive joint stabilization. Simply put, our goal here is to improve your overall balance through static joint stability.
Addition of dynamic concentric and eccentric movement, forcing leg balance through full range of motion. Simply put, your balance will be put to the test by adding an array of full body movements, external factors, and additional weight. The goal here is to improve full body neuromuscular efficiency.
At the peak of our balance training progression, the addition of jumps, hops, and dynamic plyometric movement elevate our performance even further. The goal here is dynamic neuromuscular efficiency, improved strength and power production, and reactive joint stabilization.
Takeaway from the article:
- Balance is an extremely important, often overlooked, portion of a complete integrated training program
- Poor posture, muscle imbalance, and joint dysfunction lead to further postural problems, muscular imbalances, and joint dysfunctions. It is a vicious cycle that will always lead to injury in one form or another.
- The addition of a complete balance training program will improve your neuromuscular efficiency, athletic performance, and aid in the reduction of injury.
As mentioned earlier, this post serves as a foundation article for our upcoming Warrior Athletic Training System (WATS) complete training programs. These are extremely high quality, in-depth training programs that are designed to walk you through the what, why, and how of training. Not only do these programs provide you with the exercise programs, they explain why you are training what you are training, and how to develop future programs for yourself. This is the most comprehensive training on the planet, designed to give you the knowledge you need to take your training, your body, and your performance to the next level. Elevate yourself!
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