An email from a physical therapist in the Navy asked me about training people to have better balance.
"One of the biggest culprits to injury as we age is falling or losing your balance. Do you have any plans for folks to gain balance or better stability?"
Great question! When training athletes, one of the most important elements of training used is balance which will assist greatly with agility and prevention of injury in sports. But yes, we all can stand some balance in our life. As we age, our body can lose its quick reaction time and forget how to catch us when we fall. Adding some simple balance exercises is all you need to do. The next time you do your dumbbell exercises like bicep curls, overhead press, triceps extensions and other exercises simply do it standing on ONE leg. Also, passing time standing in line can be enhanced by seeing if you can stand on one leg for one minute without catching yourself. If you think it is too easy, then close your eyes while on one leg and you will feel the muscles in your legs work that keep you from falling.
There are many items to assist with balance training used by athletes as well as the average person seeking better fitness. Such items are the following:
1) Balance boards 2) Stability balls / bosu balls 3) TRX - Suspension Trainer 4) Wobble boards 5) Agility ladders 6) As well as simply jumping or standing on one leg
Some advanced routines you can add to balance training is to place your knees / shins on the balance ball as in the picture. Then use the regular dumbbell exercises you normally do while standing to challenge your balance further. You can also use the ball as a bench and do your bench press / flies on it as well with dumbbells or barbell.
I have used the above training with hockey players and other athletes to better challenge them with the same type of balance skills they need when on the ice.
The best thing about this type of program is that is does not need to replace any training you are currently doing - just supplement it. By simply adding one legged exercises and a variety of balance products listed above for 10-15 minutes during your workout will help you prevent the loss of balance that often occurs with becoming sedentary and aging.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.