Off Balance Off Target
Strike a ball when off balance and the likelihood is you’ll miss the target. Whether playing soccer, golf, tennis, squash or any other sport involving balls, rackets, bats, clubs etc. we have to be in good balance and aware of our center of gravity. Balance is an integral component of our fitness and health required for nearly all activities –‘ Play Station’ excluded! (Wii – Included!)
Why then do we tend not to train this component of our fitness that is so vital? How many people do you see in the gym practicing to stand on one leg whilst pushing 10kg in the air? We often do not train our balance because of the ‘fear factor’. That is the fear of what people think of us.
Balance can be trained as the neurological pathways convert from sluggish muddy paths to motorways. The neurons get to travel up and down a bit quicker – therefore the muscles react a little quicker. You can train your balance (more correctly proprioception) in many ways.
Balance involves many systems perhaps overall it gives us better sense of body awareness, particularly our center of gravity. People who train in gyms in isolation exercises, like leg extensions and hamstring curls, can be misled into thinking it is the best method of training these muscle groups. Unfortunately this is rarely the case. These are straight line – (linear) exercises, seems fine but when we go onto a football pitch one of the first movements we probably make would be sideways – (lateral)
In the clinic at Leatherhead F.C. we use balance for rehabilitation of ankle and knee injuries – depending on the severity of the injury. We encourage clients to practice standing on one leg. When proficient enough we get them to close their eyes. Removing our vision increases the difficulty immensely as most of use our visual proprioception rather than sensory proprioception, yet for most of us our sensory proprioception is a faster system.
So how can we remedy this? You may well have seen the big ‘space-hoppers’ without horns in your local gym. The big balls which people now tend to do their stomach exercises on. They are so much more versatile than that and can be used to elicit natural postural positions. If our center of gravity and posture is not correct we will fall off. Below is a selection of press-up exercises to practice easy – hard versions. It should go without saying: master the easy ones first before going on to the next one – least you make a fool of yourself; practice somewhere whereby if you do come off you are not going to squash a small child or maybe worse a bloke who can bench press 150kg as you may find yourself taking flying lessons!
As with all exercises it is worth having a professional demonstrate them and have your technique checked rather than just following what you think looks right.