A Simple Test of Balance

In Coaching, Fitness Journey by Dale HillLeave a Comment

Determine Your Functional Age

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Balance is Foundational to All Fitness Goals

Balance Defined

Balance simply means the state of being in equilibrium and stationary, meaning there is no linear or angular movement. Dynamic Balance is the ability to move and change directions under varying conditions without falling. Factors that influence Dynamic Balance include speed, endurance, flexibility and strength. It often takes input from many different systems to keep your body’s center of gravity over it base of support. You rely on muscular balance, joint dynamics and feedback from your neuromuscular system (visual cues, vestibular or inner ear and proprioceptive inputs – sensory inputs from our limbs) to tell you where you’re at.

Training for balance is not always as glamorous as training for strength, power and speed, but it is just as important (if not more so.) Balance is the foundation to all of your fitness goals and should be an integral part of your training regime. As we age chronologically, loss of balance is one of the first things we begin to notice and it shakes our confidence. We begin to compensate by moving slower and more cautiously which has a chain reaction effect on the rest of our fitness. What follows is a simple test to assess your balance and associate it with a functional age and some suggested balance exercises to try.

The Test

Stand on one foot and close your eyes. That’s it.

How long can you maintain your balance in this position? It’s recommended to do this barefoot on a flat, hard surface with your raised foot about 6-8 inches off the ground, knee bent at a 45 degree angle, you may need to extend your arms laterally. To increase the challenge place your hands on your hips or bring them to a “prayer” pose: palms pressed gently together, fingertips pointing towards your chin with thumbs aligned over (or resting on) the sternum.

Age in Balance

Introducing Balance Training into your Program – 5 Exercise

Single Leg Balance

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your weight equally distributed on both legs. Place your hands on your hips. Lift your left leg off the floor and bend it back at the knee.
  • Hold the position as long as you can maintain good form, up to 30 seconds.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. As your balance improves, increase the number of repetitions.

Single Leg Swing

  • Stand on one leg with your hands on your hips.
  • Swing your free leg front to back as high as you can without compromising your posture, keep chest and head up, eyes forward.
  • Perform for 30 seconds then switch legs and repeat – that’s one set. Do two sets with no rest between.

Single Leg Squat

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Point your left foot out front, slowly squat as if sitting in a chair, flexing at hips, knees and ankles.
  • Your right knee is bent, chest upright, eyes forward, and your arms out front. Slowly push up to return to starting position, contract gluteal muscles as you rise.
  • Switch feet. Be sure the knee doesn’t push in front of the toes.

Single Leg Dead Lift

  • Stand with feet together, hold dumbbell in each hand. Position dumbbells in front of upper thighs with arms straight.
  • Lift leg slightly so foot is just off floor. Lower dumbbells to floor while raising lifted leg back behind, allow arms to hang straight down.
  • Keep back straight and knee of supporting leg slightly bent. Keep hip and knee of lifted leg extended throughout movement.
  • Once stretch is felt or dumbbells contact floor, return to original position by raising torso while lowering lifted leg. Straighten knee of supporting leg as torso becomes upright.
  • Do 12 to 15 reps, then repeat on the other side. That’s one set. Do two, resting for 30 seconds between sets.

Warrior 3 Dumbbell Row

  • Grab a pair of 8- to 10-pound dumbbells and stand with your arms at your sides. Place your right toe on the floor about two feet behind you and bend forward from the hips.
  • Keeping your right leg straight, raise it off the floor until your body forms a T and your arms hang straight down from your shoulders.
  • Row the dumbbells toward your chest until your elbows pass your torso. Lower the dumbbells and return to start. That’s one rep.
  • Do 12 to 15 reps, then repeat on the other side. That’s one set. Do two, resting for 30 seconds between sets.

Progressions to Increase Difficulty

Common progressions to increase difficulty and promote greater balance include performing balance exercises with controlled instability. The use of various tools can greatly enhance balance. CAUTION: You should start in an environment that you can safely perform the exercise and go through a systematic progression to more challenging environments:

  1. Floor
  2. Balance Beam (low)
  3. Half Foam Roll
  4. Foam Pad
  5. Balance Disc
  6. Wobble Board or Rocker Board
  7. BOSU (Both Sides Up) Ball

Fitness Programs That Can Improve Balance

  • Tai Chi
  • PiYo
  • Pilates
  • Yoga