Improving Your Balance
is an essential part of sports performance. It is one part of
proprioception, and it helps to keep your muscles working efficiently,
and to improve your strength, power, and endurance.
is often referred to as proprioception in the rehab environment. This
is not exactly true. Proprioception
is a combination of
sense, body awareness, and neuromuscular control. Balancing
is part of
proprioception, and is the easiest way to improve this important
When you have an injury, the
proprioceptors in the joints are disrupted. In order to improve their
communication with the muscles, you must challenge them to adapt to
specific stresses. This is where the balancing exercises come in.
The simplest of
balancing exercises is
the single leg stance. It is exactly as it
sounds...you simply stand on one foot for a certain amount of time. I
have my patients start out with 20 seconds, and then progress all the
way up to 1 minute as they become more comfortable.
single leg stance is a great way to start working on your
proprioception and balance after an injury, especially an ankle, foot,
or knee injury. Once you master this exercise, it is time to challenge
the body and joints even more.
There are several ways to progress
The first way that I use with
my patients is to have them standing on an unstable surface. What I use
in the clinic is an Airex
Balance Pad. This is really just a fancy
piece of foam about 2 inches thick.
At home, you
can stand on a pillow or cushion and that works just as well.
you try this, you will quickly see that the unstable surface is
significantly more difficult than standing on the floor. It allows your
foot to move in many different directions, and your body has to adapt
to this, and the muscles must work harder in order to keep the ankle
and leg stable.
Once you can easily balance on an
unstable surface for 1 minute at a time, you are ready to move to
another harder challenge...
The next way to progress
balancing exercises is to add body movements while you are in a single
leg stance. You can move your arms or legs, or both.
you move, you change your center of gravity, and rotate your hips and
trunk. This forces your muscles in the foot, ankle, and leg to adapt to
the different stresses to keep your balance. I like to have patients
start with a simple sideways or backwards reach with their other leg.
possibilities for challenges like this are endless. You can
perform sports moves, like the pitching motion, while in a single leg
stance. Or you can play catch with a basketball, football, or baseball
while balancing on one leg. All of these activities force your body to
adapt, and they work to improve your proprioception and balance.
For even harder exercises, combine body movements with
unstable surfaces. Try balancing on a cushion while performing a
sideways reach with your other leg. Or play catch while standing on a
cushion. Remember, only progress your exercises after you can
effectively perform the easier exercises.
good sports injury rehabilitation program must include some type of
balancing exercises in order to improve your proprioception and restore
the communication between the muscles and the joints. You are only
limited by your imagination when it comes to challenging your body with
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