Putting the Personal back into your Training

Balance and Fall Prevention

Incorporating balance and fall prevention exercises into your weight lifting and aerobic routines can help reduce
your chances of injuring yourself in a fall, and is a critical part of any well rounded fitness program.

The Basics

Why should you include balancing exercises into your fitness routine? Because having good balance can help prevent injuries and improve the quality of your life. We take our ability to balance for granted now, but it can become a challenging task when we get older.

We incorporate balance in our lives everyday. Every time you take a step, you are actually standing on one leg as you transfer your back foot to the front. When you lean forward and reach out to grab an item you are shifting you weight around and you have to control your body’s motion.

A word of caution. When practicing balance work, make sure the area around you is clear with nothing you can trip on.  Developing a program that incorporates balance exercises into your routine is a necessity. Always design your programs in an order that is safe and takes into account your own fitness abilities.

There are many ways you can incorporate balancing exercises into your workout routine. You can practice different techniques in-between sets of different exercises or even make your regular exercise routines more challenging by adding an element of balance into your routine. For example, try doing a set of arm curls while standing on one leg instead; don’t be surprise if the weight feels heavier. It takes a lot of energy to stand on one leg.

For more advanced balance training. (It is always advised that you only try these advanced exercises with a trained personal trainer assisting you) this exercise incorporates isometric work on your hips as well as coordinating lifting your opposite leg back and forth over a band. This is also a great exercise for those who suffer from knee valgus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a video of the band stepping exercise.

Another advanced method for improving balance is what I like to call falling lunges. I do not recommend anyone trying these without direct supervision of a personal trainer. There are also numerous medical conditions that may prohibit someone from doing this exercise, so consult your trainer before trying these or other exercises.
There are two segments to this exercise. The first one (left video) is a good warm up and a way to test your ability to control your forward motion. When leaning forward there should be very little motion in the waist area; or what is called “spinal flexion”. A person doing this routine should feel their toes curl and abs tighten as they lean forward; this is not a big movement. The key is to control the end point (forward motion).

The second stage of this progression is the video on the right. Normally when you do a lunge exercise there should be very little noise when you step forward; not in this case. Falling lunges are designed to teach your body to react to falling forward. You should hear your front foot loudly hitting the ground because you are moving forward with force, the difference is your are learning to decelerate. If you don’t hear your forward foot impacting the ground, you are controlling the fall too much.
Many injuries occur during the deceleration stage of a fall, not the acceleration stage. The second part to this exercise is snapping the arms and hand up while you are falling forward. You may fall in real life, but what you are training for is controlling the fall and protecting your head from injury. It is better to hurt your hands or wrist while falling then to hit your head.

Stage 1                                                                                                             Stage 2

Anyone who has trouble walking, standing stable without a cane or walker, who has had surgery or other health conditions that makes stability an issue should always work one on one with a trainer so a program can be designed specifically for their needs and abilities.

Devices

There are many different devices to improve one’s neuromuscular control. Some of the most popular devices are Swiss balls, foam pads, slosh pipes, half cylinders and dyna discs, just to name a few. (Dyna Disc and Blue Foam Pad shown here).

foam paddyna disc

Sports

JumpingAnyone who participates in sports realizes the benefits of having good balance. Balance affects every aspect of your game. Try any movement off balance in any type of sport and observe the effect: Loss of control, reduction of power, and a greater chance of injury.

Exercises

half cylindersDeveloping a program that incorporates balance exercises into your routine is a necessity. Always design your programs in an order that is safe and takes into account your own fitness level. All stabilizing exercises starts at the feet and ankles. You want to make sure they are flexible and strong. For anyone who has twisted their ankles, you know what I mean.

To improve ankle strength try using a half cylinder, try standing on one leg with your foot on the flat part of the cylinder. You will feel your ankle getting a great workout and you will be teaching balance to your body.
To improve your stability try walking on a balance beam on the floor. If this not realistic for you, try placing a strip of masking tape and walk heel to toe over the tape. If you are just starting to work on your ability to balance, start by standing on one foot on the floor up to 20 seconds at a time. If you find this easy, then try standing on one leg with your eyes close. (It’s harder than you think!) It is recommended that for safety reasons you practice techniques like this by a wall or with a trainer.

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