Balance, Equilibrium, and Stability

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Specificity of Balance, Proprioception, and Core Stability

Balance Board StandFor any sport, the optimal method to improve balance, proprioception, and core stability is to practice the skill itself on the same surface on which the skill will be performed during competition. There is little transfer between balancing skills because balance is skill specific. For example, having a gymnasts practice on a wobble board balance will not be improved balance on the beam. Similarly, having a baseball pitcher stand on a foam roller while throwing a medicine ball may not improve proprioception when throwing from a mound. Likewise, having a football player stand on a stability disks while performing squats may not improve core stability when running through a defensive line. Performing resistance exercises on stability balls, foam rollers, wobble boards, and variations of such equipment has not been shown to enhance sports related skills.

Willardson JM (2004). The effectiveness of resistance exercises performed on unstable equipment. Strength and Conditioning Journal; 26 (5), 70-74.

Weight Training Decreases Fear of Falling in Elderly

Elderly (ages 67 to 97 years of age) who participated in a free weight program reported a decreased fear of falling (in addition to increased functional performance, increased perception of health, and decreased need for medication).

Brill PA, Matthews M, Mason J, Davis D, Mustafa T, Macera C (1998). Improving functional performance through a group-based free weight strength training program in residents of two assisted living communities. Physical and Occupational Therapy in Geriatrics, 15(3), 57-69.

Efficacy of BOSU Balance Trainer for Core Muscle Activation

The activity of core muscles (rectus abdominis, external oblique abdominis, transversus abdominis/internal oblique abdominis, and erector spinae) were compared when standing on a BOSU balance trainer versus a stable floor while performing various exercises (back squat, deadlift, overhead press, and arm curl). No significant differences of core activation were observed between the BOSU and stable floor when performing exercises with the same workload 50% of 1-RM. The researches concluded that this study did not demonstrate any advantage in using the BOSU Balance Trainer and these lifts can be performed while standing on a stable floor without losing any training benefits of core muscle activation.

Willardson JM, Fontana FE, Bressel E (2009). Effect of surface stability on core muscle activity for dynamic resistance exercises. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 4(1), 97-109.

Decreased Performance on Balance Equipment

Unstable devices account for 44% less muscle activity and 70% less muscle force output than stable surfaces.

Behm DG, Anderson K, Curnew RS (2002). Muscle force and activation under stable and unstable conditions. J Str Cond Res. 16: 416-422.

Subjects strengthened on stable surfaces performed significantly better in athletic measures than subject doing the same exercises on inflated rubber disks. The authors concluded “Using inflatable rubber disks attenuates performance improvements in athletes.”

Cressey, E.M., et al. (2007). The effects of ten weeks of lower-body unstable surface training on markers of athletic performance. J Str Cond Res. 21(2): 561-567.

Reducing ACL Injury Risk in Female Athletes

Both plyometric and dynamic stabilization/balance exercises should be included in injury-prevention protocols. Plyometric training affects sagittal plane kinematics primarily during a drop vertical jump, whereas balance training affects sagittal plane kinematics during single-legged drop landing. (Myer, et al., 2006)

Myer GD, Ford KR, McLean SG, Hewett TE. (2006) The effects of plyometric versus dynamic stabilization and balance training on lower extremity biomechanics. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 34(3): 445-455.


Definitions

  • Balance: ability to control equilibrium
  • Equilibrium: state of no acceleration (no change of speed or direction) of body
    • Static Equilibrium: body at rest or motionless
    • Dynamic Equilibrium: body in motion with unchanged acceleration created by balanced applied and inertial forces
  • Stability: resistance to disturbance of equilibrium (change of acceleration)
  • Center of Gravity: point at which all body mass is equally balanced or equally distributed in all directions

Factors Increasing Stability

  • Center of gravity falls within base of support
    • decrease in stability when center of gravity becomes near edge of base
  • Larger base
  • Greater weight
  • Lower center of gravity
  • When anticipating an oncoming force
    • place center of gravity near the side of base of support expected to receive force
    • extending base of support in direction of expected force
  • Greater friction between body and surfaces it contacts
  • Rotation about axis
    • moving cycle is easier to balance that stationary cycle
  • Kinesthetic physiological functions
    • vestibular system, vision, touch, and kinesthetic awareness

Movement

  • Walking throws body in and out of balance with each step
    • placing the center of gravity beyond base of support
  • A large component of sprint acceleration is created by falling forward
    • placing the center of gravity beyond base of support
  • Jumping attempts to raise body's center of gravity upward
  • Also see calculating Center of Gravity.

Balance Exercise Examples

Windmill Pushup


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