Your sports performance improves when you’re able to stay on balance both statically and dynamically. Static balance is the ability to be stable when you're in a fixed position, and dynamic balance is the ability to remain stable while you're moving. When balanced, you can be more precise and coordinated with your movements and your body can produce more force and power. To improve your balance, sensors located in your muscles, joints and tendons must become more efficient at sending body-position information to and receiving body-adjustment instructions from your central nervous system. Improve your sports balance by training two days per week. Begin with general balance exercises and then incorporate activities that are more specific to your particular sport.
Make time for two balance-specific workouts every week. Your workouts should include some strength work, so your muscles will need one to two days of recovery time between workouts. Spread your two workouts out over the week, such as on Mondays and Thursdays. Before each session, walk or lightly jog for five minutes and then do 10 reps each of bodyweight squats and walking lunges. This will not only increase your body temperature and breathing rate, but will also wake up your neuromuscular system so that it’s ready for balance work. At the end of every workout, stretch the muscles surrounding your ankles, knees and hips. Flexibility limitations can hinder your balance by preventing you from getting into a balanced position. Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
General Balance Exercises
General balance exercises cause your center of gravity to constantly move outside your point of support. To keep your center of gravity over your point of support and stay on balance, you must constantly make body adjustments. Select from single-leg stands or stands on balance-training equipment, which are both static-balance exercises. To do single-leg stands, stand on one leg with your foot off the floor for 30 seconds. Keep your eyes open at first and then close your eyes as your balance improves. Repeat on the other leg. To do stands on balance-training equipment, place both feet hip-width apart on a wobble board, balance pad or balance ball and work to stay on balance for 30 seconds. If the double-leg stand is too easy, increase the difficulty by standing on the wobble board, balance pad or balance ball with one leg and then repeat with the other leg.
Strength-Training Balance Exercises
Balance-training equipment can also be used during strength-training exercises to improve balance and muscular strength. Perform overhead presses and squats while standing on a wobble board, balance pad or balance ball. To perform overhead shoulder presses, a dynamic-balance exercise, stand on a wobble board, balance pad or balance ball with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a pair of dumbbells at your shoulders with your elbows positioned under your wrists. Press the dumbbells overhead until your arms are fully straight and then bend your elbows to lower the weights back to your shoulders. To do squats on the balance-training equipment, which is also a dynamic-balance exercise, set your feet atop the wobble board, balance pad or balance ball so that they're hip-width apart. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Extend your hips and knees to return to a full-standing position. Do three sets of 10 reps of one or two exercises.
Use the wobble board, balance pad or balance ball for dynamic, sport-specific balance exercises. The exercises you do depends on your sport. For each exercise, either stand on the balance-training equipment with both legs, with your feet set to hip-width apart, or with one leg, with your foot positioned at the center of the balance-training equipment, and then engage in sport-specific moves. If you play baseball, throw and catch a baseball with a partner. If you play basketball, pass a basketball back and forth to a partner. If you play volleyball, bump or hit a volleyball back and forth with a partner. If you play badminton or tennis, stand on the balance-training equipment with your racket and hit the birdie or tennis ball back and forth with your partner. Complete two sets of 30 throws, passes or hits. Finishing with a dynamic, sport-specific drill teaches your body to maintain balance while simultaneously staying focused on completing a particular sports skill.
- Human Kinetics: Advanced Fitness Assessment and Exercise Prescription 7th Edition With Online Video: Recommendations for Balance Training Programs (ACSM 2009b)
- STACK: 10 Balance Exercises That Will Make Every Athlete Better
- American Council of Sports Medicine: Improving Your Flexibility and Balance
- IDEA Health & Fitness Association: How To Improve Proprioception
- Harvard Health Publications: Everyone Can Improve Their Balance
- Photo Credit Image Source/Digital Vision/Getty Images
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