Balance Your Way to Fitness

Some gyms sell programs that bring people through a circuit of resistance training machines. The biggest problem with resistance training with machines is that they don’t require any demand for stability and balance. We live in an unstable world; everything we do requires some balance in one way or another. In order to keep our ability to cruise through our day effortlessly we need to simulate that unstable world in the gym. Our bodies operate on the demand principle; if added demand exists, our body does its best to accommodate that demand. By adding a little demand for balance in the gym, we can simulate real world balance and stability demands to bring our training to a higher level of functionality.

Stability training can start by adding balance to basic exercises. For instance, using an unstable stability ball instead of a bench for chest presses would be a way to add core balance to a chest exercise. Another example would be standing on one foot, instead of two feet, during a bicep curl exercise, to increase balance demand. As you progress you can add in the use of what my clients call “toys”. Come to think of it, they are like toys. They hold air like a ball, they’re rubber, they’re squishy, and some look like flotation devices that you see at your local swimming pool. They are stabilization training tools that add a high level of balance demand, making the demand of balance from everyday activities seem minuscule. An Example of a stability “toy” includes the Bosu Ball, a stability ball cut in half to provide an unstable platform to perform a number of exercises on including squats and lunges. Furthermore, foot pods, the “Dyna-Disc”, and foam rollers, can step up the demand of an exercise through stabilization instead of just adding more weight like you do with machines.

The beauty of stabilization tools is that they add demand through balance instead of load. The result is a lower impact workout that applies demand not only to major muscle groups but secondary stabilizing muscles. These stabilizing muscles do a phenomenal job of protecting our joints from motions that can damage a joint or the surrounding ligaments. By putting more emphasis on training those stabilizing muscles, we increase the likelihood of protecting the joint from injury or decreasing the severity of an injury. The best example I can think of is the ankle. By having strength not only in the primary movers of the ankle (calve muscles such as gastrocnemius and soleus) but in the surrounding stabilizers, you are less likely to suffer damage from rolling your ankle, or, if you do roll your ankle, the damage would be much less than the damage done to that ankle if those muscles were untrained.

Be sure to slowly progress stabilization demands. Just like progressing too fast with any form of exercise, if you attempt a balancing exercise that is too demanding for your present state of fitness, it can make you overly sore or lead to injury. Have your personal trainer walk you through the progressions of balance training and teach you correct form to minimize the risk of injury.

Stabilization and balancing exercises not only add a new healthy challenge to a resistance training routine, they also add a little spice. We know that the hardest part of an exercise program for most people is sticking to it. Variety through stabilization is another way to keep your exercise program fresh, motivating you to stick to consistently working out. If stabilization is not a part of your routine, consider adding it for a new challenge, to take your fitness, functionality, and balance to a higher level.