When writing an exercise prescription, there are both health and skill-related components of physical fitness. For general population, more times than not, the skill related components of fitness are overlooked or undertrained. The focus for exercise of general population has been geared towards toning and trimming for the ladies (rolls eyes), skipping leg day for the dudes, or who can finish with the most rounds of the WOD. A good exercise program should incorporate all aspects of physical fitness, because like the old saying goes, “if you don’t use it, you will lose it.”
I am picking on balance because the more clients I take on and the more people I encounter in small group sessions, the more I notice how bad people’s balance is. As we age, the ability to maintain equilibrium while standing or moving is an important skill to have. My number one goal as a coach and trainer is injury prevention; not just by keeping people safe in the gym but reducing their risk of injury outside of the gym. To me, the components that play the biggest role in injury prevention are: muscle strength, flexibility, reaction time, and balance. Others may have some different opinions, but like The Dude said, “That’s just like your opinion man.” Obviously, all are important, but it’s important to think about each component as their own bucket and we need to fill all our buckets, not just some.
Balance can begin to deteriorate as early as twenty-five. The good news is that there are ways to improve our balance by providing different stimuli to the body. We must try new and challenging exercises for our balance to improve. I like to try and incorporate movements in both the warm up and the workout that require balance. Here are some examples of exercises to try and improve your balance:
· Kettle bell passes – while standing on one foot, slowly pass a kettle bell back and forth in front of your body.
· Medicine ball slams – front and rotational slams on one foot
· Medicine ball tosses – front and lateral tosses into the wall on one foot
· Ropes – single leg rope slams and lateral ropes
· Single leg squat to a box
· Single leg Romanian deadlift
· Single leg hang clean
Anytime we perform single leg work our bodies provide new feedback that we won’t experience on two feet. We must be in tune with the feedback that our feet are providing from the floor, our core tends to fire more, and it provides a thinking aspect to training when sometimes we tend to go through the motions. I enjoy the challenge of single leg work and I find that when I incorporate balance type exercises in my workouts, it never fails for someone to say, “I never realized how bad my balance is.” It is easy to forget about balance and some of the other skill related aspects of physical fitness, unless you are a weekend warrior and still involved in some type of sport. The buckets for reaction time, balance, coordination, speed, agility, and power all may be smaller for a regular Joe, but they should not be totally neglected.
If you have any questions or want to give some of those exercises a try but are not sure how to perform them, feel free to reach out and ask or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading and happy training ?
Becca Carley, B.S, ACSM EP-C