Improve Balance – Prevent Injury

Proprioception is walking up a flight of stairs without having to peer at each stair or hiking without constantly having to look at the ground.  Proprioception includes balance, coordination, and agility because the body’s proprioceptors control all of these factors.  Simply put, it is to know where a body part is without having to look.

Proprioception training is common in the rehabilitation of serious injuries, but it very important in preventing injury.  Even a strong ankle can sprain when running on uneven ground if the runner hasn’t trained the neuromuscular system to react appropriately.   I always include some type of proprioception training with my clients, even the advanced ones.

If you already know you do not have good balance, you must start your training on the floor.  Here is a simple, great exercise for improving your proprioceptors.

 

Single-Leg Balance:

Preparation

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and pointed straight ahead.  Hips should be in a neutral position.
  2. Lift chest, retract shoulders slightly, and tuck chin. Look straight forward.

Movement

  1. Draw navel in, activate gluteals, and brace.
  2. Lift one leg directly beside balance leg.  Maintain optimal alignment, including level hips and shoulders.
  3. Hold for 5 to 20 seconds.
  4. Slowly return to original position.
  5. Switch legs and repeat for a total of 5 repetitions on each leg.

Progression

Complete numbers 1 through 4 above.   Close eyes for 5 seconds while maintaining balance.  You can use a wall for gentle support if necessary.

 

For someone more advanced, I recommend this exercise:

Single-Leg Squat and Reach:

 

Preparation

First place a small object on floor below you.

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and pointed straight ahead.  Hips should be in a neutral position.
  2. Lift chest, retract shoulders slightly, tuck chin, and place hands on hips or by sides with palms open helping to externally rotate shoulders.

Movement

  1. Draw navel in and activate gluts.
  2. Lift one leg directly beside balance leg.
  3. Slowly squat as if sitting in a chair, reaching hand opposite of balance leg trying to touch or pick up object.
  4. Slowly stand upright using abs and gluts.
  5. Repeat for a total of 5 repetitions on same leg.
  6. Switch legs and repeat as directed above for a total of 5 repetitions.
  7. Complete 3 sets.
  8. If touching or picking up object is too difficult, reach for knee or ankle.
  9. After performing exercise with control (1 or 2 weeks), progress to 3 sets/10.

 

References: National Academy of Sports Medicine

 

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