I've been inspired this week by so many of my recent patients/clients demonstrating their improved balance and core strength that I decided to list the 3 best exercises to improve balance and stabilization for those of you who are recovering from an injury or illness.
These balance exercises are for those of you who are ambulatory with or without an assistive device. Could be someone who is really deconditioned following surgery, or someone who is trying to improve their walking following a stroke or spinal cord injury.
What I love most about these 3 exercises is that they are really dynamic compound exercises ( what the hell does that mean? lol)
That means they require the use of many muscles at one time. They challenge strength, balance, and stability at the same time, and they force you to stimulate your central nervous system.
What is your central nervous system? you ask....
"The central nervous system is composed of the brain and spinal cord. Your brain and spinal cord serve as the main "processing center" for the entire nervous system, and control all the workings of your body" -http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002311.htm
In other words, your CNS is the control center for all functions that your body can and does perform.
So, it is my belief that overstimulation of your CNS will force you to improve muscle control, by improving mind-muscle connection under stress.
This type of stimulation is used in Physical Therapy, Personal Training and everyday life.
For example, In Therapy or Training we use proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation to improve or learn movement patterns. In everyday life we learn new tasks with repetition until it becomes automated, we tend to pick up these tasks more quickly when we are under pressure. (Think a Starbucks barista during rush hour)
These 3 balance exercises progressively stress your body, and your CNS, under pressure (your fear of falling) so that you improve your mind-muscle connection and begin to control your movement.
What are the exercises already?!
As I mentioned above, they are progressive exercises. Meaning you start with #3 before you move onto #2 etc...
And again, this is for individuals with significant balance deficits following a stroke, spinal cord injury or a severe deconditioned individual looking to maximize and improve balance for ambulation.
Please make sure you discuss these exercises with your doctor or therapist before attempting them, and make sure you have someone with you to assist if needed.
#3 Tall Kneeling
With or without support, practicing balance on your knees while engaging your core and glute muscles to maintain an upright position.
It's much more challenging than it sounds, but can also be modified to increase the difficulty by adding overhead weight holds.
The key is to engage all of your muscles to stabilize and balance yourself and of course while breathing.
Try it, do 3 sets. Time each one and try to beat your best time.
#2 Half Kneeling
Your base of support has shifted from two knees down to one which now decreases your stability and balance and makes you work harder.
Modify it for more difficulty by adding weight holds as mentioned above.
Try it, 3 sets timing each one for the best time.
#1 Dynamic Tall kneeling/Half Kneeling
You've mastered the above two, now it's time to get serious.....
Get in either position and play a game of catch ( if its with me, we're using medicine balls) or grab a golf club and start swinging, or grab some dumbbells and do some alternating curls or shoulder presses.
The idea here is that know that you can maintain balance in either or both positions we need to increase the challenge and make you start moving in these positions while keeping balance or trying to catch yourself from falling.
Make it fun, start pillow fighting in this position with a friend 2 out of 3 wins
There you have it, 3 great balance exercises that will attack your muscles, your endurance, nervous system, balance and stability.
A great way to work on improving your balance for ambulation/walking.
Questions/concerns? Let me know what you think, drop a comment.
That's all for now Team.
Keep fighting, Never give up!