The Key To Improving Your Balance Is To Strengthen Your Muscles
The foot bone is connected to the ankle bone the ankle bone is connected to the leg bone the leg bone is connected to the hip bone and so on and so on. If you learned this song growing up, I want you to sing it again and really think about what it is saying. Everything is connected, and when you are trying to achieve balance that is a major lesson! Just like you really can’t spot train to lose weight, the same is for balance. You can’t only work on one part of your body or do one exercise to achieve balance. It takes a full body involvement at full body strength, because everything is connected.
Balance comes from a number of things. Secure joints, strong hips, proper hip alignment, a strong core (meaning abdominals and back muscles), balance can even start in the strength of your ankles. We could even go as deep to say sometimes your balance or lack thereof could be coming from a problem in your inner ear, which in turn can lead to vertigo that throws off your balance. I like to think of the word, balance being more than just …can you stand on one foot? But, is your body, as a whole, balanced to allow you ultimate balance?
As we get older our balance gets worse, our muscles get weaker, our backs round over (meaning our posture isn’t as upright and aligned). We aren’t as active as we were when we were younger therefore our foundation for balance and movement isn’t as strong. Look at yourself in the mirror, how do you stand? Is your body in alignment, do your feet internally rotate, externally rotate, or are they parallel? As we age our legs start to turn out more to help us balance, because in external rotation your body has more support with your feet turning out.
The 2 B’s: Brain AND Balance
You might think what does my brain have to do with my balance? A lot! Our brains are our motherboard; it has control over our bodies. Without the health and wellness of our brain our bodies are in trouble as how to function. Here is a great explanation from the book Pilates on the Ball by Colleen Craig. “First there is concentration, the kinesthetic awareness that allows you to focus the mind on what the body is doing. You may need to create a quiet space in order to achieve this level of concentration. You are using the mind to reeducate the muscles, and you should be totally present with the body at all times during this work. Concentration brings with it CONTROL. The neuromuscular coordination that guarantees movements will not be careless or haphazard. Sometimes our bodies do not perform as we want them to, but coordination and control are skills that can be learned through practice”.
I guarantee you that the surfer, skier, dancer and gymnast are not thinking about going shopping when they are training or performing. They are all present in the moment, fully focused on what their body is doing and how it is moving.
Here Are The 6 Total Gym Exercises That You Can Work On To Help You Have Better Balance
- Squats, (Parallel, Internal Rotation, External Rotation, On Heels And Toes)
You Will Need Your Squat Stand For This
- Put your Total Gym incline at a level for your strength
- Sitting at the bottom of your glideboard, lay down and place your feet on the Squat Stand
- Start with legs together and parallel, then move to hip width (do this on your heels and toes)
- Then open legs wide, parallel, turn in, turn out (on heels and toes)
- Do 2 sets of 15 reps in each position
Tip: Remember you are trying to train your hips and legs, proper alignment is key, try keeping a neutral spine.
2. Kneeling Surfer/ Paddle (Level Between 2-4)
- At the top of your glideboard, about an inch back kneel or sit on heels
- Grab the handles with your palms facing up
- With your body upright, while your hips are over your knees, pull your hands back bringing your hips through your arms and hands to the side of your legs
- Then slowly return your arms back to the tower (repeat this with your palms facing down as well
- Do 2 sets of 10
Tip: Remember to engage your whole body while doing this movement, think head to ceiling, shoulders down and back abs in.
3. Moving Iron Cross (Alternate To The Left And Right)
- Start at the top of your board in a kneeling position. Lean forward with chest on your knees.
- Holding on to the arm cables reach for the tower.
- Slowly roll up staking your spine until you are kneeling upright. Bring your arms out to the side in the air in an iron cross (control body back to beginning position)
- Repeat by leaning your upper body to the left and bringing your right arm in air and left arm reaching for the floor (repeat to the right side)
- Do 8 reps on each side
Tip: It is very important to pay attention to your posture here. An arched back is needed. Your abdominals should also be pulled in and up the whole time!
4. Kneeling Side Plank With Arm Cable (Level Stays The Same)
- Facing the right, place the left knee close to the top of the board
- Left hand top left corner outside of the rail at a slight angle
- Extend your top right leg long until foot is at bottom of board
- Holding the arm cable with your right hand you should resemble a kneeling side plank
- Head, shoulders, hips and foot should be in line
- Holding on to the arm cable pull it until your arm passes in front of your chest in a rowing motion as your arm extends at an angle to the ceiling.
- Then reach back to the tower (repeat on left side)
- Try doing 2 sets of 8
Tip: it is important to have a strong standing arm, try not to collapse in to your shoulder, and again alignment is key. Think of your head reaching away from your foot
5. Kneeling plank balance with arm cable
- Facing the tower get into a plank on all fours
- Grab the right arm able with the right hand
- Lift your left leg and hold it parallel to the floor
- Using your right arm pull the cable back in a surfing motion until your arm is at your hip by your side
- Return back to the tower (repeat on left side)
- Try doing 15 reps
Tip: Make sure that you are not putting all of your body weight on your standing arm and leg, if your hip is leaning past your leg use your abs more to bring you center. Think shoulder over hand, hip over knee
6. Bent knee single thy stretch (take squat standoff)
- Stand parallel to the the bottom of your board
- Step your left leg back on to the glide board and put your knee down
- Arms either on your right knee, out to the side, or reaching for the ceiling
- Open the glide board by extending your right leg, and return back to a closed position
- Repeat on other side
- Try doing 2 sets of 8
Tip: Because this has a lot to do with flexibility be safe and only open the board a little at a time so that you don’t pull a muscle
I would like to leave you with one more beautiful book to read. This book was a suggested read for my Pilates certification. Taking Root To Fly: Articles On Functional Anatomy, by Irene Dowd
Remember, be alive in your body, be actively aware and responsible of how you move and you can achieve balance!