Every athlete wants to train in order to improve their performance, while at the same time decreasing their risk of injury. Is it possible that certain exercises can kill two birds with one stone? Current research has shown that balance training exercises may do just that.
Balance exercises can prevent injuries, with research proving that poor balance is a major risk factor for lower body injuries. Balance exercises have long been shown to decrease the risk of ankle injures by 35-50%. Furthermore, balance training is also beneficial in preventing knee injuries, especially to the ACL. Balance training isn’t just for athletes, the elderly can also reduce their risk of falls with a few simple exercises.
More recently, balance training has been proven to improve athletic performance/motor skills across a number of different sports. For example, research has shown that balance exercises improve:
- Rifle shooting accuracy;
- Ice hockey maximum speed;
- Luge start speed;
- Vertical jumps;
- Overall agility;
- Shuttle run times
How Much, How Often, and Which Exercises?
There are endless possibilities of exercises an athlete can choose from. Generally speaking, balance training would begin on a stable surface and progress to unstable surfaces (i.e., bosu ball, balance discs, trampolines, etc.). One can begin with holding a position and progress to destabilization (ball throwing/catching, strengthening exercises, external perturbations by a partner). See our video below which integrates balance with hand-eye coordination.
Athletes can begin with their eyes open and progress to eyes closed. Likewise, beginning with a double leg stance and progress to a single leg stance. Ideally, the exercises should eventually be sport specific. See our video below on balance