Advanced Dynamic And Static Balance Drills To Improve Athletic Performance
4 Dynamic and Static Balance Drills That Will Make You a Better Athlete
Balance is the component of fitness that everybody forgets about. It’s hard to measure and you can’t see it in the mirror. Unless you are involved in a sport that relies heavily on balance as a skill such as gymnastics, skiing, surfing, you probably haven’t even thought about training it. When we introduce balance drills into programmes people instantly assume that it’s some kind of rehab. But improving your balance does not happen by squatting on a swiss ball. There are huge benefits in terms of skill and injury prevention for all types of athletes from endurance sports like running and swimming through team sports like rugby and all the way to strength sports like powerlifting. Keep reading to learn some basic progressions and how these balance drills can benefit your skill set.
Simply put, balance is the ability to maintain your centre of mass over your base of support. If your centre of mass falls outside of your base, you will lose your balance. When we are standing on two feet our base of support is the space from the outside of your left foot all the way across to the outside of your right foot. This is quite a wide area therefore, it is easy to balance when we are standing on two feet. When we are standing on one foot, our base of support then becomes only as wide as our foot. There is nothing else supporting us outside of the contact area of your foot. Obviously, this provides half of the surface area two feet would provide and your base of support is around six times less than what it is when you are standing on two feet. You don’t have to just stand on one leg to create this smaller base of support though, positions like a split stance will change the shape of your base of support which, can also create instability.
THE VIDEO: 4 Dynamic And Static Balance Drills That Will Make You A Better Athlete
Here are 4 balance drills that will improve your balance skill and give you better control whilst in compromised positions. It all starts with the foot so these drills are designed to challenge your foot control and make you work hard to maintain your centre of mass.
Single leg Balance
This drill sounds basic but you will be surprised by how hard it can be. Spend around 30 seconds standing on one foot. Try to minimise the movement in your foot. When you start this, your foot and ankle will most likely be working hard to stabilise your lower body. When you become more comfortable, it’s time to challenge your skills and add a constraint. Try closing your eyes taking away your point of reference. If you have a training partner, ask them to play a game of catch with you whilst you are standing on one leg with your eyes open. This will challenge your balance and coordination. Each time you catch the ball you need to adapt and stabilise the lower body.
Movement based balance skills
When you are comfortable with the single leg balance drills start to change the positions you are holding. Movements like a single leg RDL, split stance movements and varied balance skills work well for this. Stand on one leg and ask a partner to call out some positions or even where to place your hands, left hand to right knee, right hand to left heel, be creative.
Another great movement-based balance task is the cone push out drill. You may recognise this from the FMS movement testing but it is actually a good challenge for your balance as well as your strength and mobility. Start with 4 cones placed around your feet. Standing on one leg push each to come out as far as you can without losing balance. The aim is to push each cone out without losing your balance, touching the foot back on the ground. With each position, your centre of mass is moving. You need to control your body and keep the centre of mass over your standing foot.
Now, you have started to gain better control of your static balance in varied positions so you can start challenging your balance further with more dynamic movements. Try hopping for 3 seconds on one spot. Give yourself a small platform to practise this skill and try not to go out of the area.
Leading on from the single leg balance drill, have a go at throwing and catching something a bit heavier like a 5kg medicine ball whilst standing in compromised positions. Stand on one leg, or in a split stance and either bounce a ball off of a wall or get a partner to feed the ball to you. This will test your balance as your centre of mass will be constantly moving when you are performing the task.
Training for stability is more common than balance skills within the physical preparation world and they are often seen as two very different things. In our experience, balance skills form the foundations of stability. Improved balance results in more stable jumps, landings, cuts and other sporting movements. In turn, this equates to less injuries, more time training and more trophies in the cabinet.
Single leg hop and stick
You have practiced your balance skills and are confident that you can stand on one leg but can you land on one leg? Now we need to combine your balance and stability. Try jumping upwards and land on one foot. Your landing should be gentle and controlled with one contact as you land. If you land and you have to shuffle your foot or move your body to stay balanced, this needs more practice. As you get comfortable start to jump higher. You will have to absorb more force on landing which, challenges your stability. To challenge this further you should do multi-directional landings. When the momentum is moving horizontally as well as vertically, this requires you to manipulate your centre of mass on landing and challenges your control further.
Drop and stick
There will be a point when you cannot jump high enough to challenge your landing vertically so step off of a box and land on one leg. The forces are much higher during this kind of landing depending on the height of the box. Again, you can manipulate the direction of travel to challenge your stability in different directions. You can also land in a split stance position to challenge your stability further. Your base of support is much bigger in a split stance but it requires a higher level of coordination and stability.
When you are confident that you can control your landings, it’s time to add a level of variability and uncertainty. Have a go at jumping and catching a ball whilst in the air. The momentum of the ball will change your direction of travel and the forces will be unexpected on landing. Try this from different directions and positions, from the side, overhead, laterally, with one or two foot landings.
The next step here is to add further variance to challenge your stability on landing. Have a go at stepping off a box whilst your partner gives you a nudge in the air. They will push you off course and the forces on landing will be varied every time. This is much like during sporting tasks. Imagine jumping for the rebound in a basketball game, you may take contact in the air so you need to be prepared for this when you land.
We have given you a step by step process to create stability on landings and give you greater balance whilst performing sporting tasks. Having confidence in your landings and balance will get you cutting quicker, moving faster and keep you off the physio table. Don’t think of the balance drills as the entry level movements. They are the building blocks of your stability whilst moving so these should be practiced all year round. Find ways to challenge your balance and stability and keep moving forward.