Mastering Stability: Effective Strategies to Improve Your Balance
Stability vs. Instability
Cressey conducted a study comparing athletes trained on stable and unstable surfaces. The research revealed that replacing as little as 2 to 3 percent of overall training with UST in healthy, trained athletes impaired sprinting speed and vertical jump height. This decline in power output may be attributed to the quick and prolonged pronation caused by UST, putting
individuals in a constant “deceleration mode.”
To improve your balance on solid ground, consider the following strategies:
1. Train on One Leg
Incorporate unilateral (single-leg) training into your routine to challenge stability while keeping one foot firmly planted. This helps strengthen stabilizing muscles around the spine, promotes equal strength in both legs and reinforces knee-stabilizing muscles.
2. Alter Gravity
Move your center of gravity upward or forward to challenge stability. This can be achieved by performing exercises with one or both arms raised, forcing core and spinal muscles to work harder to compensate.
3. Close Your Eyes
Improve proprioception by closing your eyes during certain exercises. This enhances agility and reaction times, as your neuromuscular system is solely responsible for reacting without visual input.
Exercises to Enhance Balance
1. Single-Leg Stance
- Stand on one leg, gradually lifting the other.
- Hold onto a chair for stability and progress to hands-free positions as your balance improves.
- Yoga poses like the tree pose can also be effective.
- Use a 5-pound dumbbell in each hand.
- Step up onto an 18- to 24-inch-tall box, emphasizing the heel of the up foot.
- Ensure each leg is equally developed by performing 10 reps per leg.
3. One-Hand Overhead Squat
- Hold a weight in one hand, extending the arm overhead.
- Descend into a squat, maintaining a natural arch in your back.
- Perform 10 reps on each side to challenge stability and improve
When Is Unstable-Surface Training a Good Idea?
UST can be beneficial when addressing chronic functional ankle instability resulting from sprains. It helps retrain muscles to react quickly and prevent future injuries, especially in the lower body. For upper-body training, UST is effective as long as the feet remain firmly planted on solid ground. Exercises like pushups on a BOSU or dumbbell presses using a stability ball as a “bench” engage the upper body and torso effectively.