There are many definitions for the word “balance”.
Balance may refer to balancing your lifestyle between work and play, balancing your caloric intake versus your calories expended.
The word balance may even refer to two people playing on a teeter-totter.
For exercise design purposes, we are specifically referring to balance for the body with regards to safety or injury prevention,
i.e. making sure that we don’t fall over.
Therefore, we need to work on:
- Stability and equilibrium related to the center of gravity of the body.
- Creating a state of harmonious performance of function.
- The physiological application to the biomechanical responses of the muscular-skeletal system during standing, walking, sitting, and other movements.
Of course the best place to work on strength and balance is in the water. Water provides safe support around the body and “water weight” training is incorporated with every move.
Balance training should be an integral part of any program. Exercises can be geared to someone with low skill levels as well as an athlete capable of a high level balancing act.
Some Examples to Incorporate into a program are:
The Simple Body Check Balance
This basic skill is useful to add in unexpected places during a program especially when a lot of movement has created inertia in the pool.
Remember everyone must be trained to be able to stand using their own skill level. Don’t expect everyone to take their hands out of the water their first training day.
Balance is a learned skill. With the body check balance movement create inertia of the water by moving then suddenly surprise the body and stop! You may have both feet on bottom or both hands sculling.
You may progress to one foot on bottom with both hands sculling.
Try to keep progressing the challenge (over time) and soon you will have one foot on bottom and you may even take the arms out of the water (in a I surrender type of move with hands out of water and palms forward).
Rocking as a Balance Movement:
This basic movement is frequently overlooked when training for balance. Rocking should be included in the warm up of every beginner program.
Rocking is the place to start to help people train to “recovery to stand” or from “falling then standing tall”.
Whether rocking forward and backward or side to side, the rocking move brings the body back to a central vertical position half way through the move.
This spinal action of transferring the weight from one foot to another creates muscle memory for the body to adjust should a person trip or fall.
We are training the body to program itself to come back to center or right itself.
Any Oppositional Movement:
Many people fall because their arm movement is either nonexistent or completely unbalanced. Every oppositional move is a balanced move.
Try to walk forwards and backwards in the water using an opposite arm - lead leg swing move.
This will help the body to improve its ability to balance correctly in a neuromuscular and functional manner.
Try the same oppositional arm-leg move when marching, skiing or jogging. This rhythmical movement is essential for balance when walking on land.
Also try the JAX (often referred to as jumping jacks but you don’t have to jump) as an oppositional move used in the frontal plane.
Here the “arms move out when the legs move in” and vice versa, “legs out when the arms come in”.
This requires a certain amount of coordination and is great for balance training.
Another move is standing tall and touching the opposite hand to knee or ankle.
This move requires a one leg balance combined with a rotation of the shoulders against the hip area.
Using the hand to touch the lower leg or knee or ankle makes it easier to maintain good posture
(instead of breaking at the waist and the elbow tries to touch the knee).
Use the Noodle to imitate the “Wobble” Board:
(FYI A wobble board is a board that is on a ball that is utilized for balance training on land and is very popular.)
To imitate the wobble board, place both feet on the noodle on the pool bottom or try advanced in deep water.
Stand without either toes or heels touching the pool floor.
Scull for balance then take the hands out of the water (one by one).
Finally, close the eyes to further challenge balance.
Go back to standing on the noodle and do a two leg squat then a one-legged squat on the right side then a two legged squat, then a one-leg squat on the left side.
Use the arms forward to balance.
The same squat pattern can be done in deep without the assistance of the pool floor.
Try these moves with and without the hands to add more balance requirements.
Advanced Deep H20 Training Balance Challenge:
Stand on the noodle in a vertical position and scull for balance.
Now, touch your toes with both hands.
Then stand up tall and salute with the hands out of the water.
Anytime the hands are taken away from balance - there is a progression to challenge balance.
Have fun and play at balancing.
The big added bonus is improved core strength!