Fitness: Off Balance Training

by Cat on March 25, 2010

Today’s post is great for the busy mom (umm…guess that means all of us!)…
If there is one thing to focus on in your fitness regime, it’d be the core. I had a not so easy recovery to say the least but strengthening my core has been so key to being able to get back to running, cardio and developing fast twitch muscles to chase after the bambino!

by Fitness Contributor Jeremy of Twisted Twilight

Chaos is coming, so you’d better train for it! The need for random, unbalanced, asymmetrical movement will present itself sometime in our future. It could be in response to slipping on a wet floor, riding a subway train, carrying a wiggly child or even playing a sport. Being ready for events like these is what core training means to my clients.

Effective off balance training enhances the ability of the core muscles to control the position and motion of the trunk relative to the pelvis and legs. The core muscles don’t get “more stable”, but they do achieve greater contractile ability to create stability in the lumbo-pelvic region (lower back and hips). With a clear understanding of the goals of core training, we can effectively use many pieces of fitness equipment, including stability balls. By exercising with these balls, we can potentially achieve greater core muscle activation. Given that the nervous system learns with relative rapidity (compared with the time it takes to develop strength), many stability ball exercises can be mastered in a short period of time…granted that you have built a foundation of core strength prior to any advanced movements.

The use of a stability ball does not automatically mean we are training appropriately for improved function. Functional training is not defined by the equipment we choose, but by how we use that equipment. For example, someone standing on a stability ball cannot possibly be training for function as, in this situation the demands placed on the stabilizers are so excessive that the prime mover (the main muscle for that movement) shifts roles and acts as stabilizers—the opposite of their primary function; this will put stress on the central nervous system (CNS) but not necessarily the muscular system.

Many common stability ball movements…and many non-stability ball movements are done bilaterally and symmetrical. But think of all the activities that we do throughout the day—carrying things, riding the bus or subway, climbing stairs and playing sports. These movements are rarely symmetrical, and the majority of them are unilateral. If we continue to train our CNS to only move forward and backward, up and down, and with symmetry, we will lose on other movement planes and set ourselves up for injury. Remember there are three: sagittal plane (forward/backward), frontal plane (lateral/side to side) and transverse plane (rotational movements). It is important that we train in all three to remain balanced.

So keep in mind as you are working out that how we train should help us with how we move, whether it’s sport or non-sport specific. Tests yourself…do 10 reps of squats with a comfortable weight; now do 10 reps per leg doing single leg squats as deep as you went with the regular bilateral squats.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

ellyandphil March 26, 2010 at 6:50 pm

i really do love using stability balls. thanks for the advice!


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