JOE's pre-workout tips: Some balance exercises for better athletic performance
Whether playing a sport or just looking for a stronger core, balance will be key to your progress
No matter what age you are, doing some form of balance training will help you improve performance out on the field, help to strengthen your core and in general help you to avoid injury and make sure you have proper form and technique in the gym.
There are several ways to work on balance, and it's not just your eyes that assist you in staying balanced, although a lot of us tend to rely on them. Here's a quick test: try standing on one leg for 30 seconds, and then the other leg for 30 seconds. You might wobble around a bit and struggle to stay on your feet, but it should be doable. Now try it with your eyes closed. Normally, most people will only be able to do a few short seconds, which means you may need to work on your balance a bit. Try a few of these exercises to help.
Bosu Ball Squat
The Bosu Ball is a great piece of equipment for training your balance, and will give you a great boost, whether you're beginning to train for better balance, and you can use it in one of two ways. If you're a complete beginner, then flip it on to the flat side, and stand on the ball part, but if you fancy more of a challenge, put the ball side down and stand on the flat side.
When squatting in general, but in particular when training balance, make sure that you control the downwards movement and that you have a firm stance. Your feet should be a little wider than shoulder-width apart, and make sure that you sit back into the movement, keeping an eye on the line of your knees. They should not go out over your toes as you come down. Do three sets of ten reps.
Bosu push up
Again using a Bosu ball, try and do a regular push up, but this time it must be done with the ball side facing down. It adds a level of difficulty as you need to balance and stabilise your upper body and core throughout the movement, so is not only good for balance but also for strength.
Single leg squat reach
There's no equipment needed for this, so you can even do it at home. Firstly, lift one leg off the ground, and begin to swing that leg forward and backward as if you were walking. Your opposite arm (so left arm if you're using your right leg, or right arm if using your left) should begin to swing with it. To add some difficulty, bring that arm up until it is pointing straight up, and as you bring your leg back, bend your knee and lean forwards, bringing your arm towards the ground and touching the floor.
As you attempt to stabilise yourself, you should feel your core and the area around your glutes and hips start to become activated. Make sure that your knees don't wobble and maintain your form throughout. Do three sets of ten on each leg.
Single-leg straight-leg deadlift
You'll need to take a bit of care with this one as the form is very important. If unsure, always ask a trainer and you can start with no weight to make sure you're mastering the technique of the movement.
With a slight bend in your knee, and maintaining the natural curvature of your spine, lean forward, lifting one leg off the ground. Keeping the other foot planted, use the power of your hamstring to lower you down slowly as the leg that's off the ground goes straight out behind you. Again, use your hamstring to bring you back up, maintaining that bend in your knee. The balance is an added element of challenge, and you can add more weight to a point where you feel that you are exerting yourself.
Do three sets of ten on each leg. If any of these are not challenging enough, you can increase the level of balance involved by closing your eyes as you perform the exercises. You can also add a stability ball (or Bosu ball) to any of your regular exercises to introduce an element of balance, which will help avoid injury and improve your overall performance.
Nutrition is always key to any workout, and for something great with a high protein content that’s also delicious, try Mooju chocolate milk. With over 10g of protein in a 250ml container, as well as carbohydrate. Mooju is a great choice for your workout.
Enjoy Mooju as part of a healthy balanced diet and active lifestyle.
Hat-tip to Men's Health for the picture.