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For many years, balance training was the exclusive domain of the physical therapy and rehabilitation industry. However, in the past decade, athletes of all sports, dancers, gymnasts, fitness enthusiasts and senior citizens have begun to realize how balance training prevents injury and enhances sport performance. In the past, there was more of an emphasis on brute strength. Nowadays, people are beginning to realize that strength without balance is useless. Imagine what would happen if you tried to fire a cannon from a canoe. Since you would not have a stable base of support, you would not have much power.

Good balance begins with having your center of mass aligned directly over your base of support. Your center of mass is located approximately two inches below your navel. Your feet are your base of support. Your center of mass should be directly over your feet. A forward head, hunched or tight shoulders, an arched back, or hyper-extended knees can impede balance, because these misalignments will change the position of your center of mass.

While correct alignment will enhance balance, deep core activation is also crucial. The deep core musculature, which is comprised of the transverse abdominal muscle, the pelvic floor, the multifidus, the erector spinae, interspinales, and the internal obliques, is often referred to as the Inner Unit. The compressive force exerted by the transverse abdominal muscle is responsible for increasing spinal stability. The transverse abdominal muscle is activated by exhalation, and by voluntary contraction. You can train this muscle to be more active by drawing in your abdominals and holding them tight for 10 seconds, 10 times a day.

There are a number of products that are used for balance training. These include wobble boards, stability balls, bosu and dyna-discs. However, it is important to realize that balance training should be progressive. Before trying to stand on a bosu or balance board, practice standing on one leg. When you can keep your balance for 10 seconds, stand on one leg with your eyes closed. Gradually progress to standing on a balance device.

While static balance is a good starting point for balance training, you will need to add dynamic balance exercise in order for your balance workout to be functional. You can try squats and lunges off a balance device, or you can stand on a bosu or balance board while training your upper body. Some people like to combine strength and balance by using a technique called integrated training. This involves performing a traditional strength exercise for one muscle group, then following it with a balance challenging exercise that works the same or similar muscles. For example, a traditional bench press exercise can be followed by a push up off of the stability ball. The Smith Machine can be followed by squats on a balance board.

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