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Balance Training Essay

7223 words - 29 pages

Balance Training

Many athletes today are using balance training as an integral part of
their overall training programmes both for injury prevention and
performance enhancement.

Balance is needed by runners when negotiating woodland, by tennis
players when reaching for a drop shot and by footballers taking the
ball on the volley from slightly behind themselves. Each of these
situations requires the exercise of just the right amount of
flexibility and agility at the right time and from the right areas of
the body in order for us to execute the desired task, recover and then
be able to repeat the same or similar tasks without injury. With
balance training, as with most training, the idea is to recreate and
manipulate in a controlled environment what we do in an event or game
situation.

Maintaining balance means having the centre of mass within your base
of support, ie with your trunk aligned over your feet. In the past we
have tended to believe that perfect balance was best illustrated by
standing on one leg and staying as still as possible for as long as
possible. However, if we were to take a time lapsed photograph of
someone performing that activity over several minutes, even the most
skilful mime artist would fail to reproduce it. That’s because, even
when we are trying to remain completely still, our body is constantly
oscillating, transferring energy, loading and unloading in a type of
perfect chaos. The point is that the body’s systems are set up to
respond to feedback, and if we were to remain completely still no
feedback could be offered.

As well as the centre of mass, we have to appreciate the importance of
the centre of pressure within the balance equation. Scientists from
the University of Waterloo in Canada have tried to help us understand
these concepts by means of a nice analogy with sheep-farming(1). They
describe the centre of mass as a sheep that we need to keep contained
within a certain area, while the centre of pressure is the sheep dog.
If the latter sees the former straying too far from where it should
be, it has to round it up and push it back.

This analogy tells us that balance is a dynamic process which applies
to everything we do, including walking or running, where we are
perpetually losing and regaining our balance, tennis, where we are
loading the system on the forehand, decelerating those forces and
exploding out, and football, where we could be rotating to go one way
then suddenly have to change direction. The questions we have to ask
ourselves as athletes are: how far out of the centre can I go? How far
and how fast can I load the system, decelerate those forces and reel
myself back in? And am I able to deal with those forces and those
torques in all three planes of movement?

To understand the body’s dynamic balance capabilities...

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