In elementary school, physical education and recess were my favorite subjects. On the playground, there was an old fashion rope climb with a bell at the top, and a human hamster wheel where I could grip and tread. Next to the human hamster wheel were horizontal metal bars where I hung from my knees and did “cherry drops” and across the way, metal rings from which I practiced swinging form ring to ring. In short, all activities that helped to build core and balance.
As a Personal Trainer for the Senior Center in Santa Clara, CA, I address the same issue of balance for my clients. Since we don’t have an elementary school playground, we use tools available in our fitness center. I help my clients maintain and rebuild their balance using three tools that will also help you.
The first tool is called a Bosu. The Bosu looks like a stability ball cut in half and mounted to a base. The science behind the Bosu is proprioception or “the ability to sense stimuli arising within the body regarding position, motion, and equilibrium, according to HealthNet.com.” I position clients’ in front of a hand rail. The client then steps onto the Bosu, first with the right leg leading for 10 repetitions, and the second with the left. I then have my client step onto the Bosu from the right side or laterally for 10 repetitions and then from the left 10 repetitions.
The next tool I use is a weighted bar. This tool is not for resistance, but held vertically, with the bottom touching the floor.
The client holds the weighted bar with two hands, vertically, and completes 10 sumo squats. Then, the client holds the stick with one hand (like a person would hold a walking stick), while placing the opposing leg into a back lunge for 10 repetitions. We repeat this with the opposing leg. And finally, 10 heel ups while holding the weighted bar. This is an example of a of leg workout that strengthens the knees, the hips and the ankles.
The last tool I use is a stability ball. Stability ball exercises play the dual roll of strengthening the abdominal muscles and balance. To accomplish this, hold the stability ball in your hands, and twist and pivot for 10 seconds. The twist helps the core, while the pivoting is the balance practice.
In short, balance can be improved by practicing step ups onto the Bosu, squats, lunges, and heel ups while holding a weighted bar vertically, and the twist and pivot while holding a stability ball. By using different tools in the fitness room you will rebuild muscles and strengthen joints needed for balance.
by Tiffany Anderson, NASM certified Personal Trainer