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August 09, 2019 1 Comment
When it comes to developing a fitness regimen, most people put great emphasis on strength and endurance, and for some, flexibility training.
However, balance training is so often neglected. This is probably because people don’t really understand the incredible benefits of balance training.
Balance training is an entirely separate system and a key component of fitness, just like strength, endurance and flexibility. It deserves just as much consideration as the rest. After all, it is equally important and they all go hand-in-hand.
In this article, we are going to cover the following:
Before we jump right into the benefits, let’s quickly go over "what is balance?" (I know, seems very straightforward, but there is a little more to it).
Balance training is the ability to control your body’s position, in either a static position (i.e. stationary, such as a yoga pose) or dynamically (i.e. while moving, such as riding a bike).
Balance is all about postural control.
Most people take balance for granted. We use it every day, pretty much all the time. It is a natural sense that people have, just like seeing, hearing, etc - Some people’s better than others.
The importance of having good balance becomes more apparent when you are playing sports, doing physical activities, and when you get older.
You will often hear people say “I have bad balance”.
While that may be true, the funny thing is, it is a sense that can be improved pretty easily (unlike the more talked about “5 senses”).
Conversely, balance is a sense that can become worse if not addressed and maintained.
People with "average" balance typically get by in life perfectly fine…but the thing is, improving balance and keeping your balance in its highest state can be so beneficial, and that can only be realized once it becomes a reality.
So, with that, here are some major benefits of balance training:
Let’s break this down even more by looking specifically at Athletes, Seniors, and Fitness Enthusiast.
Athletes: Athletes perform balance training so they can be more powerful, explosive, and coordinated. Moreover, they do balance training to reduce the risk of injury, which ultimately allows them to have a longer career.
Seniors: Older people work on their balance so they can prevent injuries from falls and maintain their self-reliance. Balance is a key component of longevity. Just like athletes, seniors are trying to stay in the game for as long as possible.
Fitness Enthusiasts: For people who love to workout, balance training will improve their workouts and results. You can lift heavier, work harder, and improve muscle imbalances. The end result will be a higher level of performance and a better appearance.
There are a few things that can affect your balance. Let’s go through the main causes of poor balance.
1) Stabilizer Muscles:
Stabilizer muscles' function is to stabilize your body and extremities during multi-plane movements.
Certain muscles act as stabilizer muscles to help stabilize joints and areas of the body that are doing the primary work.
Your rear delts act as the main stabilizer during bench press, so that you can control and decelerate the bar effectively.
Your hip joint muscles work as stabilizers to the pelvis when performing abdominal exercises.
Stabilizer muscles are very important for many reasons, one main reason being balance and coordination.
Having weak stabilizer muscles will lead to poor balance, and it increases the risk of injury. So working on these smaller muscles as a form of secondary training is very important.
Many times joint injuries are the main cause for bad balance. Most commonly, a bad ankle or knee will cause poor balance, swaying and overall instability.
If you have an injury, you need to address this first and foremost.
3) Muscle Weakness & Fatigue:
Overall, having weak muscles causes problems with balance. The same goes for muscle fatigue.
Strength and endurance training goes hand-in-hand with balance training. This is why they are all equally important.
4) Postural Control:
Poor posture is associated with many problems, such as back pain and poor balance. It also plays a significant role in muscle imbalances. Because of this, posture correction is an important aspect of improving balance.
5) Core Strength/Stability:
Your core is the center of your foundation. It connects your lower body to your upper body. Having a strong core will greatly improve your stability. At SET FOR SET, we place a lot of importance on having a strong core. It’s one of the most vital pieces to the "balance puzzle".
Yoga, pilates and plyometric training are great for improving balance. Pretty much any unilateral exercise will work to improve your balance.
Isometric training can also work to improve your balance as it helps to create a solid foundation.
If you look at athletic training, you will find that many of their strength and endurance workouts include unilateral exercises, this is because balance training is heavily emphasized in their training regimen.
For example, you have single leg stiff deadlifts, split squats, lunges, and kneeling one arm shoulder press. These are all exercises that will improve balance and strength at the same time.
There are many training tools out there that can improve balance.
Two of the most popular are the bosu balls and balance boards. Doing squats on a bosu ball or balance board will help train your ankle stability and core strength/stability. As we mentioned above, these are two important aspects to having good balance.
Now, one of the best training tools for improving balance, big time, are steel maces. They aren’t talked about as much as bosu balls or balance boards, but they are much more effective in our opinion.
Let’s go over exactly why we believe this to be a FACT…
First, let’s discuss the design of the mace.
The mace has an uneven weight distribution, with most of the weight being in the bell of the mace. This makes movements with the mace in the horizontal position offset. The more you move your hands towards the end of the lever, the more offset it becomes.
Training with offset weights is very similar to unilateral training. It requires core stability and coordination. This is what balance is made of.
If you were to combine unilateral exercises with a tool that's offset, you are basically getting a double whammy for your balance training.
The mace is perfect for this.
The mace is a kinesthetic training tool that improves kinesthetic awareness (aka body awareness) due to its dynamic, ballistic nature.
It’s also a fantastic tool for isometric exercises.
Imagine standing with the mace in a tree pose with the mace held out to your side. This is very difficult and requires serious balance skills.
Steel maces will train you to have incredible balance and stability.
There are literally tons of ways you can use a mace to improve your balance, and we are going to show you 6 of our favorite exercise for balance training with a mace in a video further below. We also have a steel mace balance "flow" at the end of the video...
Anti-Lateral & Anti-Rotation
The mace is a tool that will constantly work you to resist lateral movements (leaning) and rotation (turning).
When performing a simple exercise like a shoulder press with the mace offset, you are going to have to resist moving laterally. This will train you to be more stable and have a stronger stance, which will improve your balance.
When you are in a high hinge position/bent over or performing a 360, you are resisting rotation. This is the transverse plane of motion that we so often talk about. The transverse plane is what real-world strength is all about. Training in the transverse plane will improve your ability to accelerate and decelerate when moving in multiple directions. This is another big factor for balance and reducing the chance of injuries.
Besides anti-rotation, the mace is great for rotational movements too. Being able to twist and turn at your hips and mobilize your t-spine while maintaining a solid core is so vital for good balance.
In daily life, we don’t just move up and down or side to side, we rotate all the time, so training in the transverse plane is essential. This is a big component of balance training that we see trainers neglect in their client's programming.
The steel mace is honestly one of the best tools for training in the transverse plane. It’s one of its best uses.
So with all that said, it becomes clear that steel maces help in all the right areas needed for balance training:
The mace calls to the animal in us. The primal nature that we all have deep inside. It’s a meditative-like tool, similar to yoga in a sense. And the best way to train is the way that makes you want to keep doing it day after day.
Here are 6 Effective Steel Mace Exercises for Improving Balance. At the end of the video, there is also a steel mace balance "flow" that is great for developing better balance and coordination.
For most people (including women and seniors in good shape), a 10LB mace is a great weight to start at. If you are very well-conditioned, you could go for a 15LB mace.
Now, a 10LB mace may not seem very heavy, but as the mace is an awkward tool, even 10 pounds is difficult to use when first starting out. Again, for most men it should be perfect, but for some men and women, a 7lb mace may be better.
For those with joint issues, kids or people new to fitness, a 7LB mace is a better choice. A 7LB mace is also a great place to start for those who may lack strength (no matter what age or gender you are).
If you go for a 7lb mace, you will be able to learn the movements properly and easily. You will also be able to do single arm movements pretty quickly, which is cool.
Even those who are well-conditioned can find a lot of use with a 7LB mace. Mace flows, mace yoga, mace isometrics, rehab/prehab, are all great with a lighter mace.
In any case, don't feel pressured to go for a heavier size. It's always best to start light and work your way up. The mace is only as effective as the person who is wielding it.
At the end of the day, all mace sizes find their place at SET FOR SET (we use all 6 regularly!) Read this if you want to learn more about what mace size to start with.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us.
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