What is the relationship between balance, agility and strength? A lot was made of balance ball, wobble board training and ‘core’ strength from about 2004 through 2010 and our analysis was not met with open arms. Relative to a lot of neurological factors which we won’t bore you with here we found most of this ‘instability’ training was clouded in ‘fad’ dynamics.
The straightforward story is summed up like this:
If you lose your balance perhaps as you slip walking down some stairs you will not use your weakest muscles to save you from falling. Without consciously thinking about it your nervous system will call into play your strongest muscles to save you. Thus why would you try to strengthen weak muscles in an unstable environment like balancing on an unstable surface?
Regardless there is an even more useful aspect we can share which is far less debatable.
One reason why strength training is less popular than it should be is people tend to favour their strongest – easiest to feel and use muscles when lifting. Overtime these muscles get stronger and the imbalance between these areas and weaker muscles grows in size. The result is no enhanced agility or balance.
Picture standing on one leg. If your inner thigh muscles (adductors) are weaker than your outer hip muscles (abductors) you will have difficulty with balance left to right. If you have to move quickly and catch your balance the outer thigh will easily overwhelm your inner thigh and throw you off you balance. This not because of lack of ‘nervous system based balance ability’ or even weakness but just a difference between muscle groups.
So the take home, if you want to improve balance and agility, muscular balance is a great road to symmetry of movement. You can practice the fun circus type balancing as long as you play safe but you will find a big benefit from just straightforward ‘stable platform’ strength training aimed at balancing your various structures.
Be well, be strong,
Andrew and Tierney