Hi, I am Dr. Eric Cobb with Z-Health Performance and today we’re going to go through a little balance workout.
If you do not know this, in the United States, September is balance and fall prevention month. We talk a lot about this as a brain-based education company we look at the many systems that are involved so we thought we would share with you over the next few weeks some really practical ways that you can start working on your balance.
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Now with that said balance is a incredibly vital thing for us to discuss. Unfortunately it’s not terribly sexy it doesn’t you know it’s not like hey he’s dunking a basketball or whatever but when you look at the process of Life learning how to defeat gravity’s desire to slam your head into the floor is one of our critical skills. If we’re bad at it, it’s going to impact literally everything in our life and as people age and even in younger populations Falls are among the leading causes for what’s called morbidity and mortality so injury and death.
So fall prevention as I said while not necessarily sexy is an incredibly valuable thing to include in every single person’s training program including your own. So where do we start? Well when you start looking at the balance system it is an integrative system that includes the eyes the inner ear the proprioceptive system the musculoskeletal system and so it can be very challenging for people who are truly struggling with different systems of the body to improve their balance because we may need to do a lot of regression we may need to do some vision work we may need to do some vestibular integration work or rehab work.
However for most of us who are reasonably healthy and reasonably functional I’m going to go through just some quick iterations of things that you can begin working on this week and then we’ll add some additional ideas both on regressions and progressions as we go through the rest of the month.
What I like to typically have people begin doing are walking exercises not standing exercises. Now obviously if you go through our balance programs we’re going to do a lot of stance exercises because this is safer you can have people buy a wall holding onto a chair. What I have experientially seen is that if I have people do a lot of balance exercises just standing they get bored very quickly and it may not translate as rapidly as we would like into actual daily activities.
So what I have now tried to move more and more people to that I work with is a lot of walking based exercises. So here’s going to be your basic progression.
Your first series you’re going to lay out on your floor a balance beam now I’m not a real balance beam obviously but grab tape or grab something and just lay it out we want it to be four to six inches wide it doesn’t have to be super super narrow or super super difficult but I want you to have maybe a visual path to follow.
What you’re going to do is you’re just going to start off doing Heel-To-Toe walking forward and back along that balance beam all right.
It should be very very easy for most of us. If it’s not easy for you you can do the beam along a wall so that you can periodically touch if you need that kind of support this. Should be super simple you’re not moving your head your eyes are open and you’re just going as slowly as you need to to make sure that you don’t fall off the beam and again that’s forward and backward.
Now once you’ve done that I want you to now do that same process going sideways so you turn to the side and you’re now going to be stepping laterally in both directions along the beam you’re going to do that for one to two minutes for each direction.
Now after we’ve done that you’re going to repeat that same process only now you’re going to be on the balls of your feet so you’re going to basically do a calf raise and once again you’re going to be working along that balance beam forward backward and then laterally. Now this will be very fatiguing if you haven’t done a lot of calf work or a lot of running or anything so if you can only do a couple passes of five or ten feet and then you need to rest that’s fine but again I’m going to encourage you to work up to one to two minutes of this practice in each of the directions. so forward backward and then laterally once you’re feeling okay with that the next thing we want to add in is some head movement.
The way that we’re going to focus on this in the beginning is you’re going to put a target in front of you like I have the camera right now. Once you have that target you’re going to begin doing a small right and left head rotation while keeping your eyes on the target this is the beginning process of what we call VOR Rehabilitation or vestibulo ocular training at vestibular ocular reflex training so this is a kind of complicated but incredibly valuable necessary reflex within the nervous system.
So in this particular case I would start by turning my head back and forth and then I’m going to repeat my same balance beam walks forward and backwards with a flat foot and then on the balls of my feet same thing again try not to fall over. Once I have done maybe 30 seconds to a minute of each of those I’m then going to repeat that with my head going up and down these are just called yes/yes no/no exercises.
Now I can also do lateral tilts I can add in diagonals we’ll do all of that as we progress. If I’m doing this for the lateral stepping obviously I’m probably not going to be doing this you can that’s a that’s a rehab exercise as well but you would then want to have a target that you could use in front of you again to do your yes/yes no/no exercises as you’re doing the lateral walks.
Now that is again going to take you probably 10 to 15 minutes to just work through that whole process. You will find yourself probably surprisingly fatigued you may feel it in your feet your ankles your legs your back. The main key here is don’t make yourself dizzy, don’t make yourself feel terrible. You need to focus on doing this maybe three to four times a week as a part of your warm-up is often how we have people approach this. If you are already a well-conditioned athlete you’re not struggling with this at all then you make it more challenging how do you make it more challenging well repeat the same exercises but hold a kettlebell in one hand or a dumbbell or something basically a suitcase carry so that you’re now giving yourself more perturbation. If you don’t have that available you know you can try other things hooking a band somewhere so that it’s actually giving you a little perturbation as you’re doing your forward and backward walking it doesn’t matter we just have to make it more challenging by adding load to it you can also if you have space you can do jogging and running versions of these.
Finally, if you are feeling super comfortable already with all of them even loaded you would then want to add one additional version to this which is going to be a version where every step forward involves as much knee flexion as possible. That’s again done on a flat foot and also on the balls of the feet. This is going to make the balance challenge even more difficult for you so again if you’re a well-conditioned athlete you’ve done all the different variations and you want some more load give that a shot all right. This again is a basic balance warm-up balance workout that I found very valuable over time it is not appropriate for everyone so if you’re struggling with it don’t worry about it it may need to talk to somebody about it again as we go through the rest of the month we’ll be giving you some additional regressions that you may want to focus on as well as ways to make it more difficult. So keep your balance, no falling, and we’ll see you next week