Today I want to talk briefly about some ideas that you can use to improve single leg balance performance.
Where does balance live?
If you’ve been around Z-Health for any period of time, you know we’re very big on how balance is created through the
integration of the visual system, the vestibular system and the proprioceptive system.
One key idea that we want you to think about is to recognize that stability is brain-driven, and and knowing that, there’s some really cool things that you can start to experiment with to see if you find a benefit in improving particularly, like I said, your single like stability. So let’s imagine I’m going, actually I don’t have to imagine. I’m going to do it.
Balance training begins with assessing your balance.
I’m standing on my right foot and I’m just getting an idea of how comfortable I am here. How much wobbling I’m doing? If you do a lot of balance work this is probably very simple. So maybe start adding in some movement.
See again how stable you feel. If you’re really good, go ahead and close your eyes or turn your head. Do something to make it more challenging
for you because, generally, what we want to do is find a balance assessment for your body that is really difficult to hold for 15 or 20 seconds.
So if you find moving your head around with your eyes open causes you to fall over at 15 to 20 seconds, cool. That’s going to be our test.
So that’s our pre-assessment.
What is the ‘routing’ of balance?
What I want you to do next is I want you to now learn a little bit about the brain and how balance is created.
So whenever we think about stability one of the key ideas is that our brain is divided. We have a right side and a left side. The right side of the brain
generally, and this is a gross over-exaggeration or simplification, but generally the right side of the brain via multiple tracks through the brain stem on the right side will stabilize the right side of the body.
Why sensory work is vitally important to balance training.
Now why that is very important is one of our other rules in Z-Health is sensory before motor. I’m not going to get into what all that means right now,
but basically, put very simply, if we want to improve a motor outcome, I want to be more stable, or stronger, whatever. I sometimes need to improve the sensory input, because sensory input helps drive motor activity.
So here comes now the cool experiment.
Let’s start the balance training.
Let’s say that you’ve been here for 15 or 20 seconds moving your head around and you’re wobbling all over the place. We know that I’m standing on my right leg which means I need to do something to upregulate or activate the right side of my brain. A simple way to do that is to provide sensory input to the opposite side of the body.
All right, because one of the basic rules in neurology is that all sensory input eventually goes to the contralateral cortex except smell. What that means is if I rub my left leg, or I hit my left arm my right brain is going to receive that input. That sensory input might then improve my motor output.
So what I was going to show you using this really cool small handheld massager from Jawku, is sometimes the simple addition of vibratory stimulus can improve your single leg balance performance.
So let’s say again, I’m here. I’ve been moving my head around and falling over. All you’re going to do first is take a massage unit of some kind and just hold it in your hand. I’m getting now vibratory sensation in my left hand which going to my right brain.
I can now test that to see does that make me more or less stable.
From there. I can then take that massager and I can actually put it on, let’s say my outer leg, maybe my glutes, maybe my quads and again I can go back and retest.
Often we will find is that by adding stimuli, usually to the lower leg, you will improve the opposite side single leg stance stability .
If holding the unit in your hand or just kind of randomly choosing a spot in the lower limb doesn’t do anything for you, step number three would be to take the massage unit and if you’ve had an injury anywhere on the opposite side of your body, in this case my left side, take the massage unit and hold it on there for 15 or 20 seconds.
And then repeat your test and see if the addition again, of small contralateral sensory stimulation improves your single leg balance.
How to incorporate this into your training.
This is one of our one of our favorite little brain, I hate to call it a hack, it’s just brain science. But one of our favorite little neuroscience tools to use to improve stability.
Now, once we have that we don’t want to become dependent on it.
So I recommend use it for 15 to 20 seconds do a little bit more balance work and then repeat the balance work without the stimulations.
You just go back and forth gradually improving your strength, improving your capacity, but making sure that you take advantage of these tools.