Balance and core training are two aspects of working out that are often overlooked. All too often, people are more concerned with building muscle, increasing strength on the “big lifts” and losing fat, than training their core, and improving balance. Even those who do some core training usually just focus on sit ups and crunches, which train the top layer of the abdominals, but don’t hit the deep core muscles. And you’ll rarely see any balance training performed in the average commercial gym.
Unfortunately though, those who avoid balance and core training are selling themselves short. Not only can integrating both into your program improve your coordination, proprioception, and reduce your risk of injury, but they can actually help with the other, more common goals listed above.
You may not automatically think of it, but getting a stronger core and improving your balance can majorly reduce your chances of injury. If your core muscles are weak, they don’t function properly, and this means that when performing any exercises that require even a small degree of balance and core control, your deep abdominal muscles aren’t “turned on”. This leads to your lower back muscles being called into action, which can often results in lower back strains, and over time, more serious conditions such as disk herniations. If you suffer with lower back issues, chances are it’s not your back that’s weak, it’s your core.
How many times per day do you stand up from your desk, walk up stairs, lift something above your head, or bend down to pick something up? When you think about it, you do these movements all the time, and they all require a lot of core stability and balance. While these may seem like simple tasks, many elder people struggle with these, due to their lack of core strength.
However, with a strong core, and good balance, not only will you be more effective at performing everyday tasks, you’ll be able to cope better with more strenuous chores, such as gardening, decorating and lifting, and prevent degeneration in old age.
As previously mentioned, your core plays a big part in stabilizing your torso when lifting weights, and a good level of balance is vital in order to preserve good lifting form. So if your goal is to get stronger, particularly on big compound and competitive lifts like the squat, bench press and deadlift, or the snatch and clean and jerk, you need core and balance training in your routine.
Better Sports Performance
No matter what sport you play, when you’re in a game situation, you’ll be constantly changing direction, shifting the balance of your weight, changing stances and foot positioning, and, if you play a contact sport – being hit from different angles. You simply won’t survive on the sports field if your core strength and balance aren’t up to scratch, as you’ll find yourself too slow to keep up with the play, getting knocked around by opponents, and at a higher risk of injury.
If you’re trying to get that elusive six pack, nailing your diet to shed stomach fat is the main thing you need to concentrate on. But once the fat’s gone, you’ll want a strong, muscular mid-section, which is achieved by, guess what – balance and core training.
When implementing balance and core training into your workout routine, you should mainly include stabilization exercises, such as planks, rollouts, Pallof presses, landmines, bridges, Turkish get ups, woodchops and windmills. For your balance work, single legged exercises are ideal, as are any exercises where you have to change direction quickly, while keeping your whole body steady.