When it comes to quality training, most people imagine hours spent in strength training in the gym or some form of cardio. But when was the last time you said to yourself, “It’s time for a balance workout!” It is certainly not something new for you that training requires a holistic approach and must be balanced so that the intensity and muscle load alternate.
Balance training is very important for the overall physical condition, because we need balance in almost all daily tasks and we will appreciate it even in activities such as climbing stairs with shopping bags in hand or walking to work on icy or uneven terrain. We all unconsciously train balance with the help of our parents in early childhood in relentless attempts to learn to walk or trying to overcome the first meters by riding a bicycle.
As the years go by, the balance gradually deteriorates, but don’t worry. Once you know the basic exercises to improve balance and put them into practice, you can significantly help improve the stability of your body. The disappearance of back or cervical pain can be a sweet reward for regular balance training. A great and universal addition to such exercises is the balance ball. This universal fitness assistant will force you to engage more muscles in the workout, thanks to which you can in the form of a game and very effectively load more muscle groups.
Thanks to this article you will find out why it is worthwhile to include the balance ball in your workouts and what are the best balance exercises to strengthen your back and whole body.
Benefits of Balance Training
Balance training is often overlooked and underestimated, although it has a number of undeniable benefits. In particular, they have been shown to improve posture and strengthen core muscles. Along with strength, endurance and flexibility, they are among the four main types of exercise. This type of exercise contributes to better overall body stability and helps prevent falls, which is a common problem, especially in the elderly and stroke patients. Balance exercises can also be very helpful for obese people, as they do not always carry or distribute their weight evenly throughout the body.
We divide the balance into two types, static and dynamic. Static balance is the ability to keep the balance at rest when not moving, while dynamic balance is the ability to keep the balance in motion. Such a balance will be appreciated and used especially by athletes during intense clashes with the opponent. Interestingly, even in a state of static balance, our body needs to activate about 300 muscles. Both types, both static and dynamic balance, are very important and can be improved through targeted exercises, which we will imagine in a moment.
By the way, let’s go back to sports for a while, because the best athletes could tell you about their balance training. In some well-known sports, such as gymnastics, skiing or skating, balance can even decide who will be the winner and who will be defeated. Balance training helps athletes reduce the risk of tendon problems and prevent ankle injuries.
The beauty of balance exercises is that almost anyone can do them. They involve more muscle groups such as the legs, buttocks and back. Neglecting balance training can lead to poor posture, which contributes to back pain and is often the result of weak back muscles. Balance training is one of the best ways to strengthen the central part of the body and thus prevent these pains. And if back pain is your long-term enemy, our article will help you deal with it: 7 tips on how to deal with back pain caused by sitting for a long time.
The Half-Ball for Balance and its Advantages
As mentioned in the introduction, if you are considering including a balance workout in your workout program, you should definitely consider buying a balance ball. It is a semi-ball with a flat platform, whose additional advantage lies in the greater possibility of use. It is up to you which half you will prefer during training and how you will turn the half ball.
The higher quality half balls also include 2 removable expanders with comfortable foam handles that allow you to try different ways to perform the exercises. Exercises with the balance half-ball activate the so-called deep stabilization system, which participates in the stabilization of the body. It includes the muscles of the pelvic floor, the muscles of the back, but also the muscles of the spine and neck.
Half-ball balance exercises have several main advantages:
-help prevent injuries
-serve as an aid in rehabilitation
-reduce back pain
10 Exercises with the Half Ball for Balance
Keep in mind that balance exercises are not a sprint, so you need to pay attention to the precision in the movement and performance of the exercise itself, not its intensity. First of all, relax and focus on slower but even more measured movements.
At first you may feel a little frustrated because the exercises will seem very difficult or even impossible, but believe me, over time you will feel better and more confident as you perform the exercises on the balance ball. In all the exercises we present to you, alternate the two legs and try to perform at least three sets. Of course, the number of repetitions themselves depends on your physical condition.
Standing on one leg
This is one of the main exercises, which is something like an “entrance exam” and a good test to determine the level of balance. Stand on the balance ball with your feet shoulder-width apart and your weight evenly distributed on both feet. Extend your arms to the side and slowly raise one leg, bent at the knee, in the air until the balance is transferred to the right leg only. Try to raise the knee of the bent leg at least to the level of the thighs (the higher, the better). If you believe in yourself and want to make this exercise a little harder, relax your arms close to your body.
This exercise now requires much more stability and balance. Stand behind the balance ball and slowly step on it with one foot. The hind leg should be about one large step behind the seat. Keep your spine straight so that your body weight is evenly distributed on both legs. Look forward, keep your chest up and your shoulders back. Move forward so that the front leg is at a 90 degree angle. Engage the buttocks together with the abdomen and press with your feet on the balance ball. You will feel how both the front thigh muscles (quadriceps) and the back muscles of the thighs and glutes (gluteal muscles) work. Your back foot should only use the front of your toes. The farther the hind leg is, the more you engage the buttocks and thigh muscles. Again, you can try a more strenuous alternative to this exercise – back attacks with a starting position on the balance ball.
Will you dare to try one of the most complex exercises? When squatting, start again in an upright position on the balance ball with feet shoulder-width apart. Stretch your arms out in front of you, bend your knees and slowly move your hips and buttocks to the ground. Depending on your level of physical fitness, you can get as low as possible, but try to reach at least a 90-degree angle at the knees while keeping your back straight. When returning to the starting position, focus on the work of the thighs and buttocks. You can make this exercise more difficult by moving from one side to the other, with one foot always standing on the balance ball. Is this exercise easy for you? If so, try the popular but slightly more strenuous alternative to this exercise involving a training rubber band, which you should place between the balance ball and your shoulders.
We offer you a great alternative to the popular upper body exercise, try turning the balance ball with the soft part to the ground. This way you will be able to train your balance perfectly. The arms should be shoulder-width apart and perpendicular to them – not in front of the shoulders or behind them. Push your body up until you reach a basic position for a plank with an upright body and slightly convex buttocks. A common mistake is sagging thighs, which is a sign of a weaker central part of the body. Hold this position for at least two seconds and slowly return to the starting position, where the chest will lightly touch the pad. To master this exercise, it is important to be able to perform it well in its classic version.
The increasingly popular plank exercise, with elbows resting on the balance ball, is an exercise that will thoroughly check the condition of the muscles throughout your body. It is very important to keep the body upright. If you’ve ever tried this exercise, you can imagine that it’s a little harder to perform on a balance halfball than on flat ground. Pay attention to the correct position, which consists mainly in fixing the spine, it is also important not to relax your thighs. Follow the familiar rule that “less means more” and remember to breathe evenly. This can make your workout easier.
You should not forget the mountain climber exercise to strengthen the central part of the body, arms and lower body. In the beginning it is necessary to take a position similar to the position for push-ups, with the difference that you pull the butt up. Rest your hands on the soft part of the balance ball and pull your knees consistently to your chest. Keep your back straight and try to “pump” your legs as fast as possible, but be careful not to relax your hips down or up, but keep them in line. You need to master the exercise in terms of balance and expect that after some time of intense “sprint” it will thoroughly check your physical condition.
To strengthen the central part of the body and gluteal muscles, we recommend that you include in the workout the exercise with the distinctive name Bird Dog. It focuses not only on the abdominal muscles and spine, but also on straightening the back. The name clearly describes how it is performed, because you have to start “like a dog” by kneeling on the balance ball with all four limbs. Keep your knees under your thighs while your palms are just below your shoulders. Focus the center of gravity more on the arms and try to lift your right arm and left leg at the same time. Do not lean to the side, keep your spine in a neutral position and remember that it is essential to maintain stability, so do not rush. When you return to the starting position, take a deep breath and swap limbs. At a more advanced stage, you can try to stay in a “flying” position for a few seconds.
At first glance, this is an easy exercise, but it may surprise you unpleasantly. One of the most important things when performing the Superman exercise is the position of the waist and hips. If you lie too far forward or too far back, performing this exercise can be quite difficult. So place your abdomen and chest on the balance ball so that you can keep your arms and legs straight for as long as possible. If it is a problem for you to keep your feet close to each other and finding balance in this position is more of a utopia for you, try to spread your legs. You can also try a more strenuous performance of this exercise, with parallel lifting of the arms and legs. For more trained people, it will not even be a problem if you press them lightly on the shoulders or thighs during the exercise and thus make them activate the central part of the body more. Will you try?
In gyms you can see that fitness enthusiasts often practice this exercise on the weight bench, but on the balance ball you will load not only the back muscles, but also the thigh muscles and large gluteal muscles, as well as improve your balance. Lie on your stomach in the middle of the balance ball and try to lean so that you find the center of gravity at the beginning and maintain balance. Rest your two knees on the ground, place your hands behind your head or forearms and in this position engage the core of the body, lift the shoulders and pull the bent abdomen to the back. When moving up, exhale and stand up to the height at which you feel the contraction of the glutes and lower back. Inhale slowly down and try to repeat as many times as possible. Again, if you want to make this exercise more difficult when moving up, raise not only your shoulders but also your straight legs above the ground.
Exercise for the posterior deltoid muscles
The exercise for the back deltoid muscles is one of the easier exercises, which we will present to you as an idea for training with the balance half-ball. Start from a similar starting position as in hyperextension with the abdomen approximately in the middle of the balance ball, keeping your legs straight and your toes resting on the ground. If you have trouble maintaining stability in this position, spread your legs. Fix your whole body in one line, keep your hands in the air while your elbows should be at a 90 degree angle. Extend both arms so that they reach approximately the level of the head in the upper position. The back of the shoulders, the middle and back of the deltoid muscles will be involved, but also the central part of the body. Better athletes who can balance without difficulty will also be able to take weights in their hands.