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How’s Your Balance?

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Welcome to Balance Class

  If you’re one of the many people struggling with those single leg lifts like Romanian dead lifts and Pistols, don’t worry, you are not alone. These lifts rely heavily on balance and stability and can be difficult to master. You may find yourself thinking “the weight isn’t heavy, I just can’t stay balanced.” This is a common problem.

These small muscle fibers especially around the ankle are vital to developing balance and stability. You wouldn’t build a house on an unstable foundation. In much the same way, adding weight prior to establishing a solid base can increase our risk of injury and impair athletic progress.

A great way to assess your ankle stabilizers is to stand on one leg with your other leg held in the air with the knee bent at 90O. If this is easy for you, now try it while closing your eyes. Eliminating vision places increased demand on your muscles to sense and maintain a stable position.

As you improve at standing on one leg, you can begin practicing on unstable surfaces such as a soft cushion and eventually a wobble board. Before adding any weight you should be able to stand comfortably on each leg for at least 30 seconds with your eyes closed. Do this daily and you’re bound to start seeing improvements in your single leg movements, while lowering your risk of injury.

For more information on ankle stability and balance click here:
Balance is made up of three main components: your vision, your inner ear, and your proprioception.  For our purposes proprioception is the most important of these. This is because proprioception comes from our joints and muscles; thus, it can be trained and developed.

Proprioception refers to the body’s ability to sense and maintain position. This is a neuro-muscular process, requiring training of both muscles and the signals our brain sends them.  Muscles involved in proprioception tend to be very small, ignored, and are integral to creating a strong foundation.
The ankle is a sight of high proprioceptive input. Studies have shown that athletes with recurrent ankle injuries tend to have diminished proprioception when compared to healthy athletes. Additionally, injured athletes also had decreased muscle strength with eversion (lifting the outer edge of your foot). Thus, by training this area we can minimize risk of injury.

 

The Foot Drills

The foot drills were developed by Russ Ebbets D.C.  for the purpose of strengthening small muscles in the foot necessary for proprioception and stability. He implemented these drills as an injury prevention experiment on his teams while he was a lead instructor for Villanova and USA track and field. In his words “one of the reasons I had successful teams is that my athletes made it to the competition day healthy and ready to compete.”

Dr. Ebbets goes on to state “done daily, these six drills will eliminate shin splints, Achilles’ tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, lessen the chance of a severe ankle sprain, and virtually all knee problems”.  The drills are as follows: walk on the outside of your foot (inversion), inside of your foot (eversion), toe in, toe out, backwards on your toes, and on your heels 25m for each foot position.

The drills are meant to be performed bare foot with the exception of heel walking which can be done with shoes. They are easy to do, simple, and have impressive results. For more information on how they work click here: (link to paper included in email)