Balance Sports

Balance in sports is a given prerequisite for excellence. But for some sports, or should I properly say, some physical activities, playing with Balance is the very core essence of the activity.

Some sports, be they competitive or not, require a strong core and certain balance skills. Other sports play with Balance, falling away from it then quickly regaining it all the while dealing with forces of gravity and inertia.

Bipedal locomotion in an upright manner is what separates Man from all the other creatures that we share the Earth with. Key to running well, or any other sport, is the unconscious ability to change your centre of gravity to match your movement. Balance itself can be learned and improved by challenging our ability to balance. Yes, there are exercises for specific muscle groups but to put ourselves in a controlled situation that will challenge our sense of balance, well, that is learning in a natural intuitive manner similar to when we were children. Standing still while balanced on one limb is not near as effective a learning tool as a dynamic challenge exercise. That is because , even while still, there is a subtle swaying or vibration to the body. The human body is designed to respond to feedback from all its senses so would it not make more sense to learn balance by placing ourselves in a controlled but dynamic situation?

A golfer strives to swing their club at a consistent rhythm and in balance. The key to consistency is to maintain your balance and use a smooth rhythm. Watch a professional golfer and their movement seems easy but they hit hard. To be more consistent in your golf swing it helps to understand what should be happening balance wise in the rest of your body.

Alpine Skiing
Alpine skiing is the art of maintaining a fluid sense of balance when all the forces of physics want to throw you off balance. Gravity propels you but you vector away from it by the pressure exerted by the bottom of your feet. Everything happens so fast in skiing that you are truly in the moment, reacting without thinking. In skiing we can think of balance as being forward or backward (that affects speed and control as well as stability) as well as from one foot to the other. Beginner skiers muscle their skis to turn, more advanced skiers turn their skis by varying their weight on one ski or the other. The skier strives for a free-floating point of balance. A centre from which any direction or maneuver is possible. When turning, a skier will load weight onto the outside ski and pull back with the inside ski. Then quickly reverse the leg weighting for the next turn. Your weight would transfer from side to side. In deep powder snow another factor comes into play; you have to turn and sink in such a way as to compress the snow underneath you so as to provide enough pressure resistance to allow yourself to spring up, un-weight and redirect your skis for a turn in the opposite direction. A skier needs to develop a keen sense of feeling for the pressure exerted on the bottoms of their feet. Is the pressure on the heels or the balls of the feet? Is more pressure on one foot or is the pressure evenly distributed? It gets more complicated because this feeling of pressure is constantly changing due to the terrain but the skier is constantly reacting to the selfsame feeling.
Refer to this link for ski balance exercises.

Skiing exercises for Balance and body core

Yoga exercises for skiing Balance

The Balance mechanics of snowboarding are a cross between skiing and surfing. Yes, you have to develop a feel for the pressure exerted on the bottoms of your feet but how you react to the pressure is different. When on a snowboard, the foot that is more heavily weighted will want to take the lead and head downhill first. The edge which has the most pressure exerted on it via the heels or balls of the feet will determine which way the board turns. A snowboarder learns to finesse the pressure on one or both feet and one or more heels or balls of feet to play the snowboard like a violin across the snow.
Balance is deliberately let go for a move than quickly regained. It’s a play of Balance and physics. Having snowboarded some years myself I can honestly say that it feels nowhere near as chaotic a play of balance as it may sound.
Quite the opposite. Despite having no ski poles for reassurance and Balance the act of snowboarding becomes very natural. As the snowboarder advances in skill you can visually see their posture change, arms come down to their sides, they become quiet and relax. It’s as if the body intuitively knows it has to relax to do this physical exercise and body and mind enjoy cooperating in the experience.
Refer to this link for snow sport balance training.

Snow Sport Balance Training

In skating there is no gravity to propel you. You have to push off against a surface with no friction, exert a pressure on the same surface, and react against the pressure that you are creating. If your attention and Balance wander too far from centre, down you go. There are exercises to make you a better skater if competition is your goal. But strangely everyone learns skating by doing skating. Again, there is this subtle nameless point of balance that once the body and mind grasp it you have it and learning commences. Children pick it up by playing with it. I believe this to be important, we as adults have to stop over thinking our learning process and just let it happen.

Balance exercises for skating

Bicycling (Including Mountain-Biking)
Yes, the grandfather of Balance sports. Most people get one formal bicycling lesson in life when their parent (usually the Father) pushes them away on their two-wheeler for the first time. One crash and suddenly the small child can ride a two-wheeled bicycle, albeit a little wobbly at first. Think about that, one small instance and the body and mind grasp what has to be done. The body has to be kept still and in balance parallel to the centre line of the bicycle frame irregardless of the angle that the bicycle may be leaned at or moving at.
The Balance exercises for this sport include static and dynamic exercises.
A static exercise would be balancing on a still bike while standing up from the saddle. A dynamic exercise would just be riding over progressively more challenging terrain. Again, learning balance by doing the sport.

Balance exercises for bicycling and mountain biking

You might not think of tennis as a Balance sport but consider that a tennis player has to quickly react and change directions. This requires some fancy footwork A tennis player would well benefit from exercises to strengthen the legs, feet and a sense of balance. Again, we are finding that useful exercises are ones where you practice your sport but in a controlled environment that is off balance. An example of an exercise might be to play your game while standing atop a balance apparatus. Refer to this link for balance exercises for tennis. Here is a link for Balance and movement in tennis.

This is a really convoluted balance situation. Consider if you will the physical act of controlling a surfboard, using the forces of gravity and inertia, and reacting to sensory feedback from a fluid changing environment. Nothing is solid or stable, it either moves or gives way.
So why do surfers get stoked from the experience? They have to be fluid, and in harmony and sensitive to their surroundings. I suspect this sport is something you could talk to death about but you’d have to just do it to understand what has to be done to do it. My left and right brain halves get into an argument just thinking about it. Maybe the answer is not to think but to feel it? The following link recommends exercises for surfing

Yoga exercises for surfing

Yoga exercises for surfing

Martial Arts
One of the oldest sources of human balance techniques (although I believe Yoga is the oldest). Every style of martial art has exercises devoted to balance. will explore this area in the future. For now, here is a sampling of what the world of martial arts has to offer in the way of Balance Training.
Website of Martial Art balance exercises
DVD site for martial arts balance training

Kung Fu balance exercises

Kung Fu balance exercises

SkateBoarding? Dancing? So many activities require Balance. We will continue to develop the list and write in depth about every one of them.

Sincerely Yours In Balance
Editor In Chief