No, balance training does not make you more stable...or even more balanced....AT BEST, it is making you a better cheater!
Okay, you want more than that I am sure. Allow me to explain what I mean.
I want to start off with an analogy; I think it will help to start to paint a picture. What if the thought behind the balance movement (ie - "functional training" movement) is not an accurate representation of what is actually happening inside the body, but rather an external observation based on positional changes we see/feel.
The Tampa Bay Lightning actually won game 7. Elated by the excitement of going to the Stanley cup playoffs, you and everyone else present that day rush the ice to join the players in the celebration. (Sorry Lightning fans, maybe next year.) But back to the ice... You grab your third beer and run out onto the ice. Now you are warmed up from cheering and very loose given this is your third beer... AND the moment you hit the ice, your body instantly goes rigid. BOOM! Feet flat, butt cheeks clenched, head up, stomach tight and back tight.
Wait, what happened?
Oh you stepped on the ice, a virtually frictionless surface, causing your body to instantaneously tighten up. Wow, what an amazing organism we are. With any luck, this defense mechanism (or more so a survival mechanism) will keep you from spilling your beer and prevent you from falling to the ice.
You regain your relative balance, high five a few players, still holding every muscle in your body tight and walk off the ice... BOOM! In the moment when your foot hits the non-ice covered surface, everything in your body relaxes and you regain control of your muscles. YOU SURVIVED!!!
Well, that is how your body sees it. Again that tightening up of everything to keep you upright is a survival mechanism to keep you safe. It's not a mechanism your body prefers to get stronger or increase your muscles contractile efficiency. In the moment you hit the ice or any surface it perceives to be unstable, it then tightens everything in order to protect itself. What if it's not a systematic balancing of an internal equation of muscle contractions... it's a full on muscle lockdown.
Stand up for me. Pick a place next to a counter or something you can grab if needed. Now stand on one leg. Notice what happens with your muscles. Yes things tighten up to keep you standing. Hmmmm. What if you now stood on one leg on a wobbly object? Things tighten up even more as your body tries to coordinate a solution to your new environment. Now do that with a weight in your hand and move the weight. More tightness? Of course in the moment, your nervous system is in a state of survival. What may or may not look like balance (all depending on the individual's strength) is nothing more than the body contracting everything and anything to stay upright.
You can deduce that standing on one foot while doing a curl or a chest press etc. is actually not going to make you stronger... Your nervous system won't let it.
What it will do is make you okay at compensating around your weakness for a short period of time. I say a short period of time because when there is compensation present amongst your muscle, your joints are not properly aligned causing wear and tear and at some point in the future pain, inflammation weight gain and then less balance.
So back to the top...
Sciences vote is NO!
Balance training does NOT make older adults or even young adults more stable.
At its best, it helps them cheat up until the point they wear down their connective tissue and joints. Not an ideal solution to a very solvable problem. It is all about strengthening individual parts! More on that in upcoming blogs!
Thanks for tuning in for this one! I know it was a bit wordy and I hope it painted a clear picture for you.
Shoot any question you may have over to Getresults@fitness-tek.com or text me @ 813-501-5789!