Balance training: How and why it can improve your performance

Movement is essential to perform daily activities, and your ability to move correctly and efficiently requires you to control your body's postural alignment. Simply put, good balance is mandatory to move efficiently. 

Imagine riding a bike without being able to balance or bending down to pick up groceries. Although you may not consciously think about balancing your body weight, everyday tasks like standing, walking, and climbing would be incredibly challenging without proper balance. And for athletes, good balance is an essential part of optimal performance.

Many athletes focus on training strength, power, speed, and endurance—but they neglect the one aspect that’s a big part of their foundation. So, we’re breaking down the importance of balance training and giving you the best ways to work on it.

What is balance?

Although there’s no clinical definition for balance, it’s usually used in conjunction with postural control. Postural control refers to maintaining, achieving, or restoring a state of balance during activity. 

But by definition, balance refers to the ability to maintain an upright position, whereby postural stability is more specifically defined as an individual's ability to maintain their centre of gravity within a base of support. In any sense, balance means you possess the ability to control your body’s position, whether stationary or moving.

Static vs. dynamic balance

Balance is divided into two categories:static anddynamic

Static balance is your body’s ability to maintain its centre of mass within its base of support. On the other hand, dynamic balance is your body’s ability to move outside of its base of support while still maintaining postural control. In simple terms, static balance is our ability to hold our body in a specific position, while dynamic balance is our ability to maintain balance during movement.

If you can’t stand, how can you walk? How can you crawl if you can’t maintain stability on your hands and knees? We build static balance before we build dynamic balance, as static balance serves as the foundation for movement and dynamic balance. 

How does balance work?

Although you may not think about how your body maintains its sense of balance, it’s constantly working. Balance involves the coordination of multiple systems—vestibular, visual, and somatosensory (proprioceptive) input. 

The vestibular system is located in the inner ear and functions to improve balance. It provides your brain with input about where your head and body are in relation to your surroundings. This information is then sent to other organs (eyes, joints, muscles), which allows us to maintain balance and know what position our body is in. While it’s wholly possible to maintain balance without vision, the visual system plays a significant role in making adjustments during balancing activities.

Your eyes help you determine where your body is in relation to your surroundings. The last piece of the balance puzzle is proprioception. Your brain receives proprioceptive inputs about where your body is positioned in space through specialized receptors located in your muscles, tendons, and joints. They help you understand where your body is positioned in relation to other body parts, objects, or the ground. 

These systems provide continuous input that allows your body to maintain efficient postural balance. They react to changes and alter balance in response to what’s happening around you.

Why balance is important for performance

Balance is one of the most under trained areas of performance—athletes don’t know about balance training or aren’t unaware of why it’s beneficial. Think about it this way—How do you jump? How can you run and change directions without the ability to maintain your body position? 

Several studies have looked at the effect of balance training in athletes and found that balance training can improve postural control and reduce the risk of injury in athletes of any age and fitness level. 

Some of the main benefits of balance training for athletes include:

  • Increased body awareness (proprioception): Kinesthesia is awareness about the position and movement of your body in relation to muscles and joints. Increasing proprioception through balance training strengthens that mind-body connection, which helps you better direct your body on what to do. 
  • Improved coordination: Balance training isn’t just about your legs or your core—your entire body has to work together to execute movements. Better coordination during activity translates directly into better coordination during everyday movements. 
  • Greater joint stability: The ankles and feet are the foundation of your body, and poor balance can increase susceptibility to sprains and injuries. Studies show that balance training can help improve proprioceptive deficits and restore ankle joint stability for people with ankle injuries. Balance training also improves joint proprioception and single-leg standing in individuals with unstable and non impaired ankles.
  • Faster reaction time: Balance training is super practical for increasing reaction time, translating directly into everyday activities and sports. If you slip or stumble when performing any balance exercise, your body must re-balance immediately to prevent injury or falling. 
  • Reduced risk of injury: By improving your balance, you can significantly reduce your risk of injury. Something as small as an ankle sprain can throw a huge kink in your training plans and predispose you to ankle problems in the future. But regular balance training can reduce your risk of ankle sprains. 

Regardless of what sport you play—be it CrossFit, soccer, football, or basketball—balance is a huge component of your performance. Single-leg balance is required in virtually every activity.

4 ways to improve your balance

1. Choose Instability

Whether it’s single-leg, or the Stability Board, performing exercises on unstable surfaces is one of the best ways to challenge and improve your balance and strengthen the tiny stabilizer muscles in your body.

Balance boards are amazing if you’re looking to challenge and train balance consistently. You can perform so many exercise variations—both for upper body and lower—to increase the difficulty level. 

Spacer Mobility has two pieces of equipment that challenge your balance. A lightweight, travel friendly option is the Stability Board. It has a dynamic 360 rotating foot and ankle board with anti-skid performance that challenges foot strength and ankle mobility and builds stability. Take your single-leg exercises to a new level by incorporating balance exercises to increase the strength and mobility of your entire body. With the Stability Board, you can perform side-to-side, front-to-back, and circular drills to improve your ankle range of motion. 

The second more challenging option is the Stability Trainer Pro. This robust tool is designed to challenge your stability like no other. It’s made of a steel frame that can support you in tricep dips, push ups and even an L-sit. The platform is hardwood and it’s suspended in the air by a heavy duty springs. The hardwood board swings up and down, side to side, and tilts front to back. It comes with two interchangeable springs that are based on weight and difficulty. It’s the perfect tool for a total body workout and working on your stability. 

2. Train unilaterally

Unilateral movements are great for improving strength and reducing muscle imbalances and amazing for improving your balance. When your body isn’t balanced using both legs (or both arms), it’s required to engage more to maintain stability, which, in turn, improves strength and balance throughout theentire body.

3. Up the ante

Once you’ve mastered simple balance training exercises, increase the level of challenge by taking away sensory input. Close your eyes and try to perform the same activities. Remove the hands from the equation and maintain balance. When you take away the information that improves balance, you’re challenging your body to maintain balance without the things you rely on.

4. Strengthen your legs

Your legs are the foundation of your body and play a big part in balance. Exercises like lunges and squats are great for improving range of motion and challenging your balance, but make sure you’re performing them with good form. Keep your abs engaged throughout every movement and focus on contracting the muscles and keeping your body stable. 


What is balance?

The Concept of Balance

Balance Training for Persons With Functionally Unstable Ankles

How does our sense of balance work?

Balance Training Programs in Athletes – a Systematic Review

Effects of balance training on post-sprained ankle joint instability

Evidence Supporting Balance Training in Healthy Individuals: A Systematic Review