Balance and Stability – Functions and Misconceptions
Balance and stability are two of the attributes that determine your overall level of fitness, but they are rarely given the attention they deserve in a typical training program. One reason is because most people do not appreciate their importance, at least not until they get older and their health and fitness naturally starts to decline. Another problem is the concepts and functions of balance and stability are often misunderstood and training to improve those attributes is rarely explained or even discussed by most media sources. As a result, balance and stability often go unaddressed, which can cause problems later in life. Ground stabilization
One of the main misconceptions people have about balance and stability is that they are the same thing. While they are related and do share some of the same qualities, they are functionally different and the terms should not be used interchangeably. They are actually different enough that it is possible for a person to have good balance and poor stability and vice versa. The common link between balance and stability is they are both related to your body’s awareness of how your muscles and joints are moving and where they are positioned at any given time, which is called proprioception.
Proprioception is not really something you consciously control or even have to think about, because your body is constantly relaying spatial awareness information to you brain. This allows your body to make minor modifications to your movements in order to improve functions like balance and stability. In general, the better your proprioception, the better you will perform at tasks related to balance or stabilization. That said, proprioception is certainly not the only factor that affects balance or stabilization and they are affected by different things and need to be trained in specific ways.
Balance is a measure of how well you control your body or keep yourself still in various circumstances. Tasks such as standing on one leg or kneeling on an exercise ball require balance and performing those types of tasks is a primary way to improve your balance. However, it is important to note that improving your balance at one task does not necessarily translate to significant improvements in stability or even in other balance related tasks.
When performing balance exercises, your balance mainly improves only in the specific activity you perform, so it is important to practice balance activities that have some relevance to your daily activities or goals. On the other hand, you do get some small improvements to your proprioception, which can lead to improvements in other activities, although these improvements are much smaller than what you would get if you specifically trained the other activity.
From a functional standpoint, balance mainly deals with your ability to control your body’s movements in space, while stabilization is more about how your body responds to external forces. For example, if you are outside and a strong gust of wind hits you, your ability to resist the air and hold your ground is a form of stabilization. Athletes in any contact sport are constantly faced with stability challenges from their opponents trying to prevent them from accomplishing their goal. A prime example would be a football player’s ability to resist being knocked down during an attempted tackle.