Balance and posture are critical aspect of athleticism. Balance is a complex integration of various body systems, including your sight and proprioception (the ability to sense where parts of your body are in relation to each other). The ability to maintain a stable position with little energy expenditure has impacts on sport ranging from skill development and expression to injury rates.
There are two types of balance. One type is static balance, which is the unmoving, stand-on-one-foot sort of balance we normally think about in terms of balance. Another, more complex sort of balance is dynamic balance, or the ability to keep your center of mass in an appropriate place while moving. Dynamic balance requires a greater energy demand and focus than static, and is perhaps even more critical for sport. Proprioception and both types of balance are important facets of sport performance and demand the attention of athletes and coaches.
In a recent study published by PLoS ONE, researchers noted that soccer players with poor balance ability had significantly increased risk of injury. But can this be rectified? The researchers also noted balance could be developed through exercise over time, so there is hope for those with poor balance. The focus in this study was on the impact of balance specific warm-ups on improving balance and proprioception.
The researchers looked at soccer players with at least 5 years of professional experience. They did not allow any in the study group who had training in either martial arts or dance, due to their increased balance abilities (which all by itself may indicate the usefulness of cross-training in those activities for soccer players). So these participants were already athletes and none had a history of lower body injury, suggesting they had some decent balance ability already.
The prescribed warm-ups were about 25 minutes in length and replaced all regular warm-ups. The protocol included running drills and typical strength and balance exercises. Researchers discovered that each of the tested warm-ups increased proprioception and both static and dynamic balance in the short term and over time. That’s pretty impressive considering they were working with professional players who were already conditioned.
Ultimately, we all know that warm-ups are important, and we know they prevent injury. For many of us, however, when time is short we skimp on our warm-up. Injuries are by far one of the biggest detriments to athletic performance and results. Next time, before you decide to shorten your warm-up, remember this study. Warm-ups don’t just help prevent injury; they can even help you develop important aspects of your conditioning like your balance and proprioception. Over time this will make you a better and healthier athlete.
1. Abdolhamid Daneshjoo, “The Effects of Comprehensive Warm-Up Programs on Proprioception, Static and Dynamic Balance on Male Soccer Players,” Plos One, (2012)
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