In the world of sports, athletes will do anything to get an edge over their competition. Some use performance enhancing drugs, some using psychological coaching, while others sleep in hyperbaric chambers to increase oxygen consumption. While these techniques may aid in athletic performance, coaches have realized recently they may have overlooked two very important performance factors: core stability and balance.
The scientific journal “Sports Medicine” defines core stability as your body’s ability to control your trunk over your pelvis to allow optimum production. This optimum production can be seen in many forms such as strength, power, agility, coordination and balance. Aside from being a benefit to athletic endeavors, core stability has been shown to decrease the load on your joints as well. Many core stability workout programs have been developed in recent years. “Jeffrey’s Progressive Core Stability Program,” popular in physical therapy and athletic training, has been proven to help yield impressive results.
Balance can be difficult to measure compared to other athletic variables. If you can do 15 push-ups before reaching muscular failure, you can write down precise data that your maximum number of push-ups is 15. Standing on one foot can be considered a balance test, but what if you lose your balance and almost fall? Or lightly touch a hand or foot to the ground for support? What if you save yourself before you touch down but the tester has already stopped your time? Aside from the difficulty in measuring balance, standing on one foot has very little carryover to athletics.
Standing on one foot is considered static balance because there is no motion involved. While this may be a helpful starting measure, it does not correspond with athletics because you are constantly moving while playing your sport. A popular and very effective dynamic balance test is the “Star Excursion Balance Test”. To complete this test, start by laying tape down on the floor so it makes a cross and an X, all meeting in the center. Stand in the center on one foot and bend down to touch each point of the star. Have a partner measure how many points you can touch in 20 seconds.
Research supports the notion that increasing your core stability will increase your balance and improve your athletic performance. The journal “Sports Medicine” published a 2012 study which concluded that progressive core stability programs increase athletic performance, which are measured in the areas of speed, strength, power, balance and agility. As for balance, the University of West Virginia published a study showing that Jeffrey’s Progressive Core Stability Program significantly increases performance in the Star Excursion Test. Research has also shown that increasing your core stability can keep you injury-free. Furthermore, Stanford University School of Medicine researchers have published a paper showing how important core stability is in preventing athletic injuries.
Always seek out medical advice before starting an exercise program. While increasing your core stability will greatly benefit your health, any exercise program will have risks. If you are cleared for exercise, seek out a qualified trainer to assist you. A knowledgeable trainer will be able to design a program specific to your needs and keep you injury-free as you progress.