Balance and Stability Training.

ATHLETE50 Blog #3 Balance and Stability



“Oh Crap”

 A friend once told me that the key to staying injury free AND being competitive in a game or match depends on our ability to recover from the multiple “Oh Crap” positions we find ourselves in during play. “ Oh Crap” positions are those where we are almost out of control but are able to come back into full control. I find this to be even more important for athletes+50!

As we age a number of physiological changes happen that affect our balance and stability as well as our ability to RECOVER FROM those unbalances and instabilities.



The ability to control and maintain our body’s position is BALANCE.  Obviously, this is a crucial attribute to an athlete. The inner ear interacts with our eyes, joints, muscles and bones to keep us balanced. 

Possible causes of losing our balance and stability are:

1)   Inner ear disturbances.

2)   Vertigo.

3)   Poor eye sight.

4)   Joint issues.

5)   Muscular weakness.



Improving Balance and Stability

If you suspect that numbers 1,2 and 3 above are the causes or are contributing to balance problems then go see a doctor right away.  Glasses, antibiotics for inner ear infections, or prescription corrections for your glasses may just do the trick.  If it’s more complicated than that, you’ll definitely be glad you went to see the Doc!

As far as numbers 4 and 5 above are concerned, our work in gym can do a lot to improve balance. Sensors in the joints and muscles detect things like joint angles and pressure and muscle tension and send this information to the central nervous system to maintain balance and stability.

The old adage of use or lose it applies here. If you don’t train,they will only get worse so keep training them!  Detraining of these proprioceptors and muscles affects our balance negatively.   Routinely doing exercises that tax your balance system such as working on a BOSU ball or using a TRX System or simple exercises like one leg hops are great ways to improve our stability. BUT don’t neglect the benefits of strength training or plyometrics training to help us recover from the “Oh Crap” positions.  Once our balance is lost –and that will happen- we need those fast twitch muscle fibers powerful and ready to act.

Six exercises-- 2x/week-- 4-8 weeks=Balance^  Stability^


BOSU Squats (2 setsx10-15 reps)

BOSU Pushups (2 setsx10-15 reps)

BOSU Squat Hops (2 setsx10-15 reps)

TRX Rotational Rows (2 setsx30-60 seconds each side)

Loop Hops (2 setsx60 seconds each leg)

One Leg Deadlift (2 setsx10-15 reps each side)


Click here to see a sample balance and stability video


Muscle Imbalance and Training to Minimize it!

ATHLETE50 Blog #2 Muscle Imbalance.


If you are a switch hitter (can bat from both left and right sides) in baseball or softball, then you can skip this article!

The rest of us play our sports primarily with our dominant side:  We always hold the racquet with the same hand, we always swing the golf club from the same side, we always hit the softball from the same side of the plate, we mostly kick the soccer ball with the same foot and we mostly shoot the basketball with the same hand.  This means the same muscles are used in the same way over and over and the same joints are stressed in the same way over and over.



What does this mean to the body?

The resulting repetitive and unilateral stresses on the musculature and joints means that the used muscles get stronger and usually bigger.   It also means that some joints end up taking most of the stresses in the same planes of motion.  Once dominant, over developed muscles start pulling on the skeletal system in an unbalanced, unsymmetrical manner fatigue, pain and injury are more likely to occur. And the joints are more likely to wear unevenly and painfully!


Bad news/Good news:

The bad news is that we are never going to be able to train the non dominant side enough to get it in balance with the dominant. The good news is that by following some smart exercise guidelines you can reduce the level of imbalance and therefore reduce the level of fatigue, reduce the level of pain and hopefully reduce the severity of injury.



1)   DON’T DO BARBELL SQUATS—do instead weighted lunges and step ups, preferably with rotation.  This insures that both sides of the body are working evenly.

2)   Try TRX System training—because of the inherent bilateral stability needed to perform most exercises, both sides of the body are involved in all exercises.  Try the step back lunge, the one legged squat, the rotational row and the pushup!

3)   DON’T DO BARBELL BENCH PRESS—do instead unilateral dumbbell bench presses.  Stability and balance.

4)   Try the dumbbell clean and jerk with rotation—instead of barbell clean and jerk or the deadlift.

5)   DON’T DO BARBELL SHOULDER PRESS—do instead unilateral dumbbell presses.

6)   Try performing your exercises using the BOSU or stability ball. This engages more stability muscles on both sides of the body.

7)   Work your obliques by doing rotational abdominal work to BOTH sides.  Ball slams with rotation and balance plank are great for it.



Click here to see a video demonstration of the exercises mentioned above



The Importance of a Warm Up

The other day I asked one of my tennis player clients if he had warmed up thoroughly before playing. He thought about my question for a couple seconds then he said “warm up is in the same category as flossing:  We all know we should do more of it but we never quite get around to it!”   After I stopped laughing, I explained why warming up properly and thoroughly can be the most important thing one can do to yield the best performance possible on any given day!

We all remember as youngsters jumping into a pickup game of soccer or tennis or basketball without even THINKING of warming up first. At that point in our lives tendons and ligaments were supple and flexible, the list of injuries was short (if any) and the excitement to get playing was too strong.  For Athletes 50+, the excitement to get playing is just as strong but the tendons and ligaments are not as supple or flexible and the list of injuries has grown considerably.

The benefits of a proper warm up:

A)   Increase Muscle Temperature- as this happens (up to a point), a muscle’s contractile efficiency increases and therefore its function improves.

B)   Increase in General Temperature- an increase in systemic temperature (up to a point) makes the whole system function more efficiently.

C)   Increase Blood Flow to Muscles including the Heart- as the blood vessels dilate and carry more blood to the working muscles, including the heart, more oxygen gets delivered to and more waste products are removed from those muscles.

D)   Increase Range of Motion of Joints- a proper warm up allows you to slowly and safely increase the range of motion around joints as the exercises progress from easy to hard, slow to fast and unidirectional to multidirectional.

E)   Increase Psychological Readiness (Focus)- as we go through the warm up our minds are becoming more ready for the task that’s coming up by eliminating distracting thoughts from the day’s events and visualizing what we want to accomplish during the game.

F)    Increase Neuro-Muscular Efficiency- as the warm up moves from general exercises to sport specific exercises, the nervous system/muscular system connection becomes sharper and faster resulting in better technique.

G)   Decrease Risk of Injury- all the previously mentioned benefits will result in fewer injuries to tendons, ligaments, joint structures and muscles, of which the heart is one.

H)   Decrease in Post Match Soreness- less stress at the cellular level means there will be less soreness from damaged tissues.

Guidelines for a Proper Warm up:

Generally speaking, sports that require change in direction such as racquetball, squash, soccer, basketball, etc. should follow the following sequence:

Stationary --> Low impact straight line activities --> High impact straight line activities --> Low impact lateral activities --> High impact lateral activities --> Change of direction activities --> Sport specific activities

Click here to see a sample warm up video:

Perform each activity for 30-45 seconds or for 10-15 repetitions.  Repeat as many times as you feel you need.