by Maria Stevens, April 2009
Balance – a state of bodily equilibrium
Stability – firmness in position
Proprioception – The unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself
These three things cannot be trained seperately. Balance is important because it allows for harmony within the body, and between individual muscles. Injuries generally are caused from either overuse, or imbalance. Muscular imbalance is a problem for most athletes, who overtrain the muscle groups most important for their performance. This places an unbalanced load on the body.
Stability… don’t fall over. More importantly, it means that you are solid. Core stability is crucial because it is the central link in your bodily chain. During a squat thruster, for instance, you drive with the legs, then press the weight over your head with the arms. But the core had to activate in order to do this–to pass that weight over a threshold from legs to arms. Everything is core training! Stability has more to do with your core than anything else. Core is everything between the bottom of your butt and your sternum. Stability lies in that region. It also turns out to be the biggest region of the human body.
Proprioception… in laymans terms, is the body’s ability to anticipate change. Your muscles learn to fire in anticipation of each other’s movements, to that stability can be corrected before it is lost. (When you drink too much alcohol, your body loses its proprioception. The muscles get stupid.)
Training balance, stability, and proprioception burns calories and challenges muscles in a completely new way. For example, as you attempt to train a large muscle group on an unsteady platform, you find that other smaller muscles begin to tremble in an effort to keep you stable. These smaller muscles are demanding a large percentage of your body’s available energy; the resulting effort is greater than simply lifting a heavy weight, thereby burning for mare calories. Think about it. Things that require you to change direction require the most energy. In balancing exercises, you are changing direction (trembling) at a high frequency.