NASM PES Chapter 7: Balance Training Concepts 5

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Chapter Goals:

  • Be able to explain the functioning of the components of the postural control system in keeping our balance and preventing injuries to the body. 
  • Describe the role that balance training has in improving sports performance and preventing injuries.
  • Find the attributes of progressive balance training programs for athletes at any level of training.

Introduction

Balance is the ability for us to keep the center of gravity within the base of support. We achieve it through interactions of active and passive restraints imposed on the muscular system, reflexive action by the peripheral nervous system, and anticipatory feed-forward control from the central nervous system. 

It is important to have knowledge of the postural control system and the kinetic chain, especially the lower extremities, as they probed the base of support for the most part. 

Balance Training Concepts

Postural Control System

Sports performance professionals need to understand the control of posture and out components of posture to be able to be efficient with their training of athletes for optimal performance. 

Maintaining of posture while doing exercise is the continuous process of tiny adjustments that will keep the center of gravity over the base of support. That is the essence of postural control.

Maintaining the equilibrium will require sensory detection of motion and position in space, resulting in sensorimotor integration and the execution of the right responses of the musculoskeletal system. 

For sensing the position relative to gravity and the individual’s surroundings, the human movement system must use visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive inputs, which establish balance. 

Neuromuscular efficiency will be the ability of the neuromuscular system to allow the agonists, antagonists, synergists, neutralizers, and stabilizers to all work together to provide efficient movement through our three planes. 

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Peripheral Neural Mechanisms in Balance Training

Balance is a complex and highly integrated dynamic process that involves multiple pathways from constant sensory afferent feedback from a full array of mechanoreceptors. 

Mechanoreceptors are our specialized neural receptors embedded in the connective tissues and are responsible for converting mechanical distortions into the neural codes conveyed to the central nervous system. 

Types of Peripheral Mechanoreceptors

Skin receptors

Joint rotation causes the skin to stretch on one side and relax on the other. The sensory afferent neurons will detect the skin stretching to give information regarding the rotation. 

Muscle Mechanoreceptors

Joints will move when muscle tension overcomes resistance. 

When movement happens in the joint, some muscles will shorten, and some will lengthen. 

The muscle sensory afferents will give us information regarding the length and tension of the muscle to help with all of this. 

The two most important receptors here will be the Golgi tendon organ and the muscle spindle fibers. 

The Golgi tendon organ is a receptor that is located in the musculotendinous junction that is sensitive to tension and the rate of change in tension. 

Muscle spindles are a major organ for the sensory system and are made up of microscopic intrafusal fibers lying parallel to the extrafusal muscle fibers. These will be sensitive to changes in length and the rate of length change. 

Joint Mechanoreceptors

Joint rotation and deformation stretch the joint capsule on one side. They may also compress it against the underlying bone, with structures on the contralateral side of the joint correspondingly unloaded.

The ligaments may also be loaded in some form through this joint rotation process.

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We have several types of joint receptors, like the Ruffini afferents. These joint receptors are sensitive mechanically to tissue stressing that is activated when extending or rotating. 

Paciniform afferents are going to be large, cylinder shaped, thinly encapsulated organ structures that are sensitive to the local compression and loading of tensile tissues. 

Golgi afferents are higher thresholds and slow to adapt to sensory receptors in our ligaments and menisci. 

Nociocepors are smaller afferents in our articular tissues and are sensitive to pain and deformation. 

Ligamentous Mechanoreceptors

These will be deformed when rotated and they are simply sensitive to stretches.

Central Processing

Anticipating posture will play an important role in keeping balance when doing a task. 

Adjusting the posture of the legs and the trunk may be done before the actual movement that is voluntary in the trunk or the upper limbs. 

Research has also shown increased activation in the core related muscles before acting out a movement. 

When athletes move, they are not usually aware of these complex motor processes of the sensorimotor system.

Scientific Rationale for Balance Training

Inefficient stabilization of the neuromuscular system will lead to abnormal stresses being put onto the human movement system.

The human movement system will not respond to the demands of functional activities. 

When the efficiency of the neuromuscular system goes down, the ability to maintain the right forces also goes down. 

This leads to compensation and alterations in the movement patterns, which then advances further to excessive mechanical loading in both the contractile and the non-contractile tissues. 

The human movement system will only be as strong as its weakest link. 

Dynamic joint stabilization is defined as the ability of our kinetic chain to stabilize the joints during movements. 

Multi-sensory condition means that the training environment gives heightened amounts of stimulation to the proprioceptors and the mechanoreceptors. 

Controlled instability is an unstable training environment to the level that the individual can control it. 

Guidelines for Balance Training

Balance is the component in all movements, whether dominated by strength, flexibility, or endurance.

The balance should not be trained in an isolated fashion, as in sports, it will not work in isolation either. 

Designing the progressions for integrated balance training requires the creation of a proprioceptively enriched environment and selecting the right exercises. 

These programs should be based on science with an approach to functional work, a systematic approach, and one focused on progressing. 

Balance Training Program

The NASM has made a safe and integrated balance training program that follows the OPT model well. Make sure to review the diagrams, steps, and exercises for the program and its phases individually. These are the phases of stabilization, strength, and power.

 

Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read


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