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Photo: Josseph Amado 

Balance and flexibility are essential to maintaining proper body alignment, reducing the risk of falls and injuries, and ensuring the long-term joint health. 

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BALANCE
& FLEXIBILITY 

Balance

Balance is an essential component of a well-rounded fitness routine, crucial to improving your body dynamics, preventing injuries, and boosting your performance, be it at your favorite sport that you play on the weekend or doing some "extraordinary" activities such as climbing a ladder to put up Christmas decorations. 

When working on balance, I focus on strengthening the muscular system (the strength of the core and the lower body), cue to embrace the proper posture for optimal weight distribution, and stimulate the three systems that our body uses to ensure proper balance: visual, vestibular and somatosensory. Squats with proper form, lunges, single-leg balance work, and the use of unstable surfaces, such as BOSU or Swiss ball, are the usual components to enhance balance and proprioception. 
 

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Our ability to balance is controlled by three different systems in our body: Visual, Vestibular, and Somatosensory. If you feel comfortable standing on one leg with your eyes open, try these challenges:   

  1. Close your eyes (Visual)

  2. Turn your body side to side (Vestibular)

  3. Stand on a folded yoga mat or a pillow  (Somatosensory) 

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Source: National Academy of Sports Medicine

Photo: Josseph Amado 

Flexibility and Mobility

In fitness terms, flexibility is the ability to stretch the soft tissues to achieve a full range of motion of a joint. When there is good flexibility in the joint there is mobility in different planes of motion, meaning we are able to perform a wide variety of exercises and daily activities without compensation. An example of such compensation may be excessively curving the back while raising the arms up to make up for the lack of motion in the shoulder joint. When someone who is unaware of this compensation, is doing multiple overhead presses in the gym they may soon experience lower back pain caused by repetitive stress.

 

There may be different reasons for the lack of flexibility and mobility, such as genetics, lifestyle, age, gender, or injuries, but oftentimes it is related to pattern overload. This happens when we use a specific muscle group too much, and it becomes overactive compared to other muscle groups, leading to bad posture and an increased risk of injury. A pattern overload may occur as a result of sports activities, some occupation-related moves, or an imbalanced training program when a fitness enthusiast only focuses on specific muscle groups while neglecting other areas of the body. The good news is that flexibility training can help improve your movement patterns while increasing your range of motion. 

Flexibilty and Mobility
Pattern Overload

Pattern overload is consistently repeating the same pattern of motion, which with time places abnormal stresses on certain parts of the body. 

 

Sitting for long periods of time while working on a computer is repetitive stress that creates muscle imbalances. My typical training program includes stretching and strengthening excercises for desk employees to minimize the effect of prolonged sitting. 

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Photo: Josseph Amado 

References: National Academy of Sports Medicine.

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