Balance Exercises

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Balance Exercises

Postby Mark Ellis » Fri Dec 30, 2011 5:51 am

Balance is an essential skill in disc golf. Many shanked shots are the result of being off balance. If you watch someone's form while they are throwing you can often predict a poor shot before it is released due to imbalance. Yet balance is seldom focused on and seldom trained for.

When I started cross training with personal trainers a few years ago, I noticed how often I was given exercises which worked on balance and how damn poor my balance was. When previously I worked out on my own I never concentrated on balance. Strength, endurance and flexibility, sure. But not balance. Maybe because it is embarrassing to be in the gym and show the world what a klutz you are. Or maybe because I never noticed other people doing balance exercises except dancers or maybe it just did not occur to me. Who knows but now I do lots of balance exercises and I think my balance is better because of it.

One of the skills of life which diminish with age is balance. For those of us with poor balance to begin with this will cause problems in disc golf and in life. Something my trainer mentioned to me is that many people avoid balance activities as they age. Youngsters stand up when putting on pants. Old folks sit down when putting on pants. Simple tasks like these can aid balance. Once I heard this I made a point to dress standing up. Putting on shoes is trickier than it sounds.

When I have a work out session it is expected that before I start the session I do a full stretching routine and warm up to a full sweat. I have added a balance exercise which includes a stretching component I call "Tea Kettles".

I'm a little tea pot short and stout, here is my handle here is my spout... You may recall this nursery school song which is where the name of this exercise came from. Unfortunately in my case that "short and stout" line hits too close to home.

Find a straight line in the gym floor which you walk up and back (like walking a tight rope). Take a big step forward with one leg, bend forward at the waist and touch a finger of the opposite hand to your forward toe and kick out your back leg (tipping the tea kettle forward). Stand back up and step forward with the other leg and repeat the process with each step while keeping balance. This is not a speed exercise. It should be done slowly and gracefully (in theory, haha).

On the walk back, you can make the process more challenging by touching the forward toe with first one hand then the next during each step.

For people with superb balance this exercise will appear easy. To make it harder, put a kettle bell (or barbell) in the hand which touches the toe and the weight of the kettle bell makes it much harder to keep balance.

Ok, I know everyone who reads this will run right out and try it. Then drop and give me 20. Hahaha. Sit up straight. Eat your vegetables. No more impure thoughts for you.
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Re: Balance Exercises

Postby MR. WICK » Fri Dec 30, 2011 9:49 am

Find a straight line in the gym floor which you walk up and back (like walking a tight rope). Take a big step forward with one leg, bend forward at the waist and touch a finger of the opposite hand to your forward toe and kick out your back leg (tipping the tea kettle forward). Stand back up and step forward with the other leg and repeat the process with each step while keeping balance. This is not a speed exercise. It should be done slowly and gracefully (in theory, haha).

On the walk back, you can make the process more challenging by touching the forward toe with first one hand then the next during each step.

For people with superb balance this exercise will appear easy. To make it harder, put a kettle bell (or barbell) in the hand which touches the toe and the weight of the kettle bell makes it much harder to keep balance.


This is really a great exercise. If it gets too easy this way, try to jump as far as you can forward and land on one foot, touch toe with opposite hand, stand up, stay on one foot and jump to the next foot, all while staying on the line. This was one of the exercises I used when rehabing a knee injury. It's great for all of those balance and support muscles.
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Re: Balance Exercises

Postby Mike C » Fri Dec 30, 2011 2:56 pm

That's a neat exercise, I just tried it out.

10 years of skateboarding turned clumsy old me into a little bit more graceful of a guy. Took a few hard falls in the process though :P
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Re: Balance Exercises

Postby Jeronimo » Fri Dec 30, 2011 3:09 pm

Honestly Mark, I would recommend a regular routine of Yoga. Everything you're talking about you'll get in one 30 + min workout. With all the torque we put in our backs during the throwing motion, Yoga is masterful at warming up/cooling down the spine & muscles. Balance, stretching, muscle working, breathing... it's unrivaled. Men, dump the machismo and pick up a Yoga mat some time.
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Re: Balance Exercises

Postby vtbuzzz » Fri Dec 30, 2011 5:33 pm

Yoga is awesome, helps me in disc, ultra running, and just all around daily living
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Re: Balance Exercises

Postby Whiz » Fri Dec 30, 2011 6:30 pm

Hm...
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Re: Balance Exercises

Postby ChrisWoj » Mon Jan 02, 2012 8:53 pm

Mike C wrote:That's a neat exercise, I just tried it out.

10 years of skateboarding turned clumsy old me into a little bit more graceful of a guy. Took a few hard falls in the process though :P

Something I like to do - since you mentioned skateboarding - is fill a 2-liter bottle with water, screw the cap on nice n tight - and then take a skateboard (minus trucks and wheels) and use it as a balance board over the bottle. I do it while standing around watching television, simple and works balance. Also helps to strengthen the tendons and muscles around your ankles.
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Re: Balance Exercises

Postby Two Scoops » Sun Jan 15, 2012 11:50 am

In discussing this topic with coaches and athletes whose opinion I trust, along with my own experience, balance is notoriously "untrainable." You pretty much have the level or skill of balance at whatever threshold you have, it will deteriorate with age, and that's pretty much it.

By untrainable, I mean that it is not a capacity or skill that can be improved generally. However, it is trainable as a specific skill. For example, I would not expect someone who diligently performed and became expert at this tea pot drill to have any carryover in improved balance in other movements, but I would expect to see improved balance in tea pot drill itself, and movements similar to it.

One exception to this would be that to the extent that these sort of drills train and strengthen the various small muscles one might use in maintaining balance can provide improvement in balance generally. Of course that is due to the strengthening itself as a skill and not an improvement to the "sense" of balance itself. I believe this effect is why people, IMO, mistakenly believe that balance drills improve the sense of balance, i.e., they begin doing balance drill and see an improvement in balance and attribute the improvement to the drill, when in reality it was just a strengthen of the muscles. While this effect is real, it has a fairly low ceiling in improving balance, that is, it's not like you can attain super-balance by getting really strong small stabilizing muscles. This is similar to planks--a great, great exercise for strengthening and stabilizing the core, but once proficiency is attained, you cannot see continued benefits by maintaining the plank positions for longer and longer periods (law of diminishing returns).

So my take on balance training is to do some form it on a regular basis until proficiency is achieved in the drill. Then maintain by occasional practice. If there is a specific movement you would like to practice (not improve) balance in, try to make the drill similar to the movement you wish to improve. Use other drills to the extent that you find that they strengthen or maintain strength in the small muscles that contribute to balance in the movement.

my $.02
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Re: Balance Exercises

Postby ChrisWoj » Mon Jan 16, 2012 1:43 am

Two Scoops wrote:In discussing this topic with coaches and athletes whose opinion I trust, along with my own experience, balance is notoriously "untrainable." You pretty much have the level or skill of balance at whatever threshold you have, it will deteriorate with age, and that's pretty much it.

By untrainable, I mean that it is not a capacity or skill that can be improved generally. However, it is trainable as a specific skill. For example, I would not expect someone who diligently performed and became expert at this tea pot drill to have any carryover in improved balance in other movements, but I would expect to see improved balance in tea pot drill itself, and movements similar to it.

One exception to this would be that to the extent that these sort of drills train and strengthen the various small muscles one might use in maintaining balance can provide improvement in balance generally. Of course that is due to the strengthening itself as a skill and not an improvement to the "sense" of balance itself. I believe this effect is why people, IMO, mistakenly believe that balance drills improve the sense of balance, i.e., they begin doing balance drill and see an improvement in balance and attribute the improvement to the drill, when in reality it was just a strengthen of the muscles. While this effect is real, it has a fairly low ceiling in improving balance, that is, it's not like you can attain super-balance by getting really strong small stabilizing muscles. This is similar to planks--a great, great exercise for strengthening and stabilizing the core, but once proficiency is attained, you cannot see continued benefits by maintaining the plank positions for longer and longer periods (law of diminishing returns).

So my take on balance training is to do some form it on a regular basis until proficiency is achieved in the drill. Then maintain by occasional practice. If there is a specific movement you would like to practice (not improve) balance in, try to make the drill similar to the movement you wish to improve. Use other drills to the extent that you find that they strengthen or maintain strength in the small muscles that contribute to balance in the movement.

my $.02

Like anything else in life there are limits to what someone can do with regards to balance. But one can improve ones ability to balance through the exercises you mentioned. Anything that improves muscle and tendon strength through the body's supporting elements is likely to make balancing and achieving what one is sensing much easier.
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Re: Balance Exercises

Postby Mark Ellis » Mon Jan 16, 2012 3:58 pm

Two Scoops wrote:In discussing this topic with coaches and athletes whose opinion I trust, along with my own experience, balance is notoriously "untrainable." You pretty much have the level or skill of balance at whatever threshold you have, it will deteriorate with age, and that's pretty much it.

By untrainable, I mean that it is not a capacity or skill that can be improved generally. However, it is trainable as a specific skill. For example, I would not expect someone who diligently performed and became expert at this tea pot drill to have any carryover in improved balance in other movements, but I would expect to see improved balance in tea pot drill itself, and movements similar to it.

One exception to this would be that to the extent that these sort of drills train and strengthen the various small muscles one might use in maintaining balance can provide improvement in balance generally. Of course that is due to the strengthening itself as a skill and not an improvement to the "sense" of balance itself. I believe this effect is why people, IMO, mistakenly believe that balance drills improve the sense of balance, i.e., they begin doing balance drill and see an improvement in balance and attribute the improvement to the drill, when in reality it was just a strengthen of the muscles. While this effect is real, it has a fairly low ceiling in improving balance, that is, it's not like you can attain super-balance by getting really strong small stabilizing muscles. This is similar to planks--a great, great exercise for strengthening and stabilizing the core, but once proficiency is attained, you cannot see continued benefits by maintaining the plank positions for longer and longer periods (law of diminishing returns).

So my take on balance training is to do some form it on a regular basis until proficiency is achieved in the drill. Then maintain by occasional practice. If there is a specific movement you would like to practice (not improve) balance in, try to make the drill similar to the movement you wish to improve. Use other drills to the extent that you find that they strengthen or maintain strength in the small muscles that contribute to balance in the movement.

my $.02


So klutziness is permanent? Damn. I thought only my putter was untrainable. Oh, and my cats...and wife and kid, of course.

So should I just give up and withdraw my application to join the Flying Wallendas? Do I have to sell my ballet shoes? Could you suggest an athletic endeavor which requires no athletic skills?
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Re: Balance Exercises

Postby ChrisWoj » Mon Jan 16, 2012 4:24 pm

Mark Ellis wrote:
So klutziness is permanent? Damn. I thought only my putter was untrainable. Oh, and my cats...and wife and kid, of course.

So should I just give up and withdraw my application to join the Flying Wallendas? Do I have to sell my ballet shoes? Could you suggest an athletic endeavor which requires no athletic skills?

Well, judging by ESPN coverage, you could always take up high stakes poker.
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Re: Balance Exercises

Postby new013 » Mon Jan 16, 2012 8:42 pm

yup, nothing is better than Yoga for centering your body
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Re: Balance Exercises

Postby JR » Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:22 pm

There is a long way to go in perfecting body control and speeding up response time of brain to muscle reaction in correcting swaying from perfect posture. That lies outside the domain of strength and some strength is required to reap any benefits. 100 % control but knocked down by wind can't be resisted with 0 % muscle power. 100 % muscle power without control has you swaying and falling down fast without the wind. In practice many people would benefit from balance training. And not only in the increasing muscle power benefit too. Perfect posture with perfect form with perfect speed and acceleration driven by perfect muscle power with fastest possible nervous system firing is the only way to gain the absolute maximum distance without wind assistance and throwing down in a steeper angle from a taller height.
Flat shots need running on the center line of the tee and planting each step on the center line. Anhyzer needs running from rear right to front left with the plant step hitting the ground to the left of the line you're running on. Hyzer is the mirror of that.
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Re: Balance Exercises

Postby CatPredator » Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:14 am

Two Scoops wrote:balance is notoriously "untrainable." You pretty much have the level or skill of balance at whatever threshold you have, it will deteriorate with age, and that's pretty much it.

One exception to this would be that to the extent that these sort of drills train and strengthen the various small muscles one might use in maintaining balance can provide improvement in balance generally. Of course that is due to the strengthening itself as a skill and not an improvement to the "sense" of balance itself.


I just pulled a few excerpts because much of what you're saying is in a general way correct [i.e. we are all limited by our physiology in some ways], but it's mostly irrelevant when considering a training routine unless you're already in very good shape or extremely young. Overlooking the benefits conferred by strengthening your muscles through balance exercises would be ridiculous. Your physical fitness, if left unchecked, will go into decline much faster than your brain power diminishes with age. Doing regular balance and flexibility exercises will maintain strength through a full range of motion and carries with it invaluable real world benefits.

Further, I don't think it's accurate to say you can't improve, or recapture or delay the loss of some of, your balance. Vision plays a big part in a person ability to balance. If you do a balance routine with your eyes closed or blind folded you're forcing other parts of your brain and body to work on balance and can discover and train parts of your brain you didn't even know were working. You'll often hear disc golfers say they don't really consciously know where their eyes are pointing during their throw because their brain is elsewhere. You can train that part of your brain to have better body awareness and control over your center of gravity.
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Re: Balance Exercises

Postby pdiddy71 » Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:49 pm

I don't know if you can actually improve balance from doing balance specific exercises. I do think that you can improve and strengthen the muscles that hold the body in a balanced state. For example there some courses around here that require good balance skills due to the terrain. The course in Christiansburg, VA called Golden Hills is a mountainous course with a lot of steep and slick fairways. Sometimes when I have had a bad shot there, it is possible to end up on a rough hill side. Luckily I have good balance naturally. By having those muscles developed to help hold the body in the same position for a small period of time, you can "hold" that stance longer and in turn have better balance.
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