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Balance Training: The Single-Leg Windmill

 By Gene Coleman, Ed. D., RSCC*E, FACSM

Balance training is one of the most overlooked and misunderstood components training in many sports. When we think of balance, many athletes and coaches only think of it as a static process with someone standing on one foot. Functional balance is not static. It is a dynamic process involving a several neurological pathways including incoming sensory information and outgoing motor response pathways, pre-programmed responses, reflex responses and feedback processes. Balance training is often defined as improving the body’s ability to keep its center of gravity within its base of support, using the appropriate muscle groups. Balance training helps improves the efficiency with which the nervous system can recruit the appropriate muscles at the right time and in the right plane of motion, for optimal force reduction, and force production against a background of stabilization.

Single Leg Windmill. This is an effective exercise to increase the ability of the glute muscles to maintain stability at the hip, knee and foot, prevent excessive adduction of the lower extremity and help reduce the risk of injury. Because you have to maintain the shoulders in a retracted and depressed position, this exercise engages the scapular stabilizers and enhances shoulder-joint stability.

How to do it:

  1. Balance on one leg with the knee of the support leg slightly flexed and aligned over the second and third toes.
  2. Bend forward at the waist by pushing your hips back and lowering your chest towards the floor until it is parallel to the floor.
  3. Bring your arms straight out to the side as you retract and depress the shoulder blades.
  4. Set your core, hold this position and then slowly rotate your upper body brining your right hand down towards your toes. Pause for 1-2 seconds and then repeat in the opposite direction brining your left hand down towards your toes.
  5. Perform 5 reps in each direction and then switch legs for 5 reps.
  6. Start with 1-2 sets of 5 reps in each direction on each foot and then gradually progress to 3 sets of 10 reps in each direction on each foot.

To make it harder:

  1. Close your eyes
  2. Remove your shoes
  3. Elevate the surface by standing on a low balance board
  4. Stand on an unstable base such as an Airex pad or dyna disc
  5. Move more quickly
  6. Stand completely up after each rep

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Gene Coleman, Ed. D., RSCC*E, FACSM is Professor Emeritus in the Exercise and Health Science Program at the University of Houston – Clear Lake and S&C consultant for the Texas Rangers and Website Education Manager baseballstrength.org.

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