Strength & Conditioning (SC) provides a detailed approach to improve fitness levels. From a biologic perspective, nature did an outstanding design bringing us to life. Among all that nature surprising beauty, the secrets beneath stunning life seem to have been precisely ordered for a purpose. SC applications aim to trigger responses and improvements to certain physiological levels using different pathways played by the rules, the genetic code. Therefore it seems an acceptable strategy that SC sets its targets on the very fundamentals of exercise physiology. In consequence no matter what orientation of the goal/s or the need/s have to be targeted, any exercise application per equal is based on the fundamentals of its true functional existence.
Despite field complexity, science success decoding how it works played a crucial role on understanding a large number of exercise physiology pathways and adaptations. To summarize physiological pathways and outcomes into the SC fitness spectrum, ATHL.Core framework is based in 5 main fitness attributes. Those 5 are:
BALANCE | STRENGTH | METABOLISM | ENDURANCE | RECOVERY
WHY BALANCE IS CRITICAL?
Balance has been defined over the years, among others, as one fundamental component of physical, skill and health fitness. But what is it?, what is its significance? and what it means?
The term balance has a broad spectrum, Its definition is a composite and a critique of quantitative and qualitative observational conceptions depending from its point of view:
+ Mechanical. Equate the term balance to the term equilibrium because, by definition, when a condition of equilibrium exists, all forces and all torques are equal to zero. A situation in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.
+ Skill. Contextually appropriate to movement qualitative approach where “lose balance” means to fall or fail to maintain balance meanwhile “off balance” means to deviate from the expected smooth control of balance (Greenlee , 1981).
+ Biomechanical. “Humans sustain bipedal stance and gait as their normal posture and locomotion. As a consequence, humans are required to balance multiple segments with a high centre of mass over a small base of support.” (Taube et. al, 2008)
Although they are valuable approaches, those balance perspectives do not comprise an specific biological structure, which may adapt in response to the exercise or training intervention, but rather describe the progress of performing a particular skill or describe the status of a particular event. The regulation of a biological structures are conditioned by other systems, pathways and mechanisms, physiology.
No matter what approach and definition of balance is used, its true physiological markers are fundamental sensory information from visual, vestibular, cutaneous and proprioceptive sources which are integrated into postural control. All that information we continuously gather is regulated by cortical, supraspinal and spinal systems. All of them are structures of the nervous central system. These regulators put balance as a critical component for movement and therefore fitness readiness. A dynamic and adaptative factor conditioning stance, gait, locomotion, aging and off course athletic performance.
BALANCE AND THE CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM
Balance goes deeper than what can be seen, and complies to different system feedback information. Postural control, can suffer impairments due to aging or due to physical activity which increases challenge and risk of falling. Any physical activity offers balance challenges. Particularlly, adventure and action sports which depending on activity type, nature and specific environment characteristics involve additional risk exposure.
If qualitative and quantitative conceptions do not truly define balance, what is it? how does it relates to the brain? What are the alterations in both sensory and motor systems that challenge the concept of balance? The secret lays inside our neurological networks, electricity. All the information from different physiological systems within the central nervous play what we know as mechanical, skill or biomechanical balance.
The main physiological and biologic structure conditioners are:
Nerve conduction velocity
Physiological pathways for Rate of force development
To keep it simple, a proper balance program approach will provide an structured type of exercise which is highly efficient to attain increased proprioceptive input to the neuromuscular system or to process information of the proprioceptive system more appropriately. A balance oriented program allows to target different profiles of balance physiological processes. Mainly, a balance program will provide sensorimotor training creating adaptations in the nervous system towards system coordination and synchronization, postural control and Rate of Force Development (RFD).
FROM MOBILITY TO STABILITY
Way more than standing on a thin rope. The opportunity to enhance information processing from single joint kinematics to skill efficiency and therefore performance has a wide range of applications in different scenarios from children to elderly people (>65 years) for athletics, health and p:rehab purposes.
However what is the common reference for all? Mobility and stability are different concepts. Meanwhile mobility is about how much movement can be measured (quantitative), stability is how much of his movement is not likely to get disturbed (qualitative). Mobility and stability are imprescindible connected markers. We lay again on valuable outcome references, however these are conditioned as well by physiological and biologic structure adaptations. Its adjustment comes by the successful and optimal function of its regulation biological structures.
As from its outcome point of view a system can be defined as:
(-) Mobility with (-) Stability = Compromised
(+) Mobility with (-) Stability = Potential weakness
(+) Mobility with (+) Stability = Optimal
(-) Mobility with (+) Stability = Stifness
The process towards optimal has unlimited potential from restore an injured joint kinematics, compromised locomotion caused by aging or possible disfunction to increased skill perfomrance for athletic requierements. The true physiological adaptations target every single situation since are the main control switchies for human movement. The fact amplifies the potenial of growth and performance of overall body function efficiency being an exclusive application of SC programs seeking outcomes to improving skill performance, vitality and injury prevention.
The ultimate goal is moving towards being or having an strong and sound system. Once basic and optimal connections are made and set additional goals should be implemented to ensure covering all the framework inside an SC fitness spectrum. Additional SC goals as strength, metabolism and recovery regulators will qualitatively enrich your biological profile function enhancing performance and motor function helping you conquer whatever quest or adventure is in your mind.
BALANCE IN ACTION AND ADVENTURE SPORTS
What role and contributions does a balance program has to outdoor and action sports athletes? Outdoors and action sports share the beauty of human biomechanics, unlimited possiblities. It is unlikely to have an identical scenario where the need to adapt movment, control and posiiton to external variables is unexistent.
The adaptability required by adventure and action sports athletes to their enviornement is spectacular. Although it does not physiogically explain why, the skill coach or motor expert conception approach has extrem signficance and here is why. Joint biomechanics, and the whole body, are simply defined by only 3 axes of movment. Its multiple combination provides unlimited fascniating options of movement. Movement, patterns or manuevers which need to get processed, controled, efficently effective with optimal mobility and maximized stability and ideally with maximal precision.
The ability to process, control and decide a reliable functional structure into physical activity is the contribution of balance to adventure and action sports. From a single joint kinematics to the ultimate skill, balance is able to enhance performance step by step, turn after turn, landing after landing, movement after movement and the best of it this is trainable.
Balance is a critical and fundamental component of fitness. Despite multiple definitions to understand what can not be seen, balance is regulated by multiple physiological processes through different biological structures.
Balance adaptations applications range from children to elderly contributing to motor development and learning to maintaing function with aging. An athletic approach helps optimize function and performance, reducing inherent injury risk.
Individualized and personalized balance programs are key to success modulating how information is processed in every stage. A PLUS plan has the potential to selfguide you towards a sound & strong for athletic and health purposes. PREMIUM plans can provide detailed progression, precision learning/exercise process towards a successful development within athletic, health and p:rehab scopes.
About the author:
Albert Piñol – Master of Physical Activity and Sports Science, MSc in Exercise Physiology, DHE Snowboard trainer, DH Mountain guide & Mountainbike and MAT certified. Snowboarder, exercise science nerd and adventure sports enthusiast. IG: @albert_pinol