Ankle sprains are a common injury – and while it may not be difficult to avoid missing a step or tripping over a curb, lack of proprioception (sense of joint position) or poor balance may be to blame, rather than lack of endurance or weakness in the lower limb.
Proprioceptive training is used to rehabilitate injury, but it can also help to prevent injury. By training the neuromuscular system the body can react appropriately by making slight adjustments of balance when running on tricky terrain, helping to avoiding injury.
In any sport changing your center of gravity to match your moves is the key to efficiency. This is known as agility and it allows us to move gracefully, with our joints moving through the full range of motion smoothly. As an example, initially one might pay a lot of attention to the terrain of a trail, but as your kinesthetic coordination increases, so your balance improves, and less attention is needed.
This goes to show that balance can be learned and improved – Kinesthetic awareness is the ability to know where your body parts are in space, and is required for every little movement we make. Using simple exercises that challenge our balance we can train our bodies to improve proprioception, resulting in improved performance, and helping to prevent injury.
One Leg Squat and Reach: This simple exercise improves balance, ankle stability, trunk stability and gluteus muscle strength.
- Place a ball (or any object) on the floor about half a metre in front and to the left of left foot.
- Balance on left foot, lifting right foot off the ground
- Slowly bend left knee and lower torso
- Reach forward with right hand and touch the ball
- Maintain balance by extending right leg slightly
- Protect the knee by keeping left knee over second toe
- Touch the ball and return to start position
- Repeat 5-10 times, focusing on slow and controlled movement throughout the exercise
- Repeat on the Right foot
- Do 2 sets on each foot
Make it fun by playing catch with a partner using a medicine ball while balancing on one leg.
Do the exercises barefoot to increase the challenge!