Using a Balance Disk

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By Dr. Sender Deutsch
Published on January 23, 2013
Balance disk

Use a balance disk to increase stability and balance.

 

A balance disk makes exercises more difficult by progressing them to an unstable environment. The balance disk is used to train balance, stability and proprioceptive awareness. The disc can be used to train people of all ages, athletes and those rehabilitating an injury.

One of the most common causes of injury, hospitalization, and disability in the aging population is falling. As we age we lose feedback mechanisms from our joints as to where our body is relative to space.

Research has demonstrated that to prevent falling, balance exercises that stimulate our proprioceptive system should be used a few times per week to keep our body and brain connected. As well, balance exercises train the joints, ligaments, muscles and nerves to become active and strong to prevent falls.

Not only can balance exercises be used to prevent falls, they can also be used to rehabilitate injuries such as ankle sprains, knee, hip, back strains and even neck strains. When tissues become injured they become less responsive as a result of the damage to the injured muscles and nerves that innervate them. Thus, we need to activate these tissues through instability exercises that place the body into a situation where it is forced to react to unstable situations. As well, balance disks are used to make exercises harder, targeting small muscles that control balance, stability and your core. When you begin to use the disks, remember you need progress from stable surfaces prior to the unstable surface of the balance disks.

You can use the balance disk in the following ways:

1. Once you are able to stand on one leg on the stable floor for approximately 15 seconds, progress to the following exercises:

  • Stand on the balance disk with both feet, eyes open, and try to maintain your balance for 30 to 60 seconds, without letting the disk touch the floor. Keep your core tight and pick a spot to keep your eyes focused on while maintaining your balance. If this is too easily accomplished, try moving your arms above your head in different planes while maintaining your balance.
  • Next, keeping your eyes closed for the same exercise above.
  • With your eyes open with both feet on the disks, try squatting down as if you are about to sit on a chair. Go slowly on the descent and make sure to keep your knees tracking at 90 degrees and use your glutes and core to stabilize your body.

2. After completing the above, you are ready to progress to using the balance disk with one leg. As noted above, keep your weight centered over your body and leg. Keep core and glutes tight. Focus on a point a few feet away.

  • Progress to moving your arms in different directions while maintaining your balance
  • Progress to closing your eyes, and holding and then moving both arms while eyes are closed.
  • Now try doing single leg squats or functional reaches while standing on the balance disk.

3. Continue to add to your exercises by using your imagination and incorporate the disk into some of your strength or conditioning routines to challenge your stability system. Try squatting, lunging, pushing and pulling exercises while on the disks.

4. Integrate the disks into core exercises like the plank, side plank, bird-dogs, etc. to enhance core activation. They can be placed under your arms, knees and feet to make the exercises more challenging.

5. The balance disk can also be used to sit on to challenge your core. Remember to sit up straight and maintain good spinal alignment. The disk will activate your muscles by reminding you to change positions frequently as you try to maintain balance.

6. You can also kneel on the disk to activate your core. Doing pushing and pulling exercises while in kneeling positions will enhance your core stability.

Always warm up before exercising. Do a few minutes of cardio to increase blood flow and circulation, followed by dynamic stretching movements to open up your body. Then integrate some of the balance disk exercises described above to awaken and activate your body’s neurological system.

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