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Does Functional Balance Improve Weightlifting Performance?

For elite weightlifters, the improvement of strength and balance plays a critical role in their performance. They must control extremely heavy weights above head height for a couple of seconds, while their arms are fully extended. Any kind of muscle imbalance and inappropriate technique may hamper athletes’ performance and lead to dangerous situations (Kang 2013). Balance is the ability to maintain the body’s center of gravity within its base of support and can be categorized by either static or dynamic balance. Posture control requires sensory information from the visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive nerves (Kang 2013). The decrease of any of these sensory inputs can affect body sway during static balance. Balance training has been used after injury to re-establish basic neural perception to enhance proprioceptive function and kinesthetic awareness (Kang 2013).
Kang (2013) evaluated the effect of 8 weeks of balance training on strength, and the functional balance of elite weightlifters. Thirty-two elite weightlifters were recruited for the present study. They were divided into exercise groups (8 high school students, 8 middle school students) and control groups (8 high school students, 8 middle school students). Body compositions were measured by the electrical impedance method, and a Helmas system was used to measure basic physical capacities. The muscular function test was conducted using a Cybex 770. Basic physical performances were system before and after the 8-week balance-training program and included sit-ups, push-ups, handgrip power, vertical jump, side step, body reaction time, one-leg standing time with closed eyes. Flexibility in the sagittal plane, sit and reach, and back hyperextension in the prone position were also measured. The strength tests were performed using a Cybex Norm 770 isokinetic dynamometer. The maximal voluntary knee flexion and extension %body weight peak torque (%BWPT) were assessed for both legs at angular velocities of 60°/s and 120°/s. Additionally, upper arm internal and external rotation were measured at angular velocities of 30°/s and 90°/s. At the end, wrist extensor and flexor power were also measured at angular velocities of −10°/s and 30°/s. For each test, each subject performed a maximal contraction three times, with a recovery period of 3 minutes to avoid fatigue induced performance decrements. There were no significant changes in body composition after the training. In contrast, significant changes were found in the number of push-ups, one-leg standing time with eyes closed, and upper body back extension. Interestingly, only the left arm external rotation value after the exercise training program showed a statistically significant difference from the baseline value. The peak torque values of shoulder internal rotation and knee extension were significantly changed compared to the baseline values, which mean subjects showed balance of their muscular power. Therefore, the results suggest that an 8-week balance-training program would positively affect elite weightlifters’ balance ability and flexibility. We think that well-balanced muscular functionality may enhance athletes’ sport performance.
Training should be practical. Training under unstable and imbalanced conditions results in instability that can be seen during daily and sport activities. Using unstable surfaces during training could improve the neuromuscular adaptation process, particularly at the early stages of a resistance training program. When increasing balance ability, this can produce greater muscular functionality which may enhance athletic performance. Equalized strength gain is critical for the improvement of the athletic performance of elite weightlifters (Kang 2013). Weightlifters and their coaches tend to focus training only on general strength gain. The results suggest that the 8-week balance training program adjusts and maintains unbalanced strength, which may enhance performance.
COR uses balance training to increase coordination and kinesthetic awareness. This allows you to have more conscious control of your movements, as well as training your reflexive system to respond more appropriately to changing conditions without your having to think about it. This could lead to increases in fitness and athletic performance

1. Kang SH, Kim CW, Kim YI, Kim KB, Lee SS, Shin KO. Alterations of Muscular Strength and Left and Right Limb Balance in Weightlifters after an 8-week Balance Training Program. J Phys Ther Sci. 2013 Jul;25(7):895-900.

Written by Chris Barber, CPT