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16.11.2018

Balance and the shooting athlete

Information and exercises to improve your balance.

By Cathy Arnot, USOC Physiotherapist and ISSF Medical Committee member

 

Balance is defined as the ability to overcome outside forces to maintain an object’s center of gravity over the base of support. Your ability to maintain balance depends on a combination of sensory systems and motor functions.  The sensory systems that contribute to balance include visual, vestibular and proprioceptive, all of which send information to the central nervous system. Proprioceptive feedback comes from receptors in your ligaments, tendons, muscles and joint capsules. All three systems need to function for optimal physical performance. Postural orientation refers to the alignment of the limbs, head and trunk so that the center of gravity is maintained over the base of support. Both postural orientation and sensory systems work together to make minor adjustments in balance maintenance.

 

Balance control is necessary for those of all ages and abilities, ranging from performing activities of daily living to preventing injuries in an athletic population.  There are many ways to assess balance. One of the quickest ways to test balance is standing on one leg with the eyes open and again with the eyes closed. Normal single leg balance is at least 60 seconds, with many elite shooters being able to balance for 3 minutes or longer.

 

Proprioception is compromised whenever an injury is sustained to the ankle, knee or hip joint. Proprioception does not naturally return to normal after injury and must be retrained through balance exercises.

 

Why is balance important for the shooting athlete?

 

Balance is critical for the shooting athlete. For shotgun, you need to be able to absorb recoil and still maintain your shooting position. For all shooting disciplines it is necessary to find your most balanced standing and/or kneeling position and remain in that position with as little variation as possible for shot accuracy. 

 

A progression of balance exercises

 

So which balance exercises are best for you? Pick one or two exercises that are challenging and perform them 3-4 times a week. Here is a partial list of common balance exercises, ranging from relatively easy to more challenging.

 

1. Single leg stance on levelled or unlevelled surface

This is a basic starting balance exercise. Start by standing on one leg with your opposite ankle positioned beside your knee. Try to balance for 1-2 minutes with your eyes open and then closed. If this is too easy then try repeating while standing on foam or other unlevel surface. Proceed to the other exercises if you able to perform this one without difficulty. 

 

 

2. Bosu ball core balance exercise

Stand on the bosu ball. Tighten your core muscles. Start with arms overhead then squat down and lower arms to your right side. Stand up and bring arms overhead again. Repeat on the left. You can do this exercise with or without holding a ball in your hands. 10-20 repetitions each side.

  

 

3. Single Leg Reach and Leg Lift 

Stand erect and tighten your core muscles. Raise your right leg and reach to the floor using your right arm. Reach until your trunk is parallel to the floor, keeping your core tight for the duration of the exercise. Repeat 10-20 times and repeat on the right leg.

 

 

4. Standing reaches 

Place cones around you in a semi-circle. Place one directly in front of you and at least two on each side. Picture the face of a clock and place cones at 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 1:00 and 2:00 o’clock. Raise your right leg and tighten your core muscles. Bend your left knee and reach for 12:00 with your right hand, then straighten your knee and stand upright. Repeat this motion while lifting towards the other cones. Perform two sequences on each leg.

 

 

 

5. Balancing on a physio ball

Balance on the ball as shown and try to maintain for 2 minutes.

 

 

Cathy Arnot

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