Vibration Training and Muscle Balance

“The effects of a whole-body vibration program on muscle performance and flexibility in female athletes” – Sports Medicine Laboratory, University of Rome, Rome, Italy – Whole-body vibration is a suitable training method to improve knee extension maximal strength, counter-movement jump, and flexibility in a young female athlete. Flexibility is important not only for performance but also for the prevention of muscle-tendon injury.

Loss of Balance

Have you noticed that your balance seems to be deteriorating as the years go by? Many would say this is just a natural part of getting older, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

Mike Ross, author of “The Balance Manual”, tells us, “The principle of “use it or lose it” applies to health and fitness especially in regard to balance. If you don’t regularly put your body in situations where it needs balance, your sense of balance will get worse. Your body will adapt to your lifestyle. The brain does not see any reason to keep your sense of balance in good shape if it’s not being used very much.”

After a certain age, many people start to move less and less. This usually happens after retirement. Take a minute and think about how much activity you get on a typical day compared to twenty years ago. Activities that involve a lot of movement (like sports, yard work, and playing with kids) are slowly replaced with activities that involve a lot of sitting (like reading, watching TV, playing cards, and going out to eat). Those “younger” activities were not only keeping your body strong – they were also keeping your balance in good shape. Losing that sense of balance was a gradual process over a decade or two but it really adds up!

Nowadays, “growing old gracefully” means more than it used to because falling is the leading cause of death among people 65 or older. The usual exercise programs available for the elderly utilize the usual equipment which may help improve muscle mass and strength but, according to Paul Chek, HHp, NMT of the C.H.E.K. Institute, “these offer inadequate loading of the spine and long bones and do almost nothing to improve balance or functional strength on your own feet. To be successful in any balance-improving training program, people must perform movements that closely approximate their everyday activities and those movements that commonly result in falls.” The good news is that your body can re-learn. Your can train your balance.

Training your Balance

Vibration Training on the VibraFit Trainer exactly approximates walking or, more specifically, running. But without any stress to the joints! On an oscillating type of platform, your body is rocked back and forth shifting your weight from one foot to the other. When this happens, a sensor in your Achilles tendon in the back of you heel, signals the brain that you are losing your balance. The brain then activates all the muscle on the opposite side of the body to enable you to do whatever it is you have to do to regain your balance. When you rock to the other foot, the muscle on the other side of the body is activated. Over a period of time, this neurological messaging going back and forth to the brain creates new neural pathways in the brain and the brain relearns how to balance your body.

Along with this relearning process, your muscles are all being strengthened as the brain causes them to flex. The most important muscles to your sense of balance are the muscles in the lower part of your leg and foot because these are the muscles that support your ankle.

Muscle Balance and Injury Prevention

Speaking of general body balance also necessitates a discussion of muscle balance within the body. Muscle balance within the body is a vital component to injury prevention. Whether you use weights or water resistance to maintain muscle strength and endurance, you need to focus on muscle balance.

The main muscle groups work in pairs and those muscle pairs need to be balanced in terms of strength and flexibility. For example, when you bend your elbow you use the biceps muscle. Its pair is the triceps muscle. The triceps muscle must be willing to stretch for the biceps muscle to contract and bend the elbow fully. So if you do a biceps curl, for example, you also need to do a triceps extension in order to work both muscles and keep them balanced. When you maintain balanced muscles, you have better body symmetry and better posture.

Our daily routines can cause muscle imbalance. We use more chest muscles than we do upper back muscle when lifting groceries, children and other items. We have more range of motion in front of us because we do more things where we can easily see what we are doing. We use more muscle in the front of the leg than the back because we walk forward and upstairs more than we walk backwards. As a result of these naturally occurring muscle imbalances, we need to work the other half of the pair to maintain muscle balance.

Daily activities often times cause pain due to muscle imbalances even though we are not aware of what the problem is. One example is a pain that develops in one of the shoulder blades. This could be caused by using a computer mouse that is on a desk that is at a level too high. Or neck pain could be caused by turning the head to one side to watch TV or work while the rest of the body is facing forward. When the muscles develop on only one side of the upper back, the muscle imbalance eventually results in pain.

When these imbalances result, you need to stretch the muscle that is too strong and too short and strengthen the muscle that is too weak. In some cases this may involve more than one set of muscle pairs.

Low back pain is a classic example of muscle pair imbalance. Much of low back pain results from a forward tilt of the pelvis and involves two pairs of muscles. Imagine strings attached to the pelvis to hold the back and the front of the “bowl” up in correct position. If those “strings” lose their balance, then the “bowl” can tip either forward or backward. The abdominal muscles hold the pelvis up in front and usually become too weak while the erector spinae, which holds the pelvis up in back, usually become too strong. The muscle in the front of the leg becomes too strong, while the partner, the gluteal which holds the pelvis down in back, becomes too weak. The result is a forward tilt which increases the curvature of the lower back and places too much pressure on the spine in that area, causing pain.

You may want to work with a personal trainer to help analyze and treat these problems. In addition, the VibraFit Trainer, used on low speed and with the feet not too far apart, will act as a massage for the low back to help alleviate the pain.