03 Dec 2017
Why not break down each of the different components that are being lumped into what is being generically called ‘Core Stability’? Core stability primarily suggests the abdominals and ‘friends’ (epaxials, pelvic floor, lats), but it excludes the proximal stabilizers (hip and shoulder muscles) and distal stabilizers (those muscles that would control the feet, carpals, & tarsal joints). Likely the best way to train all of the above is with Balance Training.
What is out there in the literature or otherwise on Balance Training?
Balance training has become almost routine practice to incorporate into athletic training protocols for many different sports. However, according to a 2017 Systematic review (Brachman et al), very little exists to guide athletes on how best to train for balance. In their review, the authors found a variety of training protocols, varying in length, methods, and testing parameters. They reviewed 2395 articles and found that only 50 met their selection criteria. Results and conclusions varied, but these reviewers noted that in papers were the researchers tested two kinds of balance (static and dynamic balance), that often only one of the two was positively affected. Subsequently, papers that only selected one testing measure may be unaware of a positive effect in the aspect of balance not tested. Overall, when reviewing the papers in which training protocols resulted in a positive effect on balance performance, it could be stated that an efficient training protocol should last for 8 weeks, with a training frequency of twice a week, and each session lasting 45 minutes in length!!
Wow! That’s quite a bit (especially if were to extrapolate to our canine athletes living in a multi-dog household)!
However, a second review paper (and meta-analysis) (Lesinski et al 2015) found that when specifically testing for ‘steady-state balance’ in athletes, that balance training of 11 – 12 weeks, 3 or 6 sessions per week, of 11 – 15 minutes per session, four exercises per session, two sets per exercise, and a duration of 21 – 40 second per single exercise was most effective for improving measures of steady-state balance. Furthermore, the review found that elite athletes showed the largest effect (compared to sub-elite athletes). However, there were not enough studies to qualify balance training measures for proactive and reactive balance.
The last line is most disappointing, because I think that THOSE types of balancing effects (proactive & reactive) are what’s most important for athletes (canine or human).
The same researcher group as above (Lesinski et al 2015) also reviewed literature for balance training in healthy older adults. The results found that balance training is an effective means to improve static/dynamic steady-state [i.e., maintaining a steady position during standing and walking], proactive, and reactive balance as well as performance in balance test batteries in healthy older adults. However, only a small number of studies provided enough information on the training specifics to be included in the meta-analysis. Overall, it was found that a training period of 11 – 12 weeks, 3 times per week, with sessions lasting 31 – 45 minutes were most effective for improving balance performance.
I say, ‘Okay, great!’, good news that we can affect so many aspects of balance in the older population. But again, to extrapolate to dogs, that’s a lot of ‘training’ for a multi-dog household of senior dogs, to fit in around other kinds of training, and/or simply going for walks!
Lastly, on this thread, I found an interesting blog on ‘training on unstable surfaces’ and the effects on strength and power: https://www.essa.org.au/members-home/essa-students/essa-student-blog/unstable-surface-training-is-it-worth-it/
It’s a concept and correlation I hadn’t thought of, but it makes complete sense. The blog author cited a paper that concluded the following: “Behm and Colado (2012) suggest that instability resistance training (IRT) is not conducive to optimal strength and power however can be invaluable for rehabilitation.”
Awesome… since the majority of those of you reading this blog are ‘into’ rehabilitation. But it should also make you think about WHAT you are doing in your rehab or conditioning programs and goes back to thinking of all of the different components for training an athlete (Strength, Power, Balance, Muscular Endurance, Flexibility, Agility, Anaerobic power, Cardiovascular-respiratory endurance, Body Composition, and Skill training), and components essential to overall proper functioning, such as motor control (a topic for another day).
What should we consider to be balance training in dogs? I would think the use of inflatables makes sense here, and using them to stand on, sit on, lie on, and walk across, in addition to performing 3-leg stands, 2-leg stands (same side) or diagonal leg stands, and any of the above with manual or volitional perturbation. It will be important for canine research to look into testing measures for balance in order to validate these thoughts however. So researcher-types or researcher-hopefuls… here are some research ideas for you!!
- Brachman A, et al. Balance training programs in athletes – a systematic review. J Hum Kinet. 2017, 58: 45-64.
- Lesinski M, et al. Dose-response relationships of balance training in healthy young adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2015, 45(4): 557-576.
- Lesinski M, et al. Effects of balance training on balance performance in healthy older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2015, 45(12): 1721-1738.
- Behm D, & Colado JC. The effectiveness of resistance training using unstable surfaces and devices for rehabilitation. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2012, 7(2): 226-241.
Tags: core stability , balance training , dynamic balance , static balance
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