The Balance Principle for Optimal Performance

The Balance Principle dictates that all training must be properly proportioned in order to achieve optimal results. This broad principle operates at many levels of human performance. All things in moderation applies to sports training as well general health and well being.

This principle suggests that the right mix of training activities, diet, and healthy lifestyle habits are required for optimal functioning. Going to extremes can result in poor performance, illness, and injury. Overtraining, consuming too much of certain foods and nutrients (even water), or adopting crash diets are examples.

General Adaptation Syndrome

(Courtesy of Dr. Christine Brooks at Training High Performance Athletes)

Physiologically, the human body seeks balance, or homeostasis, to restore itself to a constant internal environment. Training places specific stresses on the body which, during recovery, are brought back into balance. Extreme efforts over time can keep the body out of balance, which is detrimental to health and performance. Psychologically, athlete's need breaks from the intensity of training and competition. For physiological and psychological reasons, programs should allow athletes to overload and recover adequately over time.

Coaching Tips Related to the Balance Principle

1. Training Activities. Design your total training program to include the proper proportions of activities and time allocated to develop them. This is a basic goal of the annual program plan.

2. Training Intensity. More is better thinking may not produce the best results. Then again, undertraining will not promote adequate progress. Find the best balance of intensity and recovery. Be sensitive to signs of overtraining in your athletes.

3. Muscle Balancing. Opposing muscle strength should fall within certain ranges. For example, hamstrings should be 60-75% of the strength of the quadriceps. The very nature of sport movements can promote imbalances. Training should include flexibility, muscle testing, and balancing antagonists to prevent injuries.

4. Body Composition. Achieving the best balance of body fat vs. lean body mass is important, moreso for some sports than others. Monitoring body mass index can help guide dietary and training decisions.

5. Nutrition. Athletes' diets must include essential nutrients in proper proportions that may shift depending upon sport demands. Lack of proper nutrients (e.g., iron, protein) can slow progress. Monitoring food intake and supplements can help athletes achieve best results.

6. Evaluation. Evaluating various aspects of athletes' health and performance can assist in identifying areas where imbalances may occur and what is needed to correct them.

Other Training Principles include:

Individualization Principle

Overload Principle

Recovery Principle

Reversibility Principle

Specificity Principle

Transfer Principle

Variation Principle

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