Stability Principles and Balance in Sports

Stability principles give athletes rules about holding positions and staying on balance when running. They guide training for improving firmness of positions both for static balance and dynamic balance.

An athlete's center of gravity is the exact middle of the body around which it can rotate freely in any direction and where the weight balanced on all opposite sides. It exists at a point along the midline of the body at about 55% of the athlete's height.

Stability Principles

1. To maintain balance when still, the athlete's center of gravity must remain over the base of support. For example, beginning a free weight lifting movement, such as the squat, requires the lifter to hold a standing position.

Back Squat in Power Rack

2. To regain balance when lost, an athlete can enlarge the base of support and reposition the center of gravity over it. Example: Placing the feet wider to prevent falling after being pushed helps recover balance.

3. When lifting or carrying an object, shift the body weight in order to maintain balance. Example: Lean in the opposite direction when carrying a heavy equipment bag.

4. For greatest stability in all directions, the center of gravity should be over the center of the base of support. Example: Holding a handstand requires the hips to remain toward the center of the base formed by the hands.

5. An athlete can become more stable by lowering the center of gravity. Example: A shotput followthrough involves bending the knees to prevent fouling.

6. The greater the friction between the supporting surface and the athlete's body, the greater the ability to maintain balance. Example: Wearing shoes that prevent excessive sliding on a playing surface.

7. Shifting the center of gravity toward an approaching force increases an athlete's ability to maintain balance. Example: A football lineman shifts weight toward the opposing line prior to the snap.

8. An opponent can be forced to lose balance if pushed or pulled in the direction where the center of gravity is closest to the edge of the base of support. Example: Boxers can lose balance when weight is shifted back on the heels.

9. For positions of readiness, the shorter the distance the center of gravity must move to clear the base of support, the more rapidly the body can be put in motion in that direction. Example: Sprinters in the "set" position shift their weight in the direction of the race.

An excellent resource for learning more is a book called Sport Mechanics for Coaches. by Brendan Burkett. He reviews factors that affect stability and makes clear applications for coaches and athletes.

To perform balance skills, athletes must have adequate strength to support the body, and they must be able to shift the weight quickly into the correct position at the right time. They must also know their position in space, called kinesthetic awareness, as well as possess quick reactions, coordination, agility, and flexibility. Developing the necessary Fitness Components is key to implementing these principles.

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