Stability is not balance and balance is not stability.
Confused – good.
The worlds gone mad as we try and look for black and white fast paced answers to improving people and situations. The body is a learning system.
What this means is it is a learning computer sat on top of feedback systems all of which measure and create loops with different mechanisms to achieve a task. When we look at balance we must understand it the way the subconscious brain understands it. Fundamentally balance is the control of instability.
We are all unstable all of the time. Lying down is the most stable balanced position. Sitting is the next least unstable position; standing is a very unstable position; walking even more unstable and finally running; standing on one leg and other extreme positions are the most unstable.
Why is instability important?
Its because of the next subconscious brain factor: the brain wants to create a low energy cost during any activity. Which means if it can do something with less energy cost to the body – it will. We are therefore trying to reduce our effort levels at all times.
Relate this back to balance. As you stand on 2 feet you will SWAY. If you’re not swaying; then you are compensating. Swaying is balance in action. The small feet carrying a pelvis and rib cage up against gravity is an unbalanced situation. We would have to stand with our legs wide apart and even then we would be unbalanced.
However most people will not sway, instead they compensate. They use their big toe to hold them up against gravity which means fewer muscles have to work. So we have reduced the energy cost of standing. But the big toe fatigues quickly. Once it fatigues it locks and then creates problems during movement as it needs to be flexible during movement.
Good balance is the ability to control instability, which (for most of us) means effort. The brain needs to know that because we don’t move much, balance should be hard.
Having recently watched figure skating a lot. It demonstrates balance really well. Take ice (low friction), a thin blade to stand on (low friction) and a heeled boot (low stability for the foot). Then put a beginner on the ice. They will find stability by cheating and using anything they can. As they start to improve they can control some factors of instability as they learn.
The difference between a beginner figure skater and an expert figure skater is the ability to control instability. The low friction factors are still present and are constant. However the brain, feedback mechanism and learning process have created individuals, whose control of instability is phenomenal.
Get in touch to understand how injury is affected or performance are affected by all of the above.