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Balance Basics

Learn the basics of balance and how this relates to improving your game.

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Our bodies use three internal control systems to help maintain balance throughout the golf swing. These three centers are our eyes, our ears, and our nervous system. These three systems function together to supply tons of information from our surroundings and our bodies to our brain, so our muscles and joints can make appropriate adjustments for proper balance. This system of balance is a very powerful and accurate control mechanism, unless the channel of communication between any of these three internal control systems is broken or disrupted.

The eyes are one of the most important sources of information for our brains. Information on subtle changes in terrain and upcoming obstacles allows our brains to make appropriate adjustments in our body’s posture and muscle tone and allow us to maintain perfect balance and rhythm. Just knowing which way is up and which way is down is something our eyes supply to our brains every second they are open. If you want to see how important your visual system is to balance, close your eyes and stand on one leg. Not so easy to stand upright any more is it?

“The eyes are one of the most important sources of information for our brains.”

The inner ear has fluid deep inside that acts like a level used in construction. When our heads move from side to side, so does the fluid. This shift in fluid stimulates tiny hairs found in the ear, which in turn tell our brains important information on position and orientation of our head with respect to the ground. Once again, we are getting more vital information from our body, which the brain uses to help maintain good balance. To see how important your inner ear is to overall balance, try standing on one leg again, but this time tilt you head from side to side. Orientation becomes a challenge once again. If you have ever experienced vertigo or dizziness from an inner ear infection, this system has been temporarily shut down or the brain is getting poor information due to inflammation in the inner ear.

The last system our body uses to maintain balance is our nervous system. For example, go ahead and put your hand behind your back. Now, do you know that your hand is behind your back? Of course you do! You don’t have to look or use a mirror to know that your hand is behind your back, you can feel it.

““It is this feel or kinesthetic awareness that allows us to control balance,...”

The joints in your hands and fingers all have tiny nerve endings and special receptors called proprioceptors that act as your bodies own internal GPS system. We know our hand is behind our back because those proprioceptors are telling our brains the exact position and orientation of our body parts every millisecond of our lives. This is what I call our “Feel Balance”. It is this feel or kinesthetic awareness that allows us to control balance, timing, rhythm, and feel throughout our golf swing.

The bad news is that these receptors are very susceptible to damage with injury or disuse. For example, you might notice that is was harder for you to stand on one leg verses the other. This is potentially due to an old sprained ankle or damaged knee that also has sustained damage to the proprioceptors in that area. The good news is, these receptors can easily be retrained or repaired with proper exercises. We refer to these exercises as proprioceptive retraining exercises.

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