Don't Do This!
(updated when this topic came up on the HEMA Alliance forum)
Balance is always task specific. The best programs for preventing falls in the elderly aren't yoga and single-leg standing. They are obstacle courses. Walk and deal with obstacles - 6 inch high hurdles and the like in this situation - and that makes a person less likely to fall while walking.
Avoiding falling is also about power. When you are off-balance it does not take a 30 second sustained low-intensity contraction to right yourself. It takes a brief high-intensity action. And this is another way that strength training benefits HEMA and long-term human health and wellness.
And in HEMA the kinds of situations that lead to falls are when you are almost always when you are moving and moving fast.
So really, balance for HEMA is agility training.
I write this now because of a recent post over at the HEMAists. But I'm not picking on them. There is good stuff there too, just scroll down to see the part I liked. I've encountered similar suggestions in many places.
One guy on the Alliance forum FB page suggested holding a lunge position with arms extended out to the side for 60 seconds. He said I should try it to see how hard it is. But how hard that would be is irrelevant. In fencing I will never hold the end of a lunge that long. And the difference is an order of magnitude. And I'll never hold my arms out to the side that long either.
So the fact that it is hard tells us nothing about whether or not it is relevant to fighting. These are separate characteristics being measured.
How do we train 'balance' for HEMA?We do it with agility drills. Exercises like ladder (or sword) drills, dots, cones, rings and hurdles. (Nah, I don't get any money from these folks. I just like their products (however their are frequently cheaper options available.))
I'll be talking about agility drills some more in the next few weeks. And I've talked about it a bit before.
Balance v. StabilityBalance and stability don't mean the same thing. This is me being pedantic because I'm professionally a nerd on this topic. But I think the difference is relevant and I'll provide an example in a moment.
In exercise science we use the terms to mean:
- Balance - keeping the whole body upright or in position
- Stability - a characteristic of an individual joint being capable of holding a position
I would make one addition about the exercise as described. An easier version is to start with the down arm on the elbow. A lot of people will need to start there.
ConclusionThink hard about what specificity means before adding in new, neat exercises.
P.S. I've got a sale going on right now for in-person training.