Counter Balanced Exercises (Video)

Many programs use variations of counterbalanced movements to allow their clients to go through greater ranges of motion. Some of these exercises include wall squats, squats with arms extended in front of the body, single legged activities, etc. Studies are suggesting that squatting with arms extended holding dumbbells is recommended for increasing the dominance of the hip extensors (glutes/hamstrings) over the knee extensors (quads). An article in the JoSCR (Vol 26 #9, Sept 2012) states that this might be something to use in the initial stages of a program before moving on to more complicated activities.

Before you go down this road, and start to modify everything to become more hip dominant, I would encourage you to watch the video below from Paul Juris at the Cybex Research Institute. This 4 minute video (and others like it on the CRI Exercise Analysis Page) can be great resources for those looking to learn more about simple movements, and how changing ones position can alter the desired outcome.

I think these exercises all have their place in fitness and rehabilitative programs, but there are some limitations. For instance, there are 3 ways in which we progress exercises:

  1. Increase the REPETITIONS
  2. Increase the SPEED
  3. Increase the LOAD 

Once you start adding weight to this movement you will be changing more than just the load, you will be limited by 1) your shoulders ability to hold the weight, 2) the ability of your core to help control proper alignment with the weight held out in front of you, and 3) the exercise may change from a knee based exercise to a hip based exercise. If our goal is to progress from knee dominant exercises to hip dominant exercises, first progress the repetitions (with perfect form), then add speed (without losing rhythm or form) and then begin to add load in a progressive manner based the clients ability to control the movement.

But keep in mind, although counter balance exercises may be challenging for some, they need to be classified as “Warm Up” or “Rehabilitative” exercises based on the idea that increasing the load (which is supposedly making the exercise more advanced) can drastically alter the mechanics of the movement. This alteration can change the exercise from one that targets the quads, to one that targets the hips. The ability of the coach to understand this and modify the exercise to the needs of the client is critical.

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