Improving Control & Balance with Weight-Shift Training

Instructor: Karey Martin

Karey has taught college healthcare courses and has a PhD in Interprofessional Healthcare.

Weight-shifting training is used to help an individual regain the ability to maintain balance after an injury or disease. In this lesson, the student will learn the key elements of balance is and how weight-shift training is used to improve balance.


Imagine you are at the beach on vacation and you and your friends decide you want to go deep sea fishing. The weather looks great, so you hop on the boat and head out to sea with your fishing gear. You get to a great fishing spot and cast your lines. About that time, the sky begins to get a little darker and the wind begins to blow. Your boat begins to rock beneath your feet.

Maintaining Balance
Balance on a Boat

About that time, the sky begins to get a little darker and you try to keep from falling into your friend sitting next to you. The waves get even worse, so you decide to head back home.

The Definition of Balance

To withstand a rocky boat like this, an individual's ability to know where the body is in space and react to the moving surface must be very good. This is balance. When an individual loses his or her balance, the body is no longer steady and this can result in a fall. An individual can experience a fall whether sitting or standing, as the boat example suggests.

Balance is the ability of the body to sense when it is not upright and steady combined with the ability to correct in order to remain upright and steady. The body's ability to sense when it is losing its balance involves a complex combination of body systems sensing where the body is in space. Once the body senses that it is no longer upright and steady, the body's muscles and joints must respond to bring the body back to an upright and steady position. The one way that the body brings itself back to an upright and steady position is to shift weight away from the direction that the body is falling.

This is a key element to balance: being able to shift the body's weight right, left, forward, or backward in order to correct a loss of balance. When an individual has impaired balance as a result of an injury or disease, the ability to weight shift can be negatively affected. Therefore, weight-shift training is used to retrain the body to be able to shift weight in response to the body losing its balance.

Weight-Shift Training

Weight-shift training can be done in sitting or standing, and on a stable or unstable surface based on the degree of training needed. If an individual's ability to sense and correct a loss of balance is significantly affected, weight-shift training will begin in sitting on a stable surface. It is easier for the body to maintain balance in sitting versus standing and easier on a surface that is firm and not moving versus a surface that is moving. To begin, an individual will work on shifting the weight of the trunk forward, backward, and side-to-side in sitting on a stable surface.

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