Vestibular System Training

Use this Punching Power Drill to Train Balance and Coordination

By Coach E

Vestibular System Training (2)

The vestibular system is one aspect of your sensorimotor system that contributes to balance.

It’s defined as, “the sensory system that provides the leading contribution to the sense of balance and spatial orientation for the purpose of coordinating movement with balance.” [1]

Sounds like it’s kinda important, doesn’t it?

The components of the vestibular system are located in your inner ear and are known as the semicircular canals.

These canals are aligned in the 3 different planes of motion, so they can detect three-dimensional movement and operate like a level that carpenters use to ensure their work is, well, level.

picture of the vestibular system

There is a lot of research going into the vestibular system and how to train it, especially with respect to concussion rehab.

I am definitely not an expert in this field, however, I do know that all systems in the body are plastic and adapt positively to the right type, volume and intensity of stimuli, so my assumption is that the vestibular system will act the same way, just like your muscles, heart, lungs, brain, etc.

I also know that if you’re going to be exposed to things like dizziness because of your sport (boxing, figure skating) then at the very least it’s a good idea to expose yourself to the same experience in training so it’s not a surprise come fight/competition time.

Sport specific examples of the vestibular system in action come from dance, figure skating and to a lesser extent martial arts, as they all perform very fast spinning techniques but have trained themselves to be able to maintain their balance during and after.

Here’s an example of a super fast figure skating spin (308 revolutions per minute!):

This is how cross training is beneficial and if you do it intentionally, you can cross train in a sport that requires a higher level of skill than you need i.e. if you’re a martial artist, you take up figure skating and if you make just a bit of progress in your ability to spin and spot, this level is much higher than you need in martial arts.

In this case, it works in the opposite direction too – just ask Nancy Kerrigan (you 30-40 somethings who grew up watching the Olympics remember this one).

So one of the training techniques figure skaters and dancers use is called spotting, which is a skill I’m teaching you in today’s drill.

Basically, spotting is picking a spot to focus and re-focus your gaze on so when you’re spinning, you maintain your focus on this spot for as long as possible, then when you have to spin your head, do so as rapidly as possible and find the spot again as quick as you can.

Check out this article from Scientific American that dives a little deeper into the mechanisms at play.

So that’s a primer on the vestibular system, now let’s get to work.

In today’s drill, I’ve combined the technique of spotting with the MB shotput toss to make it specific to martial arts and throwing punches in particular, as I developed it for a boxer I train.

Check it out and give it a shot.

About the Author

Eric Wong (aka Coach E) is the founder of Precision Movement and has a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Waterloo. He's been a coach since 2005 and spent his early career training combat athletes including multiple UFC fighters and professional boxers. He now dedicates himself to helping active people eliminate pain and improve mobility. He lives in Toronto (Go Leafs Go!) with his wife and two kids and drinks black coffee at work and IPAs at play. Click here to learn more about Eric.