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Balance is important: studies have shown it helps prevent injury (for example, this study (in Spanish)), it's useful when transitioning to barefoot/minimalist running (see this or this) and proprioception training is a staple of post-injury rehabilitation programs (this study has references to other studies to back these claims; it's itself concerned with upper-body proprioception). As I feel I am lacking in this area of fitness, I have decided to work on it. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how to measure my progress.

I've heard of something called a Flamingo test - standing on one leg with eyes closed and measuring how long you can keep it up. Here I assumed swaying around is not acceptable, but what about the small muscles in my foot? I feel them working and my making "microcorrections" (which is what I'm trying after all), but am I supposed to only measure time I am standing perfectly still, or is feeling movement/twitching in my foot alright for the Flamingo test? Also, are there any other tests to measure my balance, especially once I've progressed past the Flamingo test.

My current routine is basically the flamingo test, repeated 10-20 times per day, barefoot on hard surfaces. It is my understanding that once this is effortless (defined, I suppose, by not feeling any twitching in my foot) I can progress to turning my head (so as to further constrict the inner ear fluid effects on balance and focus solely on somatosensory input). I assume that by this point the flamingo test will be too easy and a different test will be needed.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Timed one foot (leg) standing balance assessments are often used to measure static balance. The criteria to stop timing is the loss of position of the:

• arms (crossed in front of your chest)

• trunk (greater than 45 degrees off center)

• movement of the stationary leg

• lowering your raised foot to touch the floor

Micro-corrections as you describe would not end the test. The test can be done initially with the eyes opened and then with the eyes closed. The Flamingo Test and the Stork Test are types of timed one foot standing balance.

Dynamic balance involves balance with movement. Tandem walking (walking heel to toe without deviating from a straight line) would measure dynamic balance. Doing a one legged standing balance test while moving the raised leg forward, to the side and back would also test dynamic balance. Example: The Y Test To do this test without the kit, place tape on the ground and measure the distance reached with your toe on each portion of the Y.

As for your routine, here are some good proprioceptive exercises for the lower extremities.

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The "problem", as I see it, is that I can already pretty much ace the Flaming/Stork test (I can usually go over a minute, eyes closed) and this only took a short while of dedicated practice. I intend to keep practicing, but standing for minutes with my eyes closed is approaching the "boring" zone. The Y Test looks very interesting, though; are there other similar tests (for dynamic balance)? And thanks for the exercises, I'll definitely try them out/add them to my workouts. –  VPeric Aug 18 '11 at 9:27
    
Yes, there is a similar test to the Y using a tape measure on the wall and measuring the movement of the trunk with the arm outstretched forward, side and back, but I don't know the name of it to look it up. Keep specificity of exercise in mind. The test are only tests and if you train for them, you will test well, but that doesn't necessarily carry over into your activities. A wide variety of proprioceptive exercises would be a better way to spend your time than practicing the tests. Hope that helps. –  BackInShapeBuddy Aug 18 '11 at 21:42
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