All About Your Center of Gravity
We all conceptually understand our body's "Center of Gravity," but most of us would probably have a hard time explaining what it is to someone else. Does it mean staying low to the ground? Is it your ability to stay balanced? Does it mean having a strong core or midsection? Is it being able to stay still and upright when being forced in another direction?
The truth is, it's all of those, and then some. In both training and day-to-day life, your center of gravity is a fundamental concept when understanding how to strengthen your muscles and your joints. As you might guess, it is also critical to becoming a better boxer -- competitive, or recreational.
Let's get a better understanding of your center of gravity, how it impacts your physical activities and how you can improve it to go on and live a better and healthier life.
Understanding Your Center Of Gravity
Our body is made up of various parts -- our arms, legs, head, torso, etc. -- that all carry different masses or weights. So how is it that we're not toppling over one way or another, especially when we move around these different body parts?
It's because our body has a natural center of gravity which keeps us aligned and upright. Your center of gravity is effectively where your body is most concentrated, and thus where it is balanced across the vertical and horizontal planes we exist in.
From an anatomical standpoint, your actual center of gravity is at the level of the second sacral vertebrae -- located right over the small of your back, where your back meets your gluteal muscles.
How To Get In Tune With Your Center Of Gravity
As you might have guessed, your center of gravity goes hand in hand with balance, since it’s about keeping your body stable when you're moving or exercising. So, how do you get a better sense of your own personal center of gravity?
Imagine the sensation of when you are trying to walk across a thin line, one foot in front of the other, kind of like you're walking across a tightrope. Or better yet, simply lift up and hold one leg, balancing yourself on the other. The center of gravity is the point where your body holds all your mass in a way that you're not tilting or falling in one particular direction.
Your ability to shift and change your balance to keep yourself upright is the same as you -- and your body -- finding your center of gravity, and shifting it in a way such that you don't fall over.
Your Center Of Gravity And Exercise
As we mentioned, the center of gravity in the human body is mostly the same, but even the slightest shift in the base location of your center of gravity can have a major impact on your ability to perform physically. In fact, the location where your body’s natural center of gravity resides, especially in juxtaposition with the way your body is composed, has an enormous bearing on your overall athletic ability.
While your body’s “resting” center of gravity is biologically programmed into you, you do have the ability to train and strengthen your center of gravity, in order to allow you to perform better.
Your Center Of Gravity And Boxing
In many sports, especially those involving a level of physical contact among players (like football, rugby and wrestling), a low and strong center of gravity is important for your success. Naturally, that applies to boxing because the sport is predicated, in large part, on knocking your opponent off his or her feet.
Imagine bopping one of those inflatable bags when you were a kid, that kept popping up no matter how hard you knocked it down. That’s because the center of gravity in that bag was located at the bottom so that every time it absorbed energy from one direction, it would find its way up again.
We certainly don’t recommend absorbing those types of blows over and over, but the lesson to be learned from those bags is that your center of gravity allows you to absorb energy while remaining centered.
How To Improve Your Center Of Gravity
When a company builds a truck, they do so in a way such that its center of gravity is low to the ground, so that it doesn’t fall over when carrying large amounts of weight. Think of "building" your body in the same way. The more mass you have in the lower part of your body, the stronger your center of gravity will be because you'll have better balance.
Strengthen Your Core And Lower Body
As any good bodybuilder or strength athlete will tell you, it's imperative to train your lower body and your legs, as they contain the largest muscles in your body. If you want to improve your center of gravity, exercises like squats, lunges and calf raises should be a staple in your workout regimen.
Because your center of gravity is usually right around the center of your body, it would make sense for you to train the muscles near it -- meaning your core and especially your back muscles. So the usual abdominal exercises like sit ups, crunches, Russian twists and the like are applicable, but if you know your way around the weight room, you should also incorporate deadlifting into your training regimen. It's one of the best exercises to work many of the muscles in your core.
Consider Seeing A Specialist (If Needed)
If you find that you're having trouble maintaining your balance and improving your center of gravity, you may want to see a medical professional, depending on the nature of your issues. As counterintuitive as might seem, many of these could result from issues related to your head. A physician might have you see an Otolaryngologists (commonly referred to as an "ENT" or doctor of the ears, nose and throat) or a neurologist.
Otherwise, if it's just a matter of the need to improve the strength of your key balance muscles, and working on improving your balance and coordination, you'd be well-served by seeking the advice of a physical therapist or even a personal trainer. If you have any questions around this area, one of our Gloveworx coaches would be happy to speak with you further.
Become Centered With Yourself
Having a strong center of gravity or good balance isn't just for acrobats or contenders. Ensuring your body is fully in alignment, and that your body is able to transfer weight and energy properly, is essential to your everyday movements. If you want to lose weight, gain muscle or improve the quality of your life for you and your family, it's imperative that you be mindful of your body's center of gravity and what you can do to strengthen it.
At Gloveworx, every session has a component specifically devoted to strengthening the core muscles in your body, in addition to the exercise it'll receive while boxing. Come check it out for yourself!