By Shannon Dolan
Strength, power, endurance, flexibility, these are all words that are associated with a typical exercise routine. Unfortunately, when many people exercise, they forget to add moves which are ways to improve balance.
Balance is an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. Within its definition alone, balance seems to be a pretty important aspect of exercise to overlook.
It is vital that people incorporate balance exercises into their workout routine to increase stability, increase motor control, and help with daily tasks like getting in and out of a car, or even walking on a slippery or uneven surface. When you slip on ice it’s not a matter of how strong you are that will help you from falling, it’s the amount of balance you have to control those muscles and help you regain your footing.
Some simple ways to get balance into your daily routine would be to stand on one foot while doing a task that is done every day, such as brushing your teeth, or doing the dishes, this way the body becomes more familiar with single leg stances.
Want more of a challenge? Below are some exercises to incorporate in your routine to help improve your stability and get balance back into the equation:
Ways to Improve Balance
1- Walking Marches
Grab your knee up toward your chest and give it a slight tug, after you release that leg step forward and switch sides. Not only will this help with your balance but it also acts as a dynamic stretch for your hamstrings and glutes! A perfect exercise to add into your warm up.
2- Walking Lunges
Take a big step forward, the back foot will be balanced on your toes while the front foot is placed firmly on the ground, bend knees and lower until the back knee is hovering over the ground, make sure the front knee does not go over the front toe, stand up and repeat onto the other side.
Lunges are a great balance exercise because you have to get the proper footing before moving closer down to the ground. To make it harder you can have the hands behind the head with the elbows wide, and even add an upper body rotation; either in this position or holding a medicine ball, twisting to the side of the leg that is forward.
This exercise also helps strengthen the lower extremity, and when adding the upper body rotation it works the abdominals as well.
3- Backward Lunge with a Stationary Leg Hold
Step backward into a lunge position, as you stand up bring your thigh parallel to the ground and hold it for a few seconds, repeat on the same side by bringing that leg straight back into the backward lunge position. Like regular lunges, this exercise strengthens the lower extremity and requires a single leg stance in order to test balance.
To make this exercise harder you can add weight, biceps curls, or an overhead press.
4- Step Ups
On a bench, stair, bosu ball, or any secured raised surface, step up onto the surface with your right leg, bring the left leg up and balance by keeping the left leg’s thigh parallel to the ground, bring the left leg down, followed by the right leg and repeat (you can alternate legs while doing this exercise).
This one requires a bit more strength and coordination then the others and will help get a cardiovascular component to your exercise routine while strengthening your lower extremity and adding a single leg balance component. To make it harder add weights, biceps curls, shoulder press, or even lateral raises.
You can also complete this exercise laterally by stepping up on the side of the surface. This will help strengthen more of the outside of the leg and glutes.
5- Single Leg Romanian Dead Lifts
Hold a weight in front of you, have the right leg firmly planted with a slight bend in the knee. As you bring the weight down toward the ground with a flat back, simultaneously the left leg goes to the back of the room. Slowly go back to a standing position and repeat on the same side.
This exercise strengthens the hamstrings and lower back while testing your balance as you shift your weight forward. To make it harder you can add upper body exercises when you stand, such as a high pull, shoulder press, biceps curl, or a front raise.
By incorporating exercises that require a single leg stance you will begin to strengthen your muscles independently, improve your balance, coordination, and muscle control. All of which should never be overlooked in a well-rounded exercise routine.
About the Author:
Shannon Dolan is a personal trainer at GirlPower Fitness. A personal trainer for 4 years, Shannon received her Bachelors in Applied Nutrition with a minor in Strength in Conditioning from the University of Delaware. She is a Certified Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine, has a Health Coach certification and Functional Training Specialist certification through the American Council on Exercise, Power Pilates Mat 1 and 2, and Titelist Performance Institute Level 1 Golf Fitness Instructor certification. Through her years of training she has had a wide range of clients from young teenage athletes, to pre and postnatal women, to seniors working to build strength. Shannon believes in educating clients on how to exercise and practice proper nutrition by listening to your body, trying new things, and having FUN with the process!