Round Out Your Fitness Routine With Balance Exercises

Round Out Your Fitness Routine With Balance Exercises

Cardio, resistance training, and a bit of stretching and mobility work: It sounds like a well-rounded fitness plan, but it’s missing one thing: balance exercises.

“Balance is important, so one can have control over their body when performing movements. These can be everyday movements like standing from a seated position or just walking,” says Dr. Theresa Marko, PT, DPT, MS, OCS, board-certified orthopaedic clinical specialist in physical therapy and owner of Marko Physical Therapy, PLLC, in New York City. “Balance and strength go hand in hand, and [you] cannot have one without the other, really. It’s important to be able to center your body on your base of support to have stability of your joints.”

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Balance exercises are often associated with fitness plans for seniors, and for good reason. According to the Centers for Disease Control, falls are the leading cause of injury among people aged 65 and older. But balance exercises can benefit people of all ages, says Marko. “I work with children, adolescents, and adults. It’s important for everyone,” she says. “Balance is related to muscle tone, and some people have less muscle tone and, therefore, worse balance.”

Dr. Jordan Duncan, DC, owner of Olympic Spine & Sports Rehabilitation in Silverdale, Washington, recommends adding balance exercises to your existing workouts. “You could start and end your workout with specific balance exercises or add a balance challenge to the exercises you already do,” he says. “Performing exercises involving dumbbells [e.g. curls or overhead presses] on one leg is a great place to start, as are single-leg squats and single-leg deadlifts.”

Looking for a few balance exercises to incorporate into your workouts? We’ve put together a list of some of the best exercises to improve balance.

 

1. Single-Leg Balance

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips.
  • Shift your weight onto your left foot and raise your right knee to hip level.
  • Hold the balance for 10 seconds, then place the right foot on the floor.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.
  • To make this exercise easier, place your hand on a sturdy object when you start to lose balance.

 

2. Single-Leg Balance With Arms

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
  • Shift your weight onto your left foot and raise your right knee to hip level.
  • Raise your arms to your sides, palms facing outward.
  • While balancing, make three small circles with both hands.
  • Bring your arms to the front, palms facing forward, and make three small circles.
  • Repeat the arm movements for the duration of the balance—about 10 seconds— then return your right foot to the floor.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

 

3. Attitude

attitude | balance exercises

  • Stand tall, hands on your hips, with your heels together and your toes turned out slightly.
  • Move your right foot back, lightly touching the floor behind you with your big toe and letting your heel drop slightly inward. This is your starting position.
  • Keeping your torso tall, lift your right leg behind you as high as you can, squeezing your right glute.
  • Return to the starting position, gently tapping the toes of your right foot to the floor, and repeat.
  • Do equal reps on both sides.

 

4. Single-Leg Deadlifts

single leg deadlift | balance exercises

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell by your left side at arm’s length, palms facing your body.
  • Shift your weight onto your right foot, and lift your left foot several inches off of the floor behind you. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your right leg slightly bent, your back flat, and your core engaged, push your hips back into a hinge and lower the weight until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor, raising your left leg behind you. Keep the weight close to your body throughout the move.
  • Pause, and then lower your left leg to return to the standing position. Perform equal reps on both sides.

 

5. Pistol Squat

pistol squat | balance exercises

  • Stand tall with your arms extended straight in front of your chest and your right heel raised a few inches off the floor in front of you. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your back flat, core engaged, and right foot elevated, push your hips back, bend your left knee, and slowly lower your body as far as possible.
  • Reverse the move to push yourself back up to the starting position. Perform equal reps on both sides.

 

6. Skater Jump

skater jump | balance exercises

  • From a standing position, shift your weight onto your left leg, bending your left knee to lower your hips a few inches while raising your right foot off the ground.
  • Bound to your right by pushing off with your left leg.
  • Land softly on your right leg, allowing your left leg to cross behind you and your arms to swing across your body in the same direction.
  • Pause, and then repeat the movement, this time pushing off with your right leg and landing on your left leg.
  • Continue jumping back and forth.

 

7. Single-Leg Squat Jump

single leg jump squat | balance exercises

  • Stand and lift your right foot a few inches off the floor so it rests by your left ankle.
  • Keeping your right foot elevated, dip your left knee and swing your arms behind you, as if prepping for a jump.
  • Swing your arms forward and up, exploding off the floor with your left foot.
  • Land softly on your left foot, keeping your right foot elevated, and repeat.
  • Do equal reps on both sides.

 

8. Holmsen Screamer Lunge

  • Step back into a reverse lunge with your right leg, toes pointed forward, left foot flat, ball of your right foot on the floor. Your right arm should be forward and your left arm back. This is the starting position.
  • Drive your right knee up and forward explosively, jumping into the air as high as possible while keeping your left leg straight and switching the position of your arms, so that your left arm is now forward.
  • Land softly on your left leg and return to the starting position.
  • Do equal reps on both sides.

 

9. Bird Dog

bird dog | balance exercises

  • Get down on your hands and knees with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your back flat and core braced, simultaneously extend your left leg straight behind you and your right arm straight in front of you.
  • Pause, and then return to the starting position.
  • Repeat with your right leg and left arm.
  • Do equal reps on both sides.

 

10. Side Plank

side plank | balance exercises

  • Assume a forearm plank position: forearms and balls of your feet on the floor, shoulders directly above your elbows, head neutral, and your entire body straight from head to heels.
  • Roll onto your left foot, and turn your hips and chest so your right hip is pointing toward the ceiling. Raise your right arm up in the air. Your left forearm should be perpendicular to your body, with your fingertips pointing the direction you’re facing.
  • Keep your body straight and your core engaged. If you need to modify, drop your left knee to the mat for stability.
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds to start, working up to 90 seconds, then switch sides. Rest for one minute. Repeat three to five times

 

11. Tree Pose

tree pose | balance exercises

  • Stand tall with your feet together and your palms together in front of your chest.
  • Shift your weight onto your left foot, and raise your right knee.
  • Swing your right knee out to the right, and place the sole of your right foot against the inside of your left calf or, with the help of your hand, your left thigh. (Do not place it against your knee.)
  • Keep your left leg strong and straight without locking your knee as you gaze forward at a stationary target to help you balance.
  • When you feel stable, bring your hands into position: at your heart, directly overhead, or straight out to your sides.
  • Hold for at least five breaths, then switch sides and repeat.

 

Balance Ball Exercises

“You can also challenge your base of support by performing balance exercises on a labile surface, whether that is laying on a stability ball or standing on a foam pad or wobble board,” Duncan says. When using a stability ball, start slow and make sure you’ve mastered the movement on solid ground before adding a balance component.

Here are a few balance ball exercises that will challenge your balance while building your strength.

Stability Ball Jackknife

stability ball jack knife | balance exercises

  • Get in a high-plank position with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and your shins on top of a stability ball.
  • Brace your core to keep your body in a straight line from head to toes. This is your starting position.
  • Squeeze your core and bend your knees to roll the stability ball toward your hands until only your toes are resting on the ball, keeping your hips down as you do so.
  • Pause, then slowly straighten your legs back behind you, returning to the starting position.

Stability Ball Decline Push-Up

  • Get in a high-plank position with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and your toes on top of a stability ball. Brace your core and squeeze your glutes to keep your body in one straight line from head to toes.
  • Bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the ground, keeping your elbows tucked close to your body. They should form a 45 degree angle to your torso when viewed from above.
  • Press your arms straight to return to the plank position and repeat.

Stability Ball Hamstring Curl

stability ball hamstring curl | balance exercises

  • Lie with your back flat on the floor with the back of your calves on top of a stability ball and your legs straight.
  • Brace your core and squeeze your glutes to raise your hips off of the floor so that your body forms a straight line from shoulders to heels. This is your starting position.
  • Drag your heels to roll the ball as close to your butt as possible or until your knees form 90-degree angles.
  • Pause, then slowly straighten your legs as you roll your feet away from your glutes, returning to the starting position.
Jenessa Connor

About

Jenessa Connor has written for Men’s Journal, Shape, Runner’s World, Oxygen and other health and fitness publications. When it comes to exercise, she’s a bit of a dabbler, but she always comes back to running, CrossFit and yoga. Follow her on Twitter.