Unless you’re an avid yogi or surfer, chances are you don’t think about your balance—and how good or bad it is—all that often. But balance is an integral part of each and every movement you make. You want to be able to maintain your balance as you move through space, change direction, or do any kind of quick movement. Doing so can prevent injuries, whether you’re working out or doing everyday tasks like cleaning the house or yard work. Whether you feel like your balance is on point or not, there is always room for improvement. These exercises will help you see how your balance stacks up, and provide a starting point for those looking to spiff up their skills.
Single-Leg Balance and Squat
A single-leg balance is exactly what it sounds like—balancing on one leg with the other leg lifted up, knee toward your chest, for as long as you can. Ideally, you can do this for 30 seconds on each leg with no problem. If not, start here and work on improving your time until you hit the 30-second threshold. If you’re ready for more of a challenge, test your balance with a single-leg squat. Starting in a single-leg balance on your right leg, lower into a squat until your leg is nearly parallel with the ground, reaching your left hand toward your right foot. Repeat 8-10 times, then switch to the other leg. If you find yourself falling and losing your balance after two or three reps, that’s your cue to incorporate this exercise into your regular routine.
You may not have ever heard of a bound, but it’s just a fancy way of saying, “jump.” To get started, stand on one leg and make a small jump forward. Pause for 2-3 seconds with good control, then jump backward. See how many you can complete on each foot while maintaining your balance. Once you perfect a stable landing (practice makes perfect!), you’ll be able to jump forward and backward comfortably, making it easier to maintain balance whenever you find yourself in an unsteady stance. Once you’ve mastered the forward and backward bound, try lateral bounds. Standing on one leg, make small jumps side to side, about a foot in each direction. The lateral movement works your outer thighs, which is where a lot of power comes from for runners.
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
Grab a kettlebell or dumbbell for this one. Start by balancing on your left leg, weight in your right hand. Hinge at the hips and, as you slowly bring the weight down toward the floor, lift your right leg up behind you with toes pointing toward the floor. Once you reach close to the floor (or as far as you can reach), reverse the movement until you’re back to a standing position. If you’ve never done this movement before, try starting with a light weight to gauge your level of comfort. Aim to get 8-10 reps using a 10 to 15 pound weight. This exercise requires a lot of control, coordination, and core strength.
By Emilee Bulleid