Why You Should Incorporate Balance Training Into Your Workout

Woman doing a walking lunge

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

You lift weights, schedule time for cardio, and do your best to include movement in your everyday routine. But are you balanced? Aside from its ability to improve posture, increase joint stability, and strengthen muscles, balance training can help prevent injury and is a key component for longevity.

Balance training may sound intimidating, but it's actually a fairly simple addition to any workout regime.

What is Balance Training?

Balance training, according to the American Heart Association, is considered one of the four main types of exercise (the other three being strength, endurance, and flexibility).

Balance training can significantly improve our ability to perform everyday activities, reduce the risk of injuries, and maximize sports performance, says Amber Trejo, MS, RDN, NASM-CPT. "When you work on strengthening your balance, you are going beyond just leg strength. You are essentially using muscles, large and small, from your head to the toes."

How to Incorporate Balance Training Into Your Workout Routine

Balance training can be simple, effective, and performed in the comfort of your own home.

"Some simple moves to help train for better balance include alternating lunges, standing marches, step-ups, walking heel to toe, and even just standing on one leg for a few seconds," advises Trejo.

While you may see "balance training" carried out using a variety of equipment such as balance boards, Tim Wong, clinical exercise physiologist and coach, advises balance training be performed on a stable surface.

"Unstable surface training is only useful for post-injury rehab of the lower body," says Wong. "A healthy uninjured person has no need to train on the BOSU, yet you still see it all over the place on social media and in gyms."

If you're ready to get serious about balance training, Wong recommends shifting the paradigm to strength training as your balance base, so to speak. Heavy bilateral lower body strength training, unilateral lower body strength training, and loaded carries should all be part of your overall fitness regime.

Here are Wong's recommendations for putting the above into practice:

Deadlift

This is the classic hip hinge movement where you lift a heavy barbell off the floor. It strengthens your glutes and hamstrings while teaching you to balance the bar between both sides as you lift it up.

The deadlift is one of the best exercises to build your glutes, while also teaching you to control a heavy weight. This is very likely to transfer to controlling your own weight on solid ground.

Here's how to do a deadlift:

  1. Place your feet hip-width apart with the mid-foot directly under the bar you'll be lifting
  2. Push the hips back and descend until you are just barely low enough to get a firm grip on the bar, gripping just outside of your knees
  3. Pull the slack out of the bar and brace your core the moment before you lift the bar
  4. Push the floor away with your feet to initiate the movement
  5. When the bar is lifted mid-shin, use your hips to pull the bar up and stand up straight. Your back should be as straight as possible for the entire lift. 

Tim Wong

The best way to improve your balance is to train with heavier weights.

— Tim Wong

Bulgarian Split Squat

Here's how to do a Bulgarian split squat:

  1. Place your rear foot on top of a padded bar or bench, while your front foot is on the ground
  2. Make sure both feet are in line with their individual hips
  3. Your front foot should be far enough forward that you can comfortably bend the knee as your hips descend
  4. Try to get at least parallel to the ground with your front thigh, if not slightly lower
  5. Push the floor away to lift your hips up to a full stand; make sure your torso is straight

Walking Lunge

"Another common unilateral exercise, a walking lunge forces your body to stabilize dynamically while carrying weight," says Wong. "The act of switching legs creates a huge stability demand on the pelvis, especially when carrying heavier weights."

Lunges are similar to split squats as the stance is virtually identical. The difference is that your hips travel in a lunge, which in this case, is forward. 

Farmer Walk

To do a farmer walk, carry a trap bar (hex bar) or two heavy dumbbells/kettlebells and walk for a predetermined distance or amount of time.

"Simple, effective, and brutal, but it will get you results," says Wong. For a greater balance challenge, do a unilateral version with one heavy dumbbell or kettlebell. 

Heavy Lower-Body Push Exercise

This can be a barbell squat, hack squat, pendulum squat, or leg press. These movements strengthen the quads while your legs stabilize against a stable surface (floor or machine surface). This puts all bilateral lower-body push exercise variations on equal ground, regardless if the movement involves free weights or a machine.

"Choose the variation you enjoy and train it consistently to see results," notes Wong.

Balance training can be as simple as utilizing your own body weight for unilateral movement. Relying on strength training as the foundation of your overall fitness will help keep you physically balanced for the long haul.

Safety Tips

If you're going to challenge your balance, consider the possibility of falling and what that might look like in your workout space. In general, you'll want to take up balance training in a space that gives you enough room for a full range of movement and one with clear floor space. If you risk falling on hard, awkward, or potentially breakable objects (like kids' toys, glass tables, or potted plants), consider rearranging the space or taking your training elsewhere.

A Word From Verywell

Balance training can be incorporated into an existing training regimen, and is suitable for many fitness levels and ages. A certified personal trainer can help plan and execute balance training that fits your personal needs and goals. As always, if you experience any lingering pain or have concerns regarding your balance abilities, seek advice from a healthcare professional.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the benefits of balance training?

    Having better balance can help reduce falls, create better awareness for a better landing if you DO fall, and even increase walking speed.

  • How often should you do balance training?

    According to the American Heart Association, balance training can be performed every day. Beginning a balance training regimen requires little equipment as the story below demonstrates.

  • What muscles are most important for balance?

    Your core and legs are both important for balance, but other muscles will play a role in stabilization, depending on the specific balance exercise.

  • What are some everyday activities that require balance?

    Many daily activities require balance. Whether you're going up or down stairs, lifting yourself up from a chair, or reaching for something on a high shelf, having a good balance makes activities of daily living easier.

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3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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