5 Balance Exercises to Boost Stability and Performance

Tree pose

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

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Many of us take balance for granted, but everyone can benefit from improving it. Balance training exercises strengthen core muscles and improve stability, making you lighter on your feet.

Balance training can help anyone at any age. Athletes find it can make them more powerful. Seniors use it to prevent injuries from falls and maintain independence. And fitness lovers know it helps improve workouts and everyday life. In fact, just moving around efficiently in life requires healthy postural alignment and good balance.

What is Balance

Balance is your ability to control your body in space, distributing your weight evenly in a way that allows you to remain upright. Balance is divided into two types: static and dynamic.

  • Dynamic balance: The ability to move outside the body’s base of support while maintaining posture control
  • Static balance: The ability to maintain the body’s center of mass within its base of support

Both types of balance are essential, and you can improve both with targeted exercises.

Who Can Benefit From Balance Training?

Everyone can benefit from balance training. Here's a closer look at how it can help you at different stages of life and fitness levels.

For Athletes

Proprioceptive training is used with athletes all the time to both rehab and prevent injuries. Simply put, proprioception is a sense of joint position. By practicing balance exercises, the athlete gains a sense of control and awareness of their joints and how they function when the body is in motion.

Think about ankles. Ankle injuries are common in athletes due to all the twisting, turning, stopping, and starting. Even the most robust ankle can be injured if the athlete hasn’t trained the neuromuscular system to react correctly on various surfaces.

Balance training also gives athletes more power and force because they learn to use their center of gravity more efficiently. A stronger, more connected core helps you jump higher, throw farther, and run faster.

For Seniors

When a child falls, they get right back up and keep moving. But when an older adult falls, the consequences can be severe and even deadly. Each year, thousands of older Americans die from broken hips due to falls, and many more experience a loss of independence after a fall.

Balance training can improve stability in older people to help prevent falls and injuries. Just as athletes can train their bodies, seniors can use exercise programs and moves that focus on balance to reduce and prevent falls.

Research has found exercise programs reduce falls that cause injuries by 37%, serious injuries by 43%, and broken bones by 61%.

For the General Population

Let’s make this clear, balance training is for everyone. The list of benefits is long, but here are just a few.

Balance training:

  • Creates muscular balance in the body
  • Improves neuromuscular coordination by getting the brain to talk to the muscles
  • Teaches your body to use the core for stabilization

With all of that in mind, you can start incorporating simple balance training into your life today. A few ways to do this at home include:

  • If you drop your keys or wallet, reach over to pick them up on one leg with the other leg lifting straight into the air behind you and engage your abs.
  • Sit on a stability ball at work, school, or while watching TV.
  • Stand on one foot while you brush your teeth; alternate feet halfway through.

Equipment For Balance Training

In terms of good exercises for balance training, one of the best tools to own is a BOSU (“Both Sides Up"). A BOSU is basically a half ball with a flat platform. The name is derived from the fact that you can exercise on both the ball side and the flat side. A BOSU provides an unstable surface on which to practice squats, lunges, jumps, planks, and hundreds of other exercises.

If you don’t have access to a BOSU, you can create a similar effect by loosely rolling a yoga mat or towel to stand on. Any kind of unstable surface will suffice.

If you are struggling with balance, don’t use any extra equipment. Just practice balance moves on the floor.

Balance Exercises

Below, you will find instructions and benefits for the following balance exercises:

  • Tree pose
  • Single leg deadlift
  • Deadbug
  • Bosu squats
  • Balancing reverse lunges

Tree Pose

tree pose

Verywell Fit / Ben Goldstein

Tree pose is great on the floor, a folded mat, or BOSU. It strengthens your ankles, improves your balance, and engages your core.

  1. Stand with feet together, spine tall, and arms outstretched. If you are on a BOSU, you can use either side, ball or flat.
  2. Slowly lift your left foot up to the side of your calf and balance on the right foot only.
  3. Slowly lift arms overhead to make the branches of the tree. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.

Single Leg Dead Lift

single leg deadlift

Verywell Fit / Ben Goldstein

With or without dumbbells, this move not only strengthens your hamstrings and glutes, but it also challenges your balance and activates your abdominal wall.

  1. Stand on either the ball side of a BOSU or the floor (as pictured) with feet close together and put most of your weight onto your right foot.
  2. Stare at a focal point on the floor in front of you and slowly lower your torso to the ground while lifting your left leg behind you. Keep your spine neutral and reach your hands toward the floor.
  3. Stop when your back is parallel to the floor. Keep your right knee soft.
  4. Squeeze your hamstrings, glutes, and abs as you slowly raise back up and return your back foot to the floor.
  5. Switch sides. Try for 8 deadlifts on each side.

Dead Bug

Verywell Fit / Ben Goldstein

This is one of the best core exercises around. It challenges the transverse abdominus (your deep core muscles), and improves core stability.

  1. Sit down just in front of the bull's-eye center of a BOSU, placing feet wide and stable on the floor.
  2. Slowly lower your back until you are laying on the BOSU with your lower back on or slightly in front of the bull's-eye. You will adjust this in a moment.
  3. Draw abdominals in toward your midline and reach your arms out wide.
  4. Slowly lift one leg at a time, keeping them wide so that your arms and legs now resemble a dead bug.

If this is too difficult for you to hold for a few seconds, push your body back a few inches so that more of your lower back and glutes are on the BOSU.

Squats on BOSU

Adding the unstable surface of a BOSU to your basic squat will train your body to engage all the right muscles at the right time.

  1. Stand on the ball side of a BOSU with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Sit back into squat position with weight sinking into your heels.
  3. Engage your glutes and hamstrings as your press back up to standing position. Try 8 to 10 reps.

Balancing Reverse Lunges

Lunges are naturally a balance activity because you are ending up on one leg at a time. Standing on a BOSU or a folded mat will make them even more of a challenge.

  1. Stand on the top of the ball side of the BOSU with feet close together.
  2. Bending the right knee, slowly stretch the left leg behind you onto the floor until both knees are bent.
  3. Press straight up through your right leg as you return the left foot to the top of the BOSU. Switch legs. Try for 8 to 10 lunges per leg.
11 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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  3. Han J, Anson J, Waddington G, Adams R, Liu Y. The Role of Ankle Proprioception for Balance Control in relation to Sports Performance and Injury. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:842804.

  4. Herzog MM, Kerr ZY, Marshall SW, Wikstrom EA. Epidemiology of ankle sprains and chronic ankle instability. Journal of Athletic Training. 2019;54(6):603-610.

  5. Clark, D.R., Lambert, M.I. & Hunter, A.M. Contemporary perspectives of core stability training for dynamic athletic performance: a survey of athletes, coaches, sports science and sports medicine practitionersSports Med - Open 4, 32 (2018). doi:10.1186/s40798-018-0150-3

  6. National Council on Aging. Falls Prevention Facts.

  7. El-Khoury F, Cassou B, Charles MA, Dargent-Molina P. The effect of fall prevention exercise programmes on fall induced injuries in community dwelling older adults: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trialsBMJ. 2013;347:f6234. doi:10.1136/bmj.f6234.

  8. El-Khoury F, Cassou B, Charles MA, Dargent-Molina P. The effect of fall prevention exercise programmes on fall induced injuries in community dwelling older adults. Br J Sports Med. 2015;49(20):1348-1348.

  9. Krause A, Freyler K, Gollhofer A, et al. Neuromuscular and kinematic adaptation in response to reactive balance training – a randomized controlled study regarding fall prevention. Front Physiol. 2018;9:1075.

  10. Cuğ M, Duncan A, Wikstrom E. Comparative effects of different balance-training–progression styles on postural control and ankle force production: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Athletic Training. 2016;51(2):101-110.

  11. Lynders C. The critical role of development of the transversus abdominis in the prevention and treatment of low back painHSS J. 2019;15(3):214-220. doi:10.1007/s11420-019-09717-8

By Chris Freytag
Chris Freytag is an ACE-certified group fitness instructor, personal trainer, and health coach. She is also the founder of GetHealthyU.com.