5 Exercises for Better Balance

Balance is something many of us take for granted, but everyone can benefit from improving it. Balance training exercises strengthen core muscles and improve stability, making you lighter on your feet. As we age, having good balance and a strong core helps to prevent falls and injuries.

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 postural alignment and good balance.

Static and Dynamic Balance

Balance is divided into two types: static and dynamic. Static balance is the ability to maintain the body’s center of mass within its base of support.

Dynamic balance is the ability to move outside the body’s base of support while maintaining posture control. Both are important, and both can be improved with exercises that focus on balance.

Balance Training for Everyone

Young woman practicing yoga tree pose in rural park
Zave Smith/Getty Images

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 his or her 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 strongest ankle can be injured if the athlete hasn’t trained the neuromuscular system to react properly on a variety of surfaces.

Balance training also gives an athlete 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 he or she gets right back up and keeps 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.

Just as the athletes can train their bodies, seniors can use exercise programs and moves that focus on balance to reduce and prevent falls. In fact, a 2013 study published in BMJ found exercise programs reduce falls that cause injuries by 37 percent, serious injuries by 43 percent, and broken bones by 61 percent.

For the Average Person

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

  • Teaches your body to use the core for stabilization
  • Improves neuromuscular coordination by getting the brain to talk to the muscles
  • Burns more calories by making the body work harder
  • Creates muscular balance in the body

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:

  • Stand on one foot while you brush your teeth; alternate feet halfway through.
  • 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 keep abs tight.
  • Sit on a stability ball at work, school, or while watching TV.

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 your balance is struggling, don’t use any extra equipment. Just practice these on the floor.

Standing Tree Pose

standing tree pose

Rebecca Abma

This pose is great on the floor, a folded mat, or BOSU. It will strengthen your ankles, improve your balance, and engage 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 30 seconds, then switch legs.

Single Leg Dead Lift

Single leg dead lift

Rebecca Abma 

With or without dumbbells, this pose not only strengthens your hamstrings and glutes, it also challenges your balance and forces you to pull your abs in tightly.

  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 straight and reach hands toward the floor.
  3. Stop when your back is parallel to the floor. Keep right knee soft.
  4. Squeeze hamstrings, glutes, and abs as you slowly raise back up and return your back foot to the floor. Switch sides. Try for 8 deadlifts on each side.

Dead Bug

Dead bug pose

Rebecca Abma

 

This is one of the best core exercises around. It challenges the transverse abdominus and improves core stability better than any other move.

  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. Pull abdominals in very tightly and reach 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

squat on a BOSU pose

Rebecca Abma

 

Adding the unstable surface of a BOSU to your basic squat will train your body to “grip” 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. Squeeze glutes tightly as your press back up to standing position. Try 8 to 10 reps.

Balancing Reverse Lunges

reverse lunge on a BOSU

Rebecca Abma

 

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.
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