How to Do a Single Leg Stance

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Single Leg Stance

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Targets: Balance, leg strength

Equipment Needed: Chair, bar or other stability aid

Level: Beginner

Many injuries and medical conditions can affect your balance and leave you feeling unsteady on your feet. An ankle sprain, for example, can leave you with balance deficits due to tears in the soft tissue that carries balance input to the brain. People who suffer from a stroke also often have severe balance problems that make walking difficult. We also lose balance as a result of the normal aging process.

Benefits

The ability to stand on one leg is important. When walking, you spend about 40% of your time with one foot on the ground as the opposite leg is moving through the air. The single leg stance is a simple, but very effective exercise for improving balance.

Improving your balance can help improve sports performance, and it may help you prevent falls that can cause serious injury.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Before you start balance exercises, your physical therapist may want to get a baseline measurement of your balance to track your progress. Balance tests like the functional reach test or the single leg stance test can give you an idea of how well your body's balance systems are working.

To perform the single leg balance test:

  1. Stand upright with your feet together. Remain safe while performing the test; have a stable object like a chair or kitchen counter nearby so you can grab it if you start to feel unsteady.
  2. Lift one foot off the ground. Do not to allow your legs to touch (this may give you extra stability).
  3. Watch a clock to see how many seconds you are able to stand on one foot and record this number.
  4. If you are able to stand on one foot for 60 seconds or greater, try the single leg stance test while standing on a soft surface like a pillow.

Once you have this baseline test result, practice the single leg stance balance exercise. As with the test, position yourself behind a chair or next to something stable.

  1. Hold on to the chair back with both hands.
  2. Lift one leg off the ground, slowly.
  3. Maintain your balance while standing on one leg for 5 seconds.
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat 5 times. Try to increase the time spent standing on one leg.
  5. Perform with opposite leg.

Common Mistakes

This is a beginner exercise. Go slowly and be sure you have support and you should be able to perform it safely. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your doctor or physical therapist.

Modifications and Variations

This exercise can be intensified as balance stability improves. By progressively challenging your balance, you can see improvement in your stability. 

Need a Modification?

If you feel you are not yet ready for this exercise, talk to your physical therapist about other ways to work on your balance.

Up for a Challenge?

As the single leg stance exercise becomes easier, you may be able to progress to more advanced balance exercises, but check in with your PT before trying anything too challenging.

 Boost the intensity and challenge of the single leg stance exercise with these changes:

  • Hold onto the back of the chair with only one hand.
  • Stand near the chair for safety, but do not hold on.
  • Close your eyes while standing on one foot.
  • Stand on a soft, squishy surface like a pillow or a piece of foam.
  • Lift your leg off the ground one inch higher.
  • Perform the T-stance exercise, in which you extend your lifted leg out behind you, keeping your back and pelvis level.

Safety and Precautions

The ability to stand on one leg is important to remain safe while walking and moving around. Adequate single leg balance may be one component of your balance rehab program. Visit your PT and learn how to safely measure your balance and perform the single leg stance balance exercise to ensure you maximize your functional mobility and stability.

Before doing this or any other exercise program for balance, check in with your doctor to be sure that the exercise is safe for you to do.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these exercise programs:

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