Need to improve your balance? (The answer is “Yes.” Everyone can use improvement on their balance.)
Balance is an essential part of our lives, but we don’t really think about it and it’s often taken for granted. For example, did you know that it actually plays a big role in boxing? Without balance, you wouldn’t be able to move your feet quickly and smoothly, with intent. You wouldn’t be able to slip to one side or roll and pivot without almost falling over, and without balance, your punches and movements wouldn’t have much power or fluidity because your feet would be struggling to catch up with your hands.
Likewise, balance plays a large part in your general health/fitness because good balance will help you from falling, especially as you get older. There’s also a reason why balance is usually part of physical therapy routines; having good balance means that your stability muscles are strong will prevent some injuries.
To test your balance, try this exercise standing near a wall or something that can keep you up if you need it. Now without touching anything, close your eyes and slowly raise one foot off of the ground. See how long you can keep your balance. 15 seconds is a nice time to aim for.
Now, let’s go over some simple exercises that you can do to try to improve your balance.
Heel raises (aka calf raises): Stand with feet shoulder-width apart either facing a wall or table or just something to hold onto. Then lift both heels off of the floor and lower them again with control. If you’re not used to this exercise, I’d say start with 3 sets of 4 reps. Your calf muscles help with stability and balance.
T-Stand (single leg deadlift without weight): Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart. With control, extend your right leg back behind you while lowering your torso toward the floor. Allow your right hand to lower toward the floor as your torso comes parallel to the floor and touch the floor with your fingertips. Once you touch the floor, slowly come back into standing position again. Do all reps on one leg and then switch to the other. Keep your leg and back straight throughout this exercise. Don’t lock your knees, though. Allow a slight bend. The T-Stand utilizes your core, but it also tests your balance on your feet/legs separately. You can also do single leg deadlifts in this T-Stand position if you want to get more advanced with this.
Jump spins with squats: Once again, start with feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down and jump explosively up, turning your body at the same time so that you land facing the opposite direction (180 degrees) and as you land, go down into another squat. This will help you work on balance when in landing in a specific spot. Switch up the direction you turn in as you do your reps.
Rolling side planks: You can do this on your forearms or your hands (in the push-up position). Start with both arms/hands on the floor. Twist to one side into a side plank. Extend the arm and hand that’s on top toward the sky. Stack your feet as well. Hold for 2 seconds and then bring your arm back down, roll your body to the opposite side, and repeat. This will test your ability to balance between movements and shifting weight.
Tree Stand: Let’s end on a nice simple static exercise that will test your balance all the same. The tree pose is a common yoga exercise. Stand with your feet together, back straight, arms extended above you. Slowly lift one foot up and rest it on the side of your calf or thigh, whatever is comfortable. (You can also use a hand to help lift your foot if needed.) Hold for a few breaths and then switch.
Balance has a lot to do with being aware of our bodies–also known as proprioception, which is “the perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body.” Some strength + body awareness is what results in good balance. Doing these exercises will help to build up that strength and body awareness. Balance is something that everyone can improve, so try to balance out your workouts with some balance training, too.