Balance is an extremely important and yet often untrained physical attribute. Whether you are looking to improve athletic performance or prevent falls, balance training can be extremely beneficial. Even if it’s just to feel healthier and more capable in your day to day, balance training is a great way to achieve this. In this article I provide 6 exercises you can use to improve your balance and a sample balance, core and mobility circuit you could add to your morning routine.
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Athletic performance is often very dynamic, with high amounts of organic movement and anticipation of your opponent. This sort of movement requires a great deal of balance and stability, when we think about sports like tennis and martial arts, it is so clear that single leg balance is an important physical attribute to success in these athletic events.
Having strong balance and stability in the ankles, knees and hips can help mitigate potential injuries that often come alongside long recovery windows. Doing everything you can to mitigate these injuries will involve doing consistent strength training that incorporates balance and stability. These are sometimes not the funnest of the most exciting exercises to do, but as I say often to my clients, they are the ones that let us continue to do the activities we love without taking large breaks due to injury.
As we age our risk of falling and hurting ourselves dramatically increases. Not only does the chance of a fall occurring increase, but the chance this fall will create an injury is also substantially higher. This all goes to show the importance of staying active, maintaining muscle mass and bone mineral density as we age. It is essential for both preventing falls but also preventing the consequences of the injuries sustained.
Full body resistance training is a style of training that puts emphasis on health and well being through strengthening all the key movement patterns whilst also improving core strength and balance. It involves performing movements from multiple movement patterns within the same session and balance exercises can easily be added into the session. This will mean you will be able to both improve your health through resistance training as well as improving your balance.
If you do not have the time or the interest to start resistance training, you can add circuits mixing core exercises and balance exercises for improved overall stability. Try the one below for an example of a circuit that improves both balance and your core musculature.
Complete 3 rounds
The front and back reach is my favourite single leg balance exercise, especially when I first start working with a client who is looking to improve their balance. The beauty of this exercise is that it can be made substantially easier by shortening the range of motion. This means that it can be a very effective way for beginners to take their first steps towards training their balance. I have even done this exercise with wall support (where one hand is placed on the wall) with clients who have severe mobility limitations, are recovering from injury or are very elderly.
The A-Stance Hold is a much more advanced exercise and should only be performed by those who already have good balance otherwise it will be too challenging. This is also great when done with a kettlebell or dumbbell to add some additional difficulty.
This is a much more beginner friendly exercise and it should only be reserved for beginners and intermediate individuals as it will likely be too easy for advanced individuals. It needs to be performed very slowly with control, pausing whilst the knee is at the chest, otherwise it will not create enough stimulus to improve balance.
This is a great single leg balance exercise that encourages us to test out novel positions. The 90-degree hold to diagonal reach also pushes the knee joint into challenging positions. This exercise should not be prescribed to beginners, it should be reserved for intermediate to advanced trainees.
The opposite side reach is one of my go to balance exercises for more advanced individuals looking to improve hip and knee stability. It really challenges the stability of the hip. To maximise the difficulty of this exercise, the foot should only gently touch the floor, but not enough to find stability, increasing the amount of time spent on a single leg.
The jump and catch on a single leg is again reserved for advanced individuals. It is particularly beneficial to runners who need to be very comfortable jumping and landing on one leg. If you consider yourself to have poor balance, do not use this exercise in your training programme.
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This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.