Spinning. Check. Barre. Check. Yoga. Check. If you’re a fitness lover, chances are you’re getting in your cardio and strength training. But one type of workout that is actually totally useful in your day-to-day life but you’re likely overlooking is balance. And moves that specifically target balance aren’t just for seniors.
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“Balance is key to functional movement as it is necessary to perform your everyday movements like lunging, squatting, bending, pulling, pushing, rotating and locomotion,” says Michaela Raagas, Master Educator at Technogym. “These fundamental movements are used in everyday activities and a variety of sports. Improving balance can contribute to better performance and help with preventing falls and injuries.”
In fact, balance is key to all functional movement, and having good balance improves your posture, musculature, joints, and stability, to name a few. “Balance is the ability to maintain control while in a static or dynamic position,” Raagas says. “Maintaining equilibrium throughout movement is essential for all tasks as it helps the body remain in a stable position and allows for better motor and muscular control. Balance training can help with better joint stability and a stronger core. An activated, strong core can help to promote proper posture while seated, standing or in movement.”
It’s common for people to overlook balance training, but there are exercises that naturally incorporate it. “Any exercise where the person is changing points of contacts with the ground and/or moving away from point of stability require balance,” Raagas says. “For example: Going on your tip toes to reach for a high object or even standing on one leg to perform a quad stretch.”
To improve your balance, try incorporating a few balance moves into your regimen. How often you need to do them to reap the rewards varies from person to person and depends on how their balance is to begin with. “These balance exercises are easy to incorporate into your daily workouts, even as part of your warm up,” Raagas says. “Strength training should be done two to three times a week and can help improve your balance by working the muscles that keep you stable.” Raagas recommends giving one of these exercises a try:
“The more points of contact you have to the ground, the more stabilized your positioning,” Raagas says. “Pistol squats consist of only one point of contact and require great control and strength in the working leg, thus challenging one’s balance. If the exercise is too difficult, start holding onto something stable. If you are looking for a challenge, try performing on an unstable surface like a balance dome or balance pad.”
“The less points of contact you have to the ground, the more you challenge your stability and balance,” Raagas says. “Similar to the pistol squat, single leg dead lifts force you to engage core stability, balance and control in your movement. If the above was too easy, try this exercise adding weight by holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in the reaching hand.
“Wide stances create a more stable position,” Raagas says. “With an exercise like above, the person is going from a wide, stable stance to a single leg stand, challenging their equilibrium. One may naturally want to use their arms to help balance themselves out; try performing this exercise keeping hands on the hips or relaxed and straight down. This exercise can be advanced by adding weight with a pair of dumbbells. Or, try changing the stability of the surface and use a balance pad or balance dome.”
“Walking lunges require one to shift both weight and center of gravity,” Raagas says. “For a progression, hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands.”
“The above can be performed holding onto something like a chair to help with balance or performed on a balance pad for a more challenging experience,” Raagas says. “Swings can also be done forward and back. Vary the range of motion or speed of swings for further progressions or regressions. Leg swings require a great deal of control and balance.”
“This exercise strengthens the core, which in turn can help to improve trunk stability,” Raagas says. “For a modification, try without a wellness ball. For a progression, lengthen the hold time or try alternating arm raises while maintaining the plank position to really challenge your core strength and balance.”
“This exercise engages the core, promotes proper posture, challenges your balancing and coordination skills all at the same time,” Raagas says.
A version of this story was published July 2019.
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