Balance training is an important activity for people of all physical abilities. Athletes interested in improving their performance benefit from stability exercises, as greater balance allows them to move more efficiently and reduce their risk of injury. For older people, balance exercises help prevent falls. Balance commonly declines with age because of the tendency to become inactive and a natural decrease in muscle mass.
With regular workouts, anyone can improve balance and stability. Balance is the ability of your body to keep your center of gravity within your base of support. Your eyes, ears and nervous system work together to monitor your center of gravity and make sure it stays within the base of support.
For notable balance improvements, perform balance exercises two to three days per week.
As you set out to improve your balance, begin with the beginner one-legged standing exercise. Start on two feet, with your weight equally distributed on both legs, and then pick up one foot and lift it up in front of you. Hold the position for 30 seconds and then switch legs. If the exercise is too easy, try doing it with your eyes closed. If you find the exercise too challenging, hold onto the back of a chair with one hand.
For an even greater challenge, balance on one leg with your hands held up out to your sides. Swing your free leg forward and backward, not allowing your foot to touch the floor. Do 5 swings on each leg. Then, while standing on one foot, swing your free leg left to right. Do 5 swings on each foot.
BOSU Ball Squats
A BOSU ball is a balancing training device that features an inflated half-circle, like a gym ball cut in half. Stand atop the BOSU ball with both feet set to shoulder-width apart. If you don't have access to a BOSU ball, you can perform the exercise in your socks on top of a stack of two pillows. Maintain your balance as you lower into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Rise back up to complete the squat. Complete 5 to 10 reps.
Exercise Ball Crunches
An exercise ball challenges you to perform typical strength training exercises on an unstable surface. Exercise ball crunches strengthen the abdominals, obliques and hip flexors while forcing your hips and core to work extra hard to keep your body positioned atop the ball.
Begin by sitting on the ball with your feet flat on the floor. Then, walk your feet forward so that the ball rolls up your back. In the end, your torso should be parallel with the floor with the ball positioned directly underneath your lower back. Your knees should be bent 90 degrees with your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on the side of your head as you contract your abs to perform a crunch. Do 10 reps.
Single-Leg, Single-Arm Biceps Curls
The single-leg, single-arm biceps curl exercise is a more advanced single-leg balance exercise. Your center of gravity is constantly shifting and your body has to make adjustments.
Stand on your left foot with a dumbbell in your left hand. Hold the dumbbell down at your side with your palm facing forward. Curl the weight up to your shoulder and then straighten your elbow to lower the weight and complete the rep. Do 10 reps and then switch side.
Single-Leg Deadlift with Rows
The single-leg deadlift with rows exercise is for those looking for a more challenging balance exercise. You'll need a dumbbell or kettlebell.
Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and stand on your left leg. While maintaining a slight bend in your knee, push your hips back to bend forward and lower the weight toward your foot. Your free leg should extend back behind you. Once your back is parallel to the floor, row the dumbbell or kettlebell up to the side of your torso by driving your elbow up toward the ceiling. Extend your arm to lower the weight and then straighten back up to complete the rep. Do 8 reps on each side.