Want to improve your core strength, athletic form, agility, and coordination? Few approaches have as much of an effect as improving your sense of balance. While it might seem wholly innate, your sense of balance can actually be strengthened with regular exercises you can do pretty much anywhere, oftentimes with little to no equipment.
Check out this quick guide to 10 easy exercises for boosting your balance:
Single leg deadlift – this exercise is surprisingly much harder than it sounds. Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, raise one leg backward up behind you in the air until your shin is parallel with the ground. At the same time, lean your upper body forward and touch the ground with your hands. Return to a standing position and repeat up to 10 times before switching to the other side of the body.
Balance pad – incorporate a balance pad into your bodyweight exercises like planks, lunges, and squats. A balance pad is a lightweight foam pad designed for balance training. It will add a challenging degree of instability to normal exercises and require you to engage your core more than you otherwise would.
Raised side plank – assume a side plank position and when you feel well-balanced, raise your free arm up into the air so it directly mirrors your arm fixed to the ground. Hold for 15 seconds and then repeat with the other side of your body. Feeling ambitious? Try raising your free leg in the air at the same time as your hand and holding it for 10 to 15 seconds.
Yoga – in addition to enhancing your flexibility and deep breathing skills, yoga is also great for reinforcing strong balance and coordination. Tree pose, chair pose, downward dog pose, eagle pose . . . the list goes on of balance-promoting yoga poses that are basic, accessible, and effective. Look for a yoga class at your local gym or stream free instructional videos online.
Balance discs – inflatable balance discs/cushions, half yoga/stability balls, wooden balance boards . . . there are a variety of balance training tools you can use in your everyday life outside of the gym to practice balance. Stand on a stationary half yoga ball while you work at your computer, sit on a balance cushion when you ride the train, you get the idea.
Foam rolling – foam rolling has trended recently for its ability to help stretch the body and break up tight myofascial tissue following a workout, however, a foam roller can be a great balance tool as well. Start by practicing standing on your foam roller – lay it parallel to a wall so you can support yourself against the wall until you fully balance. Or lay on top of your foam roller with it positioned vertically so it parallels your spine from neck to tailbone. Practice raising your arms and legs separately into the air while laying on it without rolling off.
Plyometric jump squat – side-to-side stability is often what people think of when the topic of balance comes up, but front-to-back balance is just as critical. A plyometric jump squat recruits various muscle groups in stabilizing your body, especially when landing. Starting from a squat position with your legs forming 90-degree angles with the ground, explode into a controlled jump and land on both feet as softly as possible.
Standing ab tuck – stand with both hands raised in the air and then slowly lift one leg up until your knee is level with your hip. Bring your hands down to clap lightly underneath your knee and then raise them back up. Repeat with the opposite leg for 10 to 15 repetitions. You can ramp up the challenge by standing on a balance training tool or a rolled up yoga mat or towel.
Curtsey lunge – while lunges in themselves can be good balance enhancers, a curtsey lunge counters your natural stability even more. Start with a reverse lunge approach but instead of bringing one leg straight back behind you, you will want to cross it over behind you to the opposite side of your body (like you were curtseying). Stand up from the lunge position and repeat with the opposite side. Make it even more difficult by raising your knee up to meet your elbow each time you stand up from a lunge.
Single leg plank – in a plank position, resting either on your forearms or hands, raise one foot in the air at a time, holding it there for 15 seconds. Engage your core throughout the exercise and switch feet, repeating the entire exercise for at least one minute or until you can’t hold the plank any longer.