I have a confession to make.
I don’t call myself the Balance Guy because I have great single leg balance — far from it. I’m still a work in progress.
Being a tall guy who’s all arms and legs, I’ve always struggled with my balance in daily life, on the sporting arena and in the weight room. If there were cameras around on the many occasions that I fell on my butt, I’d be a star on America’s Funniest Home Video.
Single leg balance is probably the most overlooked factor in training and in daily life, but it’s fundamental to almost everything we do. Walking, taking the stairs or playing your favorite sport all involve single leg balance to some degree.
According to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) in 2010 falls by older adults cost the U.S health care system 30 billion dollars. Balance is kind of a big deal, especially as we move on in life.
Here’s a little test for you before we go any further.
Grab a stopwatch and see if you can balance between 10-20 seconds on either foot. Stand by a wall for safety. If you touch the wall or your foot touches the ground, the test is over.
If it’s less than 10 seconds, stop reading and take Dan’s advice and go see your doctor. It may just save your life. However, if you’re between 10-20 seconds, keep reading because you’ve still got some work to do.
In my experience when training clients who lack single leg balance, the ankle is my first point of emphasis. The ankle is a mobile joint that allows you to walk, run and play.
However, wearing shoes can contribute to a loss of mobility through the ankle joint. Some us even take this to the extreme for the sake of fashion.
That’s okay occasionally, but for the sake of your balance, taking the shoes off and working on your ankle mobility can be a godsend for your feet and balance.
When you’re feeling wobbly and want to improve your balance or when your ankles are cranky, take these exercises out for a spin.
Rocking ankle mobility exercise- 10 reps on both feet
Have your big toe approximately six inches away from the wall and rock forward, touching your knee to the wall. If your front heel leaves the ground or your front knee cannot touch the wall, move your toe closer to the wall until they can.
Leg swings- 10 reps on both legs
Wall hip flexor mobilization – 10 reps on both legs
Having a pad underneath your knee helps for comfort. If you’re unable to grab your back foot just leave it on the ground and do the exercise as demonstrated.
Do these exercises daily for a couple of weeks and then retest your single leg balance. Hopefully, you’ll crush the retest with your new and improved ankles.
However, if you’re a dedicated exerciser and you still want to improve your ankle mobility and balance, do my ankle mobility warm up instead of your usual warm up before you crush the weights.
Do one set of each exercise in the order shown for best results.
- Breathing squat- 5 breaths
- Dead bug- 6 on each side
- Hip extensions- 10 reps
- Six-point rocking- 10 reps
- Hip mobility series- watch video
- Rocking ankle mobilization – 10 reps
- Light goblet squats- 10 reps (10-15-pound dumbbell)
To help your balance even further you can include more single leg work into your exercise routine because balance is a skill that needs to be practiced often. The more you challenge yourself the better your balance will be.
Try these following exercises only if you can balance more than 20 seconds on each leg.
1. Bosu ball single leg balance (try for 30 seconds on each leg)
2. Shoe lace touch
I stole this exercise from Taylor Lewis and you’ll be thanking me later.
Stagger your stance , heel to toe, shift your hips back and touch your right hand to the shoe laces on your left foot. Take your right foot off the ground and balance until you stumble forward or you lose your balance. Repeat on the other side. Do two-three times on each leg.
3. Vertical birddog (Needs a dumbbell or Kettlebell)
Balance is a skill that’s often neglected until it is too late. No matter your age or exercise experience we can all benefit from better balance.
Because none of us want to end up being laughed at on AFV.