Everyone can benefit from improved stability. Preventing falls is essential for older adults, but these kinds of exercises are vital for helping prevent injury for runners and other athletes as well. Stabilization training doesn’t guarantee you’ll never fall but it reduces the likelihood because it helps strengthen stabilizing muscles, helps the brain-body connection with proprioception, and improves reflexes.
◆ Read more on why everyone should do stability training.
I made a short video for you with a demonstration of a few of my favorite stability exercises. Read the descriptions here, and view the video below. When possible, do these barefoot; this helps strengthen muscles in the feet, and feeling the floor helps you balance. Think about spreading your toes out to give yourself a solid foundation.
Improve your strength and balance with these stability exercises:
1-Knee raise with ankle rotation, then hip rotation.
Balance on one foot, raise the other knee as high as you comfortably can, then rotate the ankle one way and then the other while maintaining balance. Then, keeping the bent knee high, rotate your leg out to the side and to the front several times. Switch sides and repeat.
2- Lateral leg raise.
Balance on one foot, then bring the other leg up to the side while keeping it as straight as possible. Try to maintain an upright torso.
3- Standing bird-dog.
Balance on one foot, then extend the other leg behind you as you extend the opposite arm in front of you. You don’t have to get horizontal here, just aim for an extension of that arm and leg, and try to do it smoothly and somewhat slowly.
4- Single-leg reach.
Similar to the standing bird-dog, but here we’re using the same side arm and leg. Keep a bend in the knee you’re standing on, while trying to keep the other leg (the one you’re extending behind) in a straight line from shoulder to heel. Again, don’t worry about how far you go; the goal is not to reach the floor, but to keep hips square and to not hunch shoulders/torso in an attempt to reach closer to the floor.
This one might be the trickiest of them all to do well but it’s also the one I recommend most! If you are new to balance exercises, you may keep that other hand lightly on a wall or countertop to help you balance as you practice. You’ll get there!
5- Tightrope walk.
Go ahead: imagine you’re daringly crossing a canyon on one of those crazy rope bridges! Put arms out to your side, then walk with one foot in front of the other in as narrow a line as possible. Stay up on your toes if you can, but no worries if you can’t (yet!).
6- Knee up to lateral raise.
I feel a little like a starfish in this one. Start with one bent knee raised high in front of you, then extend that leg out to the side like a slow-motion kick, and return to starting position.
Practice stability exercises often!
These exercises are great as part of a warm up before your run or workout, but you can just as easily do them while standing in the kitchen waiting on your tea to steep (or coffee to brew). Try to do these at least three days a week. I recommend 10 reps on each side for each exercise, but if you need to start with fewer reps or just do one or two of these exercises at a time, that’s fine. Some is better than none!
If the video isn’t showing up below in your browser, trying viewing it here.