What are some examples of balance exercises and progressions?

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Balance Training traditionally has been associated with stillness. The individual would be tested on their ability to stand on one leg for a set duration. Today, balance training has evolved in the understanding that balance is dynamic in nature. The individual needs to have the ability to accelerate in various angles from their starting point, and be able to decelerate once they reach their threshold and return efficiently to their starting point.

As an example we can look at a lunge progression that can enhance an individuals balance. The lunge example will be with a right foot lunge.

Move 1: From an upright position, lunge forward and return to start. Next lunge laterally to the right and return, Finally lunge rotationally to the right and return.

Move 2: Perform the above move, but progress by adding in a bilateral hand reach at ankle height with each lunge and return to starting position.

Move 3: Perform the same above move 2, but we will tweak the starting position. The starting position will begin on left leg only. The return to starting position will always be only on left leg.

Move 4: If appropriate to the individual/goal/task, add in a BOSU ball to move 3. Start in left leg balance on the ground and lunge in various angles on to the BOSU ball with bilateral hand reach and return to ground on left foot.

Balance exercises can be as simple as standing on one leg and balancing.  Once that becomes easy you can use a foam roll, airex pad or a balance beam.  This will challenge and stabilize the joint.  If this becomes easy start moving the body in other planes of motions.  This can be done by standing on one leg bringing your unbalanced leg forward, to the side and turning your body slightly to move the unbalanced leg behind you.
 
Once you develop good stabilization with these balance exercises you can move to more complex balance exercises which involve more range of motion.  These exercises would include the Single-leg squat, Lunge with balance or step-up to balance.

When you have mastered the balance training above, you can start to work on more dynamic balance exercises.  These include more total body movements.  You can perform Single-Leg hop-ups and downs on a step, or a Single-Leg hop side-to-side and front-to-back

All these exercises can be progressed or regressed depending on your ability level. 
Here are some good balance exercises with a logical teaching progression applied to them.  Stand on one leg, squat on one leg, walk slowly forward on a beam, walk slowly backward on the beam, lunge forward on the beam, move laterally on the beam standing up & squatting down, move laterally on the beam in a defensive slide position.

After mastering the above balance movements, you can practice performing them while working on hand eye coordination.  Have someone move a ball in front of you and track it with your eyes while you move on the beam.  Then have them toss you the ball for an easy catch.  Finally have them throw it slightly faster, from difficult angles, etc. making it more challenging.

In addition to the balance exercises and progression described by NASM, there are various tools that can be incorporated into balance exercises.  These include but are not limited to utilizing an airex pad, which is a thick, rubber type pad.  Standing on the pad forces the person to engage the core in order to stabilize during exercise movements.  Other balance training tools include a half foam roll, stabillity disc, balance pods and Bosu to name just a few.  Some examples of this progression would be:

Level 1:  Perform various upper body exercises such as bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, and overhead presses while standing on the airex pad.

Level 2:  Perform single-leg balance to reach exercises while on the airex pad.

Level 3:  Perform Level 1 exercises on the half foam roll or balance pods.

Level 4:  Perform Level 1 exercises on the Bosu.  When you become comfortable with the Bosu, there are exercises that can be performed to work every muscle of your body.  Your stabilizer muscles become stronger, and you will notice an increase in your overall strength.  The stronger your core, the more power you have.

A stability ball is also a great way to get in a total body workout while working on your balance at the same time.

Balance exercises can be as simple as standing on one foot (or even keeping a few toes down on the free leg for support). This can be done independently, or once you are more stable, you can add in additional movements such as a biceps curl, overhead press, or a small one legged squat. Some examples of progression include:

  • Level 1: performing a single leg balance to reaching movements
  • Level 2: performing squats or deadlifts on a single leg, or performing lunges that step into a single leg balance.
  • Level 3: performing hopping exercises landing on one leg and balancing.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.