By Miguel J. Ortiz
When most people think of balance exercises, they tend to imagine a yoga class with people standing on one foot. It isn’t necessarily a motivating image. The way I see it, we’re thinking about it all wrong. Balance doesn’t have to be slow moving or done in specific settings. We are using a lot more balance in our day-to-day life than we think, and it can easily be applied to a lot of different exercise routines. The greatest attribute to balance is that it requires a great deal of concentration. Science has shown that elevated focus comes with physical benefits. So, if you ever feel foggy headed or a general lack of focus you may want to add balance exercises to your routine.
Adding balance movements to a workout is not difficult. One can start with a simple warm-up like jumping rope. The light repetitive balance required to properly push off the balls of your feet and have enough coordination to repeatedly jump at the same height to control the exercise can create a higher sense of focus. Another great warm-up for legs is a single leg touch down where you stand on one leg and try to touch that same foot with your opposite hand. This is a great leg and core warm-up exercise that requires proper balance and coordination. It also keeps one’s attention. Try three sets of 10 reps per side. Some good upper body moves include a plank hold with an alternating arm raise. The balance provided every time you lift up an arm adds to shoulder strength. Core focus is a great way to spice up your plank holds. Again, there are plenty of areas where you can add balance. If you’re already doing push-ups you can do 10 reps where you pick up one foot (five for each side). This exercise continues the focus on strength with more core focus.
Another great way to utilize balance is to do cone or ladder drills. First, when performing these types of drills, it is important to maintain your center of gravity while moving through. To add to it, the faster you become at doing these movements the more core control and balance is required. So, in order to move your body quickly through space more core balance is needed to maintain proper form. A good example is a step class. We have all seen step classes, but if you want you can also use it for quick feet drills to add some cardio or balance and strength. An example is a lunge to step up and balance with dumbbells. Either way, doing exercises that require a form of coordination or focus ultimately also work on balance.
Remember balance doesn’t always have to be slow, but it definitely requires control. So, whether you’re doing some strength moves like a single leg shoulder press or mixing it up with some footwork drills, keep your breathing and focus dialed in and have fun progressing your balance.
Miguel J. Ortiz is a personal trainer in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a member of the National Personal Trainer Institute and a Certified Nutritional Consultant with more than a decade of professional experience. He can be found on Instagram at @migueljortiz.