5 Easy exercises to improve your balance
BOSU balls, stability balls and balance discs aren't just the fitness industry's attempt to scam you out of more money; they actually have a purpose. By incorporating balance-building movements into your fitness routine, you can improve stability and find your center of gravity. In other words, you'll gain better coordination and be less likely to experience a fall.
If you don't have a BOSU, try performing them on a large pillow or couch cushion. The beauty of the BOSU ball is you can use both sides to execute a move: easier with the rounded side up and more difficult when the platform is up. Choose what works for you.
1. BOSU lunges
Stand behind the BOSU ball with your feet hip distance apart, knees slightly bent. Step forward and plant one foot in the center of the ball, working to find your balance. Once you have, scoot your back foot further back, until there's about a two- to three-foot spread between your front and back feet; you can allow your back heel to come up off the ground. This is the starting position.
Bend both knees and lower your back knee toward the ground in a steady and controlled fashion, making sure your front knee tracks with your toes, without extending past your toes. Avoid leaning forward as you perform the lunge; you want your torso to remain upright.
When your knees form 90-degree angles, reverse the movement and return to the starting position. You can continue performing lunges in the manner, or you can make the movement more difficult by shifting your weight forward, lifting your back leg off the ground so you're balancing on one leg on the BOSU ball, as you draw your back knee up into a high-knee position in front of your body. Reverse the movement and return to the starting position before continuing to perform the lunges.
2. BOSU staggered push-ups
You can improve upper-body balance and core strength by performing BOSU staggered push-ups.
Kneel on the ground behind the BOSU ball and place your right palm squarely on the center of the ball, your left palm to the left of the ball. Shift your body into a push-up position. You can perform a full push-up by stepping your legs behind your body, balancing on your toes so your body forms a straight line from head to heel, or you can perform a modified knee push-up, adjusting your body position so you form a straight, diagonal line from knee to shoulder. Just make sure your palms are directly under your shoulders to help protect the shoulder girdle. This is the starting position.
Bend both elbows and begin lowering your chest toward the ground, keeping your elbows in toward your body. When your chest is about an inch away from the BOSU, reverse the movement and return to start. Perform one set with your right hand on the BOSU ball, and the second set with your left hand on the BOSU ball.
3. Pistol squat
The pistol squat is essentially a one-legged squat where you extend the non-working leg in front of your body. It's a good idea to use a chair or wall for support when you first try the move, and only squat down as far as you can while maintaining good form.
Stand to the left of a sturdy chair or wall and place your palm on the object for support. Your feet should be hip distance apart, your knees slightly bent. Shift your weight to your right leg, centering it in your heel, and lift your left leg from the ground, extending it in front of your body, your knee as straight as possible. Keeping your weight in your right heel, tip your hips backward, keeping your chest up and forward-facing, and begin bending your right knee as you lower your hips toward the floor. Make sure your right knee tracks in line with your toes, without extending in front of your toes. Squat down as far as you comfortably can, keeping your left leg extended in front of you, then reverse the movement and return to start. Perform a total of four sets of the exercise, two sets per leg.
4. V-sit hold on BOSU
Develop core strength and learn to find your center of gravity by performing a V-sit on the BOSU. It may take a little while to find the correct body positioning on the tool to master the move, but that's part of the balance training.
Sit on the rounded side of the BOSU, finding a position that feels comfortable and well-balanced, probably just to the front of the center of the ball. Place your feet squarely on the ground in front of you, your heels planted, and lean back slightly, using your hands on the ball to help you stay balanced. Carefully begin to lift your feet off the ground, holding your core in tight to keep you stable. As you can, remove your hands from the ball and extend your legs, pointing your toes toward the ceiling so your body forms a large "V." As you get better, extend your arms forward as well, as if you were reaching toward your toes. Hold the position as long as you can.
The tree pose is a great centering pose to help you find static balance. Stand with your feet planted solidly on the ground beneath your hips, your posture straight and tall. Shift your weight to your left foot as you lift your right foot from the ground, bending your knee and drawing it upward. Rotate your right hip outward, so you can plant the sole of your right foot on the inside of your left leg. You can plant your foot on your calf, just above the knee, or high on the inner thigh, whatever's most comfortable for you. Use your right hand to open up the right knee further, while keeping your hips aligned and squared to the front. Bring your palms together in a prayer position at the center of your chest and look upward, holding the position for 10 to 20 seconds. If you can, keeping your palms pressed together, extend your arms above your head, as you lift your chest high. Carefully reverse the movement and return to start, repeating the exercise on the opposite side.
Disclosure: This post is part of a collaboration with Pronamel and SheKnows.