Tips for Healthy Living: Improving Balance and Stability

Tips for Healthy Living

We’ve partnered with III Pillars, a gym in Menlo Park which strives to create a one-on-one training facility. They believe that exercise, nutrition and restoration all play an equal role in achieving optimal health. I really like the energy and total commitment that both Ryan and Erik have to bring healthy living to our community. — Carmelo Sigona

Improving Balance and Stability

By Ryan Manuel, BS, a ACSM Health Fitness Specialist, and Erik Heywood, BS, CSCS, CES, a Certified Metabolic Typing Adviser

Balance and Stability training are important not only for the high level athletes, but also for your everyday person in real world scenarios like walking in the rain or playing a friendly game of tennis.  Incorporating balance and stability into your program can help prevent injuries and enhance the neuromuscular response of smaller muscle groups that keep you on your feet and off the ground.

To improve your balance and stability, choose movements that challenge you to keep your center of gravity over your feet.  One way to start is by taking an existing exercise that you do already and alter it by performing the movement on one foot rather than two, balancing on an unstable surface (i.e. foam pad or bosu), or by changing the position of your feet (lunge stance versus squat stance).

Single leg foot tap at 90º

Single leg foot tap at 0º

A couple of exercises that can help you get started are the single leg foot tap at 0º/45º/90º, and the single leg contra- and ipsi-lateral hand reach.  If you are new to these exercises, start off by holding on to something stable or focus on only one direction first.

To begin the single leg foot tap at 0º/45º/90º, place targets (paper cups, cans, etc.) at the designated degrees.  Lift one leg while balancing with the other, and tap the targets with the lifted leg.  In the video, we demonstrate the exercise using a dowel rod for additional support.  Repeat this exercise 3-5 times with each leg.

The single leg contra- and ipsi-lateral hand reach uses only two targets.  Start by placing the targets about a foot apart.  Your starting point will be positioned behind and centered between the two targets (making an equilateral triangle).  Balance on one leg and tap the left target with your right hand and then come back to an upright position, then tap the right target with your left hand.  Repeat for about 5-10 taps per target.

Second part of the single leg contra- and ipsi-lateral hand reach.

Starting point for the single leg contra- and ipsi-lateral hand reach (make an equilateral triangle).

Make sure for both exercises that the balancing knee does not move excessively, and keep the balancing foot in one spot.  If the exercise is too difficult try placing the foot of the lifted leg down after each tap.  Gradually work your way up to completing all the sets without putting the lifted leg down.

If you’d like to see videos of the above exercises, please visit

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