In Basic Biomechanics, Susan Hall (2003) defines stability as “resistance to both angular and linear acceleration, or resistance to disruption of equilibrium”.  Balance, however, she defines as “the ability to control equilibrium.”  Or, “the process of maintaining the center of gravity within the body’s base of support within a given sensory environment”.

Therefore, there is a distant difference between stability and balance–both critical.  Now, include these two effective exercises for improving your stability and balance.  As always, consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.

Progressive Unilateral Stand – (improves stability/balance)

Foundation Exercise

-Begin standing next to a stable countertop or wall for support with the left leg closest to the support and the left hand resting on the support.

-Looking straight ahead, pack shoulders back/down, rib cage lifted, navel pulled toward the spine, pelvic floor pulled up/inward, and knees relaxed and transfer the body weight into the heel-to-mid/foot of the left leg.

-Without leaning into the support, lift the right knee up to hip height (or as close as you can manage without breaking form) and hold.  Remain as still as possible for 5-10 seconds.

-Variation #1 – Remain close to the support, lifting the hand off of the support and keep it off unless or until you begin to destabilize/lose balance for 5-10 seconds. 

-Variation #2 – Once you have mastered variation #1, maintaining stability/balance, move away from the support, performing the same sequence holding for 5-10 seconds. 

-Variation #3 – The Wheel – Begin lifting the right knee up and down from the hip joint, then abduct (lift leg to the side), return and extend it from the hip behind the body, return, remaining stable/balanced.  Perform the “wheel” (i.e. front/side/back), one to three sets of 8 repetitions.

-Variation #4 – If you are really up for a challenge, and have mastered variation #3, attempt this exercise on a BOSU Balance Trainer or pillow disc beginning with the foundation exercise first!

-Perform this exercise, two/three times/week on non-consecutive days.

Seated overhead press/leg extension – (improves stability/balance)

-Choose a 55-65cm stability ball which will enable you to sit upright with your knees/hips flexed 90 degrees at the knees/hip joint.

-Looking straight ahead, pack shoulders back/down, rib cage lifted, navel pulled toward the spine, pelvic floor pulled up/inward, and the feet flat on the floor approximately shoulder distance apart.

-Lift the right arm into a 90-degree bend at the elbow joint to shoulder height, with the palm facing forward.  Then, extend the arm into an overhead press holding it next to the ear and maintain balance for 5-10 seconds.

-Now, extend the left leg from the knee joint so that the knee faces the ceiling and hold this position, maintaining balance for 5-10 seconds.

– Lower the arm and the leg simultaneously and repeat again lifting the arm/leg simultaneously.

-Then, perform this sequence on the other side.  Perform 1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions (overhead press/leg extension), two/three times per week on non-consecutive days.

Variation – Perform the overhead press with a dumbbell or weighted bar. 

 Challenge the stability and balance daily.

-When possible, stand rather than sit and walk everywhere feasible. 

-Regardless of position, except when sleeping or resting, keep your nose to toes core muscles engaged and be mindful of your posture.

-Sit up straight, walk tall, lift with proper body mechanics and MOVE!


Jackie Wright is the owner/manager of Mountain Life Fitness, LLC located in Granby, Colorado.  She may be reached at her website at www.mtnlifefitness.com and her email at jackie@mtnlifefitness.com

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