Ask Stew: Suggestions on How to Improve Your Balance

An Army physical therapist shows a patient how to perform a stability ball exercise properly.
U.S. Army Capt. Allan B. Tangaan, a physical therapist with the 328th Combat Support Hospital, coaches a patient how to perform a stability ball exercise properly during a physical therapy session conducted at the Brigadier General Crawford F. Sams U.S. Army Health Clinic in Camp Zama, Japan, July 12, 2016. (Sgt. John L. Carkeet IV/U.S. Army photo)

An email from a physical therapist in the Navy asked me about training people to have better balance.

He states:

"One of the biggest culprits to injury as we age is falling or losing your balance. Do you have any plans for folks to gain balance or better stability?"

Great question. When training athletes, one of the most important elements of training used is balance, which will assist greatly with agility and prevention of injury in sports. But yes, we all can stand some balance in our life.

As we age, our body can lose its quick reaction time and forget how to catch us when we fall. Adding some simple balance exercises is all you need to do. The next time you do your dumbbell exercises like biceps curls, overhead presses, triceps extensions and other exercises, simply do it standing on one leg.

Also, passing time standing in line can be enhanced by seeing whether you can stand on one leg for one minute without catching yourself. If you think it is too easy, then close your eyes while on one leg, and you will feel the muscles that keep you from falling work.

There are many items to assist with balance training used by athletes, as well as the average person seeking better fitness. Such items are the following:

  • Balance boards

  • Stability balls/bosu balls

  • TRX - Suspension Trainer

  • Wobble boards

  • Agility ladders

  • Jumping or standing on one leg

Some advanced routines you can add to balance training is to place your knees or shins on the balance ball, as in the picture. Then use the regular dumbbell exercises you normally do while standing to challenge your balance further. You also can use the ball as a bench and do your bench press and flyes on it, as well with dumbbells or barbells.

I have used the above training with hockey players and other athletes to challenge them with the same type of balance skills they need when on the ice.

The best thing about this type of program is that it does not need to replace any training you currently are doing. Just supplement it. Adding one-legged exercises and a variety of balance products during your workout will help you prevent the loss of balance that often occurs with becoming sedentary and aging.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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