Icy sidewalks. Uneven pavement. High heels. Even the non-clumsy among us stumble almost daily. Many people trip all the time, on the treadmill, or over dumbbells at the gym. But because some are constantly working on their balance, it’s no big deal—they can recover without falling.
Staying steady on your feet requires more diligence as the years go by, thanks in part to age-related muscle loss. Muscle holds your joints and bones in place, so if you’re not fighting that battle to keep your muscle mass, you’re looking at a decrease in stability. But thankfully, there are plenty of exercises you can do to work on your balance.
Balance involves your core muscles—the ones surrounding your trunk. But other body parts come into play, too, including your feet and ankles. Your core will keep you upright when you slip on a patch of ice, but if you roll an ankle on rock, a strong core won’t help much. You’ll need strong, stable ankles.
Try the below ultimate core sculpting, balance-building routine. Doing it 2 to 3 times a week or doing a few of the exercises each day will work wonders. Try it as a warm-up or cool-down to your regular workout, or even on its own.
1. Calf Raise
Find an elevated surface like a stair or sturdy bench. Stand on the stair so that your heels are hanging off. Rise up onto the balls of your feet, lifting your heels as high as possible. Hold at the top for 2 seconds, then slowly lower down until your feet are parallel with the floor. That’s one rep; do 15.
Start on your hands and knees, back flat like a table and core tight. Extend your right leg back behind you as you reach your left arm forward. Hold for 2 seconds, then return to start. Repeat with the left leg and right arm. That’s one rep; do 10.
3. Stability Ball Sits
Sit on top of a stability ball with your feet on the ground, and engage your arms and core. Take a deep breath in, then lift your feet off the floor as you exhale and try to stay balanced on the ball. Take your time and practice lifting and lowering your feet until you can hold your balance for 10 seconds.
4. Elevated Plank
Place forearms on a stability ball, fingers interlaced, and extend legs straight behind, supported on toes. Exhale, pulling belly button toward spine, then hold for 30 to 60 seconds, back flat and body in a straight line. Rest 30 seconds and repeat. Do 3 times.
5. Ball Balance
Lie on stability ball, hands and toes on floor. Exhale and pull abs in to stabilize, then raise right arm forward and left leg back. Breathe and hold for 10 seconds, using ab and back muscles to keep ball steady and body in a straight line, then lower. Repeat with opposite arm and leg. Do 5 times on each side. To make it easier: lift arm only for 5 reps, then repeat with opposite leg; switch sides and repeat. To make it harder: hold raised position as you write the alphabet in the air with extended arm; switch sides and repeat.
6. Modified Side Plank
From Plank Pose, lower left knee to mat, bringing ball of left foot to floor and keeping right leg extended. Turn torso to right, bringing weight onto left fingertips and side of right foot. Lift hips and sweep right arm overhead, bringing biceps by right cheek with palm facing down. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths. Repeat on opposite side.
7. Elevated Tree Pose
Step left foot on top of yoga block. Contract abdominals and place right foot on left inner calf. Extend arms overhead. Hold for 10 breaths. Switch sides and repeat. If this is too difficult, do it without the block until your balance improves.
8. Warrior III Core Crunch
Stand with feet together in the middle of your mat. Inhaling, set your gaze on one point and contract abs, shifting weight onto left leg. Exhaling, come into Warrior III, leaning torso forward, hinging at hips, and lifting right leg off mat and arms out to sides at shoulder height (torso and right leg should be parallel to mat) (A). Inhaling, lengthen through arms and right leg. Exhaling, bend left knee and crunch into a tight ball, hugging arms to chest, pulling right knee toward nose, and rounding upper back (B). Inhaling, straighten left leg and return to Warrior III, reaching arms out to sides and right leg behind you. Do 5 to 15 reps. Switch sides and repeat.