5 Balance Exercises to Promote Efficiency and Fight Injury

Better single-leg stability can address imbalances, while helping you pick up speed.

While it may not be the focus of your typical strength-training plan, balance is integral to running. “The running motion effectively involves being airborne or balancing on one leg with each stride,” Raj Hathiramani, certified running coach at Mile High Run Club in New York City, tells Runner’s World. “A lack of stability in your running form will cause your body to work harder and naturally compensate by shifting weight to one side, often leading to injury as a result,” he says.

Feeling a little wobbly? The good news is that you can develop and improve your balance with proper training. Many balance exercises—including those in Hathiramani’s circuit below—increase your single-leg stability while strengthening key running muscles, including the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. “In particular, single-leg squats are one of the best exercises to prevent the most common running injury, patellofemoral pain syndrome, a.k.a. runner’s knee,” Hathiramani says.

To keep your form in check, Hathiramani recommends performing balance exercises in front of a mirror. However, once you get to the single-leg hold, he challenges you to remove all visual cues. “While balancing on one leg sounds easy, try doing it with your eyes closed,” he says.

How to use this list: Perform each exercise below for the number of reps listed, resting for 15 seconds between exercises and 1 minute in between sets. Repeat the full circuit a total of 3 times.

Each move is demonstrated by Hathiramani in the video above so you can master the proper form. An exercise mat is recommended.

Single-Leg Squat With Reach

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, shoulders back, and chest tall. Lift right foot off ground, bending knee so foot is behind you, and shift weight to left leg. Maintaining a neutral spine, push hips back and down and bend left knee. As you lower into a one-legged squat, reach right fingertips toward the ground. Push through left foot to return to a single-leg standing position. Repeat for 10 reps. Then switch sides.

Reverse Lunge to Knee Drive

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, shoulders down and back, arms at sides. Step right foot back and bend both knees 90 degrees to lower into a lunge position. Push off right foot and, as you come to a single-leg standing position on left leg, simultaneously drive right knee and left elbow forward and up. Pause, balancing on left leg. Repeat for 10 reps. Then switch side.

Lateral Bound

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, shoulders down and back, arms at sides. Shift weight into left leg, raise right knee to hip level, and bend left elbow. Push off left foot and jump to the right, switching arms as you land on right foot and lifting left knee to hip level. Pause, then jump to the left, switching arms as you land on left foot and lift right knee to hip level. Continue alternating sides for a total of 20 reps (10 per side).

Squat to Calf Raise

Stand with feet just wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed slightly out, arms at sides. Send hips back and down and bend knees to lower into a squat. At the same time, extend arms in front of chest. Lower arms back to side as you drive through feet to stand back up, immediately lifting heels so you come to the balls of your feet for a calf raise. Pause with both heels lifted before lowering into the next squat. Do 10 reps.

Single-Leg Hold With Eyes Closed

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, shoulders back and down, arms at sides. Shift weight into left leg and raise right knee to hip level. Close eyes and hold the single-leg balance for 30 seconds. Then repeat on the other side.

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