9 Balance and Stability Exercises to Improve Your Coordination and Strength

Do this workout to feel more balanced and gain control over your footing.

Why Is Balance Exercise Important?

Balance is one of the four kinds of exercise, along with strength, endurance, and flexibility, that can improve your health. Balance training can stabilize us, even out the body, and help prevent falls, which is especially important as we age.

One 2015 study found that balance training can strengthen our ability to control our balance, which leads to fewer falls, reduced fear of falling, increased walking speed, and improved physical function.

Balance training benefits the mind too. A 2017 study found that 12 weeks of balance training improved memory and spatial cognition among healthy adults.

But don't assume these moves are just for older adults—we need balance for everything we do, like walking and going up and down stairs.

This workout is strength training for your core and legs and can be very challenging. "Your core is the foundation of all movements, especially in stabilization work," Duana Soeda Stinson (shown in the workout video, @damnduana), a NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist and Pilates instructor based in New York City told Health.

To get your middle involved in this routine, created for Health by Stinson, breathe deeply through the ups and downs of each move. And to get your backside to light up, make sure you're grounding down through the big toe, pinky toe, and heel of the foot said Stinson.

Here are the moves that'll help you find your footing and stay there—no matter what aims to throw you off balance. You will need a tennis or lacrosse ball, a Pilates glider, or a small towel. Do each exercise below in order.

Roll Feet

When you have problems with your feet, it affects the whole body, like knee and back pain. This is why the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society recommends exercising your feet as often as you can.

  • Grab a tennis or lacrosse ball. Focusing on the arch, roll the ball from your big toe to your heel and back, then from the middle toe to the heel and back, then from the pinky toe to the heel and back. Pause wherever you feel a tight spot.
  • Next, anchor your heel to the ground, and with the ball under the ball of the foot, move your foot like a windshield wiper, rolling side-to-side.
  • Lastly, with the ball at the arch of the foot, curl your toes over the top of the ball to feel a stretch through the foot.
  • Do this for two minutes on each foot to loosen them up and get them ready to engage.

Chair Pose With Heel Raise + Spine Stabilization

A 2013 study published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies showed that the chair pose in yoga is one of the most effective movements for engaging the ankle, knee, and hip at the same time. This exercise is a variation of the chair pose.

  • Stand with your feet together. Place a tennis or lacrosse ball between your ankles to keep your feet parallel, and engage the inner thighs.
  • Lift your arms in front of you to shoulder height. Send the hips back into a shallow squat position.
  • Lift your heels, pause, and then lower them back down. Repeat this four to eight times.
  • Holding the heels up, lift the arms straight up overhead with your biceps by your ears, pause, and then lower the arms back down to shoulder height. Repeat four to eight times.

Single-Leg Standing Clamshells + Kickback

A small study of 13 males published in Clinical Biomechanics in 2014 looked at how effective side-lying clamshells and hip abduction exercises were at activating the gluteus and hip flexors, and clamshells were more efficient.

  • Stand on your left leg, knee soft. Bend the right leg and place a tennis or lacrosse ball behind the right knee, squeezing it, so it doesn't fall.
  • Lift the right knee up and out to the side, externally rotating your right hip for a clamshell. Then lower back down. Repeat four to eight times.
  • Next, still standing on the left foot and squeezing the ball, drive your right heel straight back for a kickback. Maintain a neutral spine with the core engaged. Return the knees together. Repeat four to eight times.
  • Do both moves on the other side.

Figure 4 to Straight Leg Pulse

A standing figure four challenges your balance and really opens up the hips. Studies show that exercises that reduce the base of support (in this case, to one leg) and change the height of the center of gravity are effective in balance training. You'll get both in this exercise. The added mini squat stretches the hamstring, and the leg lift challenges your core.

  • Stand on your left leg and place the right ankle over the left thigh into a figure four position.
  • Send the hips down and back, hinging only slightly forward (think: single-leg squat). Drive through the left foot to stand back up. Repeat four to eight times.
  • Then, still standing on the left leg, straighten the right leg out in front, hinging slightly at the hip.
  • Lift and lower the right leg a couple of inches for a pulse, using the core to help lift the leg. Repeat four to eight times.
  • Repeat both moves on the other side.

Hip Mobility to Extension

Here's another exercise to intensely open up the hip through hip abductor motion and engage the glutes. In a review of nearly 60 research articles, researchers found that hip abductor strength is critical for balance and mobility function, regardless of age.

The glutes of the standing leg are fired up during the mobility movement, then the glutes of the extended leg are used during the leg lift.

  • Stand on your left leg and pull the right knee in toward the chest, standing tall with your core engaged and left glute activated.
  • Make a circle with the right knee, taking it out to the side, back, and then forward again. Repeat for eight reps.
  • Then, still standing on your left leg, extend the right leg behind you, hold it straight, and pulse it up and down a couple of inches, using the right glute to lift for eight reps.
  • Repeat both moves on the other side.

Side Kick

The side kick is a movement used in many martial arts, including Tai Chi. This movement is great for developing balance. During each movement, different body parts take turns playing the role of stabilizer and mover, allowing smooth movements to be executed without compromising balance and stability.

  • Stand on your right leg with the toes turned slightly outward and leaning slightly to the right.
  • Drive your left knee up toward your chest, then extend the knee to kick the heel straight out to the side. Pull the knee back in, then lower the leg.
  • Repeat five times. Then switch sides.

Adduction Glider With Heel Raise

Adduction means to bring back to the center of the body. This exercise targets the hip adductor muscles. Research has found that problems with balance and functionality in older adults can be linked to a decline in muscle strength of hip abductors.

  • Stand on the left foot with the right foot placed on a glider or towel, feet hip-width apart.
  • Send hips back with the left knee pointing forward as you drive the right leg straight out to the side.
  • Next, raise the left heel, and then drive through the ball of the foot as you stand up and bring the glider back to the center.
  • Make sure the left knee points forward and stays over the toes the entire time. Lower your heel back down to reset.
  • Repeat for four to eight reps. Then switch sides.

Reverse Glider Lunge With Heel Raise

The split squat or lunge is an exercise that increases hip and knee extensor muscle strength. This exercise adds a heel raise for an additional balance challenge.

  • Stand on the left foot with the right foot placed on a glider or towel, feet hip-width apart.
  • Slowly glide the right leg straight back, keeping the knee straight and bending the left knee so it stacks over the ankle.
  • Next, raise the left heel, and then drive through the ball of the foot as you stand up and bring the glider forward. Lower heel to reset.
  • Repeat for four to eight reps. Then switch sides.

Roll Down to Side Plank to Pike

An effective balance training program should include exercises that include static and dynamic stability postures, changes in the base of support, variations in the height of the center of gravity, and different standing surfaces. This exercise brings in most of those criteria. The plank and side plank positions are static body balancing and muscle-strengthening exercises. The pike is a dynamic but destabilizing force on the body, which is excellent for balance recovery.

  • With your feet on gliders or towels, stand about hip-width apart. Place the hands on the floor in front of the feet, bending the knees softly if needed.
  • Engaging the abs and keeping your torso in a straight line, drive the feet back into a plank position, with the shoulders over the hands and the back and hips aligned.
  • Rotate the heels and torso to the left (toes pointing right) as you lift your right arm toward the ceiling to form a side plank position.
  • Rotate back to the center to come to a regular plank.
  • Then, pull the belly button up toward the spine to lift the hips and drive the feet back up toward your hands. (If this feels too hard, bend your knees and pull them in toward your hands.)
  • Repeat, this time rotating your heels and torso to the right and lifting the left arm. Continue alternating for four reps on each side.

A Quick Review

Balance is a key factor in our health. As we age, we lose balance, which leads to muscle weakness as well as the threat of injuries from falls. Fortunately, you can build up balance by following a balance training program. The exercises in this workout are designed to build up your balance and build muscular strength.

Was this page helpful?
Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/four-types-exercise-can-improve-your-health-and-physical-ability

  2. Halvarsson A, Dohrn IM, Ståhle A. Taking balance training for older adults one step further: the rationale for and a description of a proven balance training programme. Clin Rehabil. 2015 May;29(5):417-25. doi: 10.1177/0269215514546770. Epub 2014 Sep 8.

  3. Rogge, AK., Röder, B., Zech, A. et al. Balance training improves memory and spatial cognition in healthy adults. Sci Rep 7, 5661 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-06071-9

  4. https://www.aofas.org/news/press-releases/2019/04/16/five-tips-for-healthy-feet

  5. Wang MY, Yu SSY, Hashish R, et al. The biomechanical demands of standing yoga poses in seniors: The Yoga empowers seniors study (YESS)BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013;13(1):8. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-8

  6. Sidorkewicz N, Cambridge EDJ, McGill SM. Examining the effects of altering hip orientation on gluteus medius and tensor fascae latae interplay during common non-weight-bearing hip rehabilitation exercisesClinical Biomechanics. 2014;29(9):971-976. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-0019.21

  7. Dunsky A. The effect of balance and coordination exercises on quality of life in older adults: a mini-reviewFront Aging Neurosci. 2019;0. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2019.00318

  8. https://www.yogaflavoredlife.com/standing-figure-4-pose/

  9. Lanza MB, Arbuco B, Ryan AS, Shipper AG, Gray VL, Addison O. Systematic Review of the Importance of Hip Muscle Strength, Activation, and Structure in Balance and Mobility Tasks. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2022 Aug;103(8):1651-1662. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2021.12.008.

  10. Dunsky A. The effect of balance and coordination exercises on quality of life in older adults: a mini-reviewFront Aging Neurosci. 2019;0. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2019.00318

  11. Porto JM, Freire Júnior RC, Bocarde L, Fernandes JA, Marques NR, Rodrigues NC, de Abreu DCC. Contribution of hip abductor-adductor muscles on static and dynamic balance of community-dwelling older adults. Aging Clin Exp Res. 2019 May;31(5):621-627. doi: 10.1007/s40520-018-1025-7. Epub 2018 Sep 4.

  12. Marchetti PH, Guiselini MA, da Silva JJ, Tucker R, Behm DG, Brown LE. Balance and Lower Limb Muscle Activation between In-Line and Traditional Lunge Exercises. J Hum Kinet. 2018 Jun 13;62:15-22. doi: 10.1515/hukin-2017-0174.

  13. Badau D, Badau A, Manolache G, Ene MI, Neofit A, Grosu VT, Tudor V, Sasu R, Moraru R, Moraru L. The Motor Impact of the Static Balance in the Up Plank Position on Three Different Balls in Physical Activities of Physical Education Students. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Feb 19;18(4):2043. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18042043.

Related Articles