Improving Your Balance

Improving Balance
Balance is an essential part of sports performance. It is one part of proprioception, and it helps to keep your muscles working efficiently, and to improve your strength, power, and endurance.

How It Works

Balancing is often referred to as proprioception in the rehab environment. This is not exactly true. Proprioception is a combination of joint position sense, body awareness, and neuromuscular control. Balancing is part of proprioception, and is the easiest way to improve this important function.

When you have an injury, the proprioceptors in the joints are disrupted. In order to improve their communication with the muscles, you must challenge them to adapt to specific stresses. This is where the balancing exercises come in.

Start Out Simple

Single Leg Stance

The simplest of balancing exercises is the single leg stance. It is exactly as it simply stand on one foot for a certain amount of time. I have my patients start out with 20 seconds, and then progress all the way up to 1 minute as they become more comfortable.

The single leg stance is a great way to start working on your proprioception and balance after an injury, especially an ankle, foot, or knee injury. Once you master this exercise, it is time to challenge the body and joints even more.

Unstable Surfaces

Unstable Surface Balance

There are several ways to progress balancing exercises.

The first way that I use with my patients is to have them standing on an unstable surface. What I use in the clinic is an Airex Balance Pad. This is really just a fancy piece of foam about 2 inches thick.

At home, you can stand on a pillow or cushion and that works just as well.

If you try this, you will quickly see that the unstable surface is significantly more difficult than standing on the floor. It allows your foot to move in many different directions, and your body has to adapt to this, and the muscles must work harder in order to keep the ankle and leg stable.

Once you can easily balance on an unstable surface for 1 minute at a time, you are ready to move to another harder challenge...

Adding Body Movements

Sideways ReachThe next way to progress balancing exercises is to add body movements while you are in a single leg stance. You can move your arms or legs, or both.

As you move, you change your center of gravity, and rotate your hips and trunk. This forces your muscles in the foot, ankle, and leg to adapt to the different stresses to keep your balance. I like to have patients start with a simple sideways or backwards reach with their other leg.

The possibilities for challenges like this are endless. You can perform sports moves, like the pitching motion, while in a single leg stance. Or you can play catch with a basketball, football, or baseball while balancing on one leg. All of these activities force your body to adapt, and they work to improve your proprioception and balance.
Ball Reach

Combine Both

For even harder exercises, combine body movements with unstable surfaces. Try balancing on a cushion while performing a sideways reach with your other leg. Or play catch while standing on a cushion. Remember, only progress your exercises after you can effectively perform the easier exercises.


Any good sports injury rehabilitation program must include some type of balancing exercises in order to improve your proprioception and restore the communication between the muscles and the joints. You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to challenging your body with balancing exercises.

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