Why Balance Exercises Should Be Included In Your Exercise and Rehabilitation Program

Almost all exercises aside from machine based exercises that isolate a particular muscle and require an individual to move a weight through a fixed plane challenge ones balance and proprioception.  As to how much it will challenge ones balance and proprioception will depend largely on what exercise has been selected and a number of other key variables.

Typically we look at balance training as an exercise where an individual will stand on one leg.  Yes, this certainly is an exercise that requires an individual to balance, however there are many others that can also be incorporated.  Physical Therapist Gary Gray sums it up very nicely is his training where balance training should involve taking someones centre of gravity away from their base of support and coming back to the starting point.  This could be done easily in a single leg balance exercise where the individual tries to take their non weight bearing foot as far away to them as possible.  This could involve a reach in the sagittal plane, frontal plane or transverse plane.  Other ways to challenge ones balance in a single leg balance exercise is to use the head or hands as a driver.  If we want to get really tricky with our clients, have them close their eyes to remove the visual input and move their head up and down or left and right to affect the vestibular input.  Below I will go through some of the variables that can be adjusted to challenge ones balance and proprioception.

Variables that can play a role with how much ones balance and proprioception is challenged include:


The type of exercise selected will play a big role in terms of how ones balance and proprioception is challenged.  Exercises where the individual is standing, kneeling, squatting, lunging, stepping up and down or are in 4 point kneel require an individual to balance.  All of these will be different to one another due to the different starting positions, how gravity falls in relation to the body and the movements performed by the individual.


The more unstable the surface, the greater demands this places on one to balance.  This can have both a positive and negative effect.  An example of this could be having the client lunge onto a bosu ball where they have to react to the movement of the ball and perform the lunge.  For those people who do not have the adequate physical attributes to perform this, they may infect find they cannot even perform a lunge because their body is is working so hard to stabilise itself.  Therefore defeating the purpose of the lunge and challenging ones balance and proprioception.  Other useful tools or way to challenge ones balance is to change their footwear, change the surface they train on i.e. carpet, rubber, outdoors to introducing external fitness equipment such as a bosu ball, foam pad etc.

2.  Tools & Accessories such as dumbbells, kettlebells, sand bells, sandbags, TRX rip trainer etc.  All of these different tools can be used to challenge ones balance.  How one holds this, where and what movements are performed can all place different loads on the body and therefore the body has to react to balance  and control the movement.  A great example is a Farmers walk with a Kettlebell.  The individual will be carrying a weight on one side of the body and must counteract this load and perform a walk. An individual who holds a sandbag overhead with a walking lunge will have to react to the changing weight in the bag during the lunge.

4.  Distance.  Playing with the distance one moves through an exercise can play a big role in challenging ones balance.  Take a step down from a bench for example.  The greater the height of the step, the greater the individual has to work to control the step down.

5.  Reps/Sets.  These play a role due to what sort of demand you are placing on the body.  The idea might be to fatigue to body throughout a set and as a result of this, the client will have to work harder to maintain balance as they tire.

6.  Frequency/Speed – both of these can play a role in challenging ones balance.  Faster movements or slower movements will impact each person very differently.  Some people find it easier to control balance with slow movements whereas others with fast movements.

There are many other variables that can play a role in challenging ones balance.  This blog is not meant to exhaust that list, but merely get you thinking about how you can change up your exercises for your clients to challenge and train their balance.

Who Can Benefit From Balance Training?

Everyone can benefit from balance training.  Some of those who are more likely to benefit for different reasons include:

  • Seniors/Elderly.
  • Individuals who are recovering from musculoksleletal injuries such as ankle sprains, ligament injuries in the knees, back pain etc.  

Examples of Balance Exercises

  • Walking forward, walking backwards, carioca
  • Walking with arms swinging in sync and out of sync.
  • Walking with eyes closed, head movements
  • Walking that involves stepping up and over an object, walking along a line
  • Bilateral stance (feet side by side) with head, trunk or arm movements, eyes open/closed, head movements
  • Weight shift transfer from one leg to the other forwards/backwards, side by side
  • Single Leg Balance Reach Exercises
  • Lunging with arm reaches, holding a weight on one side of the body
  • Squatting with movement of arms or holding a weight
  • Step up/Down


Some Links To Some Balance Exercise

Physioroom – http://www.physioroom.com/injuries/supplements/proprioception_exercises1.php

National Institute Ageing – http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/exercise-physical-activity/sample-exercises-balance

NIH Senior Health – http://nihseniorhealth.gov/exerciseandphysicalactivityexercisestotry/balanceexercises/01.html


Research Links

Balance Training To Prevent Fall – http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/balance-training-seems-to-prevent-falls-injuries-in-seniors-201310316825

Balance Training & Ankle Injuries – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC164373/

Osteopath Heath Williams is owner and director of Principle Four Osteopathy.  Principle Four Osteopathy is one of Melbourne City CBD and Docklands leading Osteopathy Clinics.

The Melbourne City CBD clinic is  located at 29 Somerset Place (basement), close to the corner of Elizabeth St and Little Bourke in the Melbourne City CBD. Our premises adjoin the Jon Weller Personal Training Studio, a fully-equipped training space which allows clients to combine their osteopathy treatment with exercise tutorials or specific training programs and rehabilitation.

The Docklands clinic is located at 717 Bourke St (Ground Floor), beneath the Channel 9 building near the walkway from Southern Cross Train Station to Etihad Stadium.  Our premises adjoin Pilates on Bourke, a fully-equipped pilates and yoga training space which allows clients to combine their osteopathy treatment with exercise tutorials, pilates or specific training programs and rehabilitation.

To speak to an Osteopath or book an appointment at Principle Four Osteopathy, please book online or call 03 9670 9290.