Add This Balance-Building Workout to Your Repertoire To Strengthen Both Your Body and Mind
Balance can be like the canary in the coal mine of overall health. Because it is such a complex skill involving the coordination of multiple musculoskeletal, nervous, and cognitive systems, good balance means your body is doing a lot of things right—which is why it’s a technique you might actively want to hone by doing a workout for balance.
“You’re really looking at the body’s overall ability to function and coordinate its activity,” family physician Danine Fruge, MD, medical director at Pritikin Longevity Center, previously told Well+Good about the link between balance and longevity.
Why is balance so complicated?
“Keeping your balance requires more complicated connections than a 60-person family,” internal medicine physician Michael Roizen, MD, author of The Great Age Reboot, previously told Well+Good about balance. “You have sensors throughout your limbs that interact with position sensors in your ears and others in your eyes, all of which are integrated in an area in the back of your brain called your cerebellum and in motor nerves that send messages to all your skeletal muscles to keep you upright.”
“Keeping your balance requires more complicated connections than a 60-person family.” —Michael Roizen, MD
Beyond that, you also have to have the muscular strength and control to execute those instructions.
So when you do a workout for balance, you’re working to strengthen both your body and mind. Generally, repetition can build muscle memory and strengthen connections in your brain, including those responsible for coordinating balance. So expect a workout for balance to involve doing the same wobble-inducing moves multiple times.
What muscles does a balance workout work?
1. The core
In terms of muscles you can actively strengthen for balance, the core is key.
“Our balance comes from our core,” certified fitness trainer Katie Austin previously told Well+Good about ways to improve balance. “Your core entails the central part of your body, including your pelvis, lower back, hips, and stomach. When we train our core muscles, they help the other muscles work cohesively and in harmony, which leads to better balance and stability.”
2. Feet and ankles
You might not think of your feet and ankles as strength powerhouses, but the small stabilizers at the base of your body put in a lot of work in keeping you upright. Creating solid strength in your feet and ankles can stabilize your body from the ground up.
3. The muscles surrounding major joints like the hips
Joints are the point at which your balance gets tested, so making sure they have all the backup they need in the muscles that support them is critical for balance. For example, hip joints help keep you standing upright, so to create stable hip joints, you want to work on your glutes, inner thighs, and core.
“We can work our balance and our stability simply by building more strength in the muscles that surround those joints,” says Ben Lauder-Dykes, a Fhitting Room trainer, in a new 20-minute kettlebell-based workout for balance he created for Well+Good’s Trainer of the Month Club.
Lauder-Dykes also points out that one side of our bodies may be more stable than the other, so in a workout for balance, expect moves that you do one side at a time to expose and improve on those weaknesses.
“We often have one side that’s better at creating stability, and one side that’s better at creating power,” Lauder-Dykes says. “We don’t necessarily need them to be exactly the same, but we want them to be similar in their capabilities.”
Try this 20-minute workout for balance using a kettlebell
Regularly doing a workout for balance can help to improve your overall quality of life. “Balance is not only important when we’re working out, it’s also essential in our day-to-day lives,” Lauder-Dykes says. “Working on our balance throughout this workout is going to help to improve how your hips, shoulders, and arms move so you can make the most of every second of your day.”
His 20-minute kettlebell workout for balance will test and build your balance by taking you through multiple variations of exercises that build your core and stabilizer muscles. For example, a lateral lunge will ensure that you’re supporting your hips in 360 degrees, and adding a pulse will “help us to really work the inside muscle of the thigh and the outside muscle of the glute,” Lauder-Dykes says. “These are gonna help us when we’re doing these lateral movements to create stability in the hip and the knee.”
Later, a kickstand deadlift will challenge your hamstring strength, and then become even more of a feat when it progresses to a single leg deadlift. Shoulder taps, knee raises, and more round out the core portion, too.
“Finding balance is not necessarily about one specific part of your body,” Lauder-Dykes says. “It’s about being able to organize all different parts of your body so we can get our center of mass over a specific point and the more successfully that we can do that, the more successful we’ll be able to move in different ways, shapes, and positions without falling over.”
Ready to put your balance to the test? Grab a kettlebell and get ready to sweat, focus, and have fun.