Much of the focus in fitness these days is on aesthetics. But here's the issue: You are an active individual who needs strong spinal erectors (the muscle group that supports your spinal column) and a steady core and lower lumbar region to go about your daily life, not just look good. Performing balance exercises builds strength in these crucial regions.
In the fitness industry, we talk about "proprioception," which is the feedback loop between your body and brain. When you step onto a balance disk, you are training your brain to react and fire at an increased rate in order to make adjustments to your body's position. This may seem like it just strengthens your core, however, your brain is learning to inform your body that it has to re-stabilize and hold a steady position due to the unstable surface, thus improving your balance.
Balance training also helps increase your overall fitness level by creating greater symmetry within your hip region, which will have you feeling stronger in your next run or your cardio class, and by increasing stability and strength along your spine and core, which helps support and encourage better form during your workouts and daily activities.
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Here are a few balance exercises to get you started. Add them to your current fitness routine, or do them at a separate workout.
How it works: Perform each exercise for 30 seconds in order, doing the first four exercises on both sides.
You'll need: Balance disk or aero pad, Bosu ball
Stand tall with right foot on the balance disk or aero pad. Bend left knee in front of you and extend arms overhead. Brace core and kick left leg back as you simultaneously hinge forward at hips until torso is parallel to the floor, reaching arms down toward right foot. Return to starting position. Switch legs to complete set.
2. Rockin' the Cradle
Get in a lunge stance with right foot in front and left toe on top of the Bosu ball. Lower hips to floor until right knee forms a 90-degree angle. Quickly extend hips and push right foot off the floor approximately three inches and slightly rock all weight back to left leg. Return to starting position. Switch legs to complete set.
3. Switch Kick
Stand tall with right foot placed on the balance disk or aero pad. Bend left knee in front of you and extend arms to out to sides. Brace core and perform a front kick with left leg. As soon as left foot completes the kick, slightly hinge forward at hips and swing left leg under body to perform a back kick. Continue alternating. Switch legs to complete set.
Stand tall with right foot placed on the balance disk or aero pad. Bend left knee in front of you and extend arms to out to sides. Brace core and lean forward at hips, extending left leg behind you until torso and leg are completely parallel with the the floor. Pause and lower arms down in front of body with hands pointed to floor. Contract shoulder blades and raise arms back to sides. Continue performing lateral raises with leg raised. Switch legs to complete set.
5. Around the World
Place the Bosu ball with the flat part facing upward. Get in a pushup position with hands resting firmly on top of the Bosu at the edges. (Do not hold sides or let fingers hang off the top.) Brace core and take a large step to the side with right foot. As soon as right foot makes contact with the floor, step to the right with left leg. Continue until you complete an entire circle. Then reverse direction. Continue, alternating directions.