Balance training is critical to reducing your risk of a fall. When you modify your balance stance, it challenges and improves your balance. In the video below I walk you through foot positioning tips that will improve your balance. I demonstrate how to progress from a parallel stance to staggered stance, and eventually to a tandem stance.
Improve Your Balance
I often tell my clients that improving their balance is like learning to surf (without the cold and wet part). Think of the surface under your feet is an imaginary surfboard. At the beginning, you want to avoid falling off your surfboard while placing your feet in different positions. As you learn to handle the little waves, gradually increase the challenge and ride the bigger waves.
This blog covers in detail how to modify your foot position gradually and safely while still having fun. This knowledge will allow you to safely challenge yourself with your standing balance exercises and, over time, improve your balance.
Table of Contents
- Foundational Stance
- Parallel Feet Stance
- Staggered Feet Stance
- Tandem Stance
- Stable and Unstable Surfaces
- Toe Touch Pose
- Single Leg Pose
- Balance Exercises for Fall Prevention
We will start your exercise from the basic foundational balance pose. In this pose:
- You have your two feet hip-width apart.
- Feet are parallel to one another. This means that if you follow a straight line, your toes and your heels are equidistant apart.
That is a stable and solid foundational balance stance.
The parallel feet balance stance is a good foundational pose for any of your exercises, whether it is a bicep curl, an overhead press, or getting up and down from a chair.
To improve your balance, you want to challenge your base of support.
- Start with your feet parallel to one another.
- Gradually bring them closer together.
- The next day when you practice your balance exercises, bring your toes and heels a centimetre closer than the day before.
When you make micro-changes to your balance pose, you do not have to move both feet at the same time. You might decide that you feel a lot more stable moving one foot at a time.
- Shift the right foot, toe and heel, and try your balance pose again.
- If you feel you need another challenge, then shift the left foot in a bit closer.
I encourage you to always have your feet straight — not pigeon-toed or pointing out.
Gradually, day-by-day or week-by-week, depending on how frequently you work on your balance and on your lower body strength and flexibility, bring your feet as absolutely close together as your anatomy allows.
Work your balance with a very narrow base. Keep your feet parallel to one another.
From this parallel position, you want to work towards a staggered feet balance stance.
Bring your feet back to a comfortable distance apart.
In a staggered stance, you take a step forward (or backwards) with one foot and hold that new balance stance. Now your feet are in a staggered position.
Make sure that you are comfortable and stable in this balance stance. Once you are comfortable, you are ready to make your next move and further challenge your balance.
Once again (like the parallel stance above) you want to, over time, narrow your base of support.
- Bring the front heel then toe in until gradually the feet get closer and closer.
- You might not feel comfortable yet with both feet on a line, like a tight rope walker.
- If that is the case, start to slide that front foot back ever so slightly.
- And back some more.
I find with most of my clients that I can get them to the position where their heel is just about in line and on the same plane as their big toe. At that point, they feel comfortable enough to move onto the line where heel and toe are in a straight line.
Exercise Recommendations for Osteoporosis
Exercise is an essential ingredient to bone health. If you have osteoporosis, therapeutic exercise needs to be part of your osteoporosis treatment program.
But what exercises should you do and which ones should you avoid? What exercises build bone and which ones reduce your chance of a fracture? Is Yoga good for your bones? Who should you trust when it comes to exercises for osteoporosis?
A great resource on exercise and osteoporosis is my free, seven day email course called Exercise Recommendations for Osteoporosis. After you provide your email address, you will receive seven consecutive online educational videos on bone health — one lesson each day. You can look at the videos at anytime and as often as you like.
- Can exercise reverse osteoporosis?
- Stop the stoop — how to avoid kyphosis and rounded shoulders.
- Key components of an osteoporosis exercise program.
- Key principles of bone building.
- Exercises you should avoid if you have osteoporosis.
- Yoga and osteoporosis — should you practice yoga if you have osteoporosis?
- Core strength and osteoporosis — why is core strength important if you have osteoporosis?
Enter your email address and I will start you on this free course. I do not SPAM or share your email address (or any information) with third parties. You can unsubscribe from my mail list at any time.
The tandem stance balance position is a straight line balance stance. It is sometimes known as the heel to toe balance exercise.
In the tandem stance balance exercise, you position the heel of your lead foot such that it grazes the toe of the back foot.
The tandem balance stance is quite challenging and often used in balance testing. This is a really good objective to reach before you progress to standing on one foot.
So far, we have been doing the balance poses on a fairly stable surface. Stable surfaces include your kitchen floor, bathroom tiles, and hardwood floors.
A softer surface (such as a yoga mat) changes everything regarding balance stance. As you gain confidence in your balance, consider doing your balance exercises on a softer surface. I describe how to do this in the section, below, on single leg balance pose.
Let’s move to a toe touch balance stance.
People with arthritis of the big toe find that the toe touch balance pose is uncomfortable because they have to bend their toe to get into this pose. If this is the case, they might find it more comfortable to use a half foam roller to elevate and support the foot. This allows your big toe to be off the edge and avoid the toe bend.
Make sure that you keep your pelvis nice and level when you do this pose.
Once you have mastered these poses, you can progress to a single leg balance stance in different positions. You can also change the surface that you’re standing on and repeat the earlier balance stances.
A yoga mat is a good soft surface. Start with two folds of the yoga mat. In the video, I have about eight folds of this yoga mat.
- Go through the entire sequence standing on the folded mat.
- When you do the staggered balance stance, start with one foot.
- Use either the front foot or the back foot on an unstable surface.
- This kind of change makes the exercise exciting again.
Half foam rollers are also a nice tool to have and allow you to progress through your balance poses. You will see these used in the athletic level of the Exercise for Better Bones program.
Use your foam roller with the round side facing up. I find it a little bit more challenging than having it the opposite way. It is a real challenge with that rocking from side to side.
I encourage you to determine your level of balance and identify the appropriate balance training exercises. A good place to start is my Balance and Fall Prevention Exercise Workouts available on Amazon Prime and Vimeo.
That covers a number of balance stance variations you can do to challenge and improve your balance. As always, take your time and improve at a pace that you find comfortable and safe.
I hope you have a lot of fun and feel the strength and stability that improving your balance provides.
Balance Exercises for Seniors Guidelines
For more information, check out my Balance Exercises for Seniors guidelines.