Imbalance can strike at any moment. Maybe you tip over when you’re standing on one foot and trying to put on your shoe. Or perhaps you’re at the gym performing a unilateral movement like Bulgarian split squats (DOMS, is that you?) and, for the life of you, you can’t do the left side without falling over every single time. Both scenarios are equally annoying, so in this blog, let’s talk about how to improve balance.
How to Improve Balance
1. Do More Unilateral Exercises
A unilateral exercise is anything that targets one side of the body at a time. One example is the previously mentioned Bulgarian split squats. Another is single-arm dumbbell presses.
You might be thinking, “Well, the Bulgarian split squats, I get. But what do presses have to do with this?” Great question. Here’s the thing: Very often, an imbalance is actually due to an imbalance of strength.
In other words, one side of the body can stabilize and support more weight, more efficiently, than the other side of the body. If, for instance, you can effortlessly do overhead kettlebell carries with a 50-pound kettlebell in your right hand, but your left hand is a struggle, then you might have an imbalance in strength and will likely have a difficult time getting from Point A to Point B.
Unilateral exercises are amazing and infuriating all at the same time because they really target the imbalances most of us have… which means they expose them completely and remind us of how much work we have to do. Also, they’re better at targeting smaller muscles and muscle groups that often contribute to balance — or a lack thereof.
Make no mistake about it: Unilateral movements make for powerful balance exercises.
When it comes to balance exercises, few activities will challenge you in the way that yoga does. But why?
Look at it this way. When do you most notice problems with your balance? It’s during slow and controlled movements, right?
Try this: Hop quickly back and forth from one foot to the other. Even someone with terrible balance can probably pull this off.
Now, try marching in place very slowly, bringing one knee toward your chest and gradually releasing it toward the ground before switching to the other side. Now, we’re talking about something very different.
Yoga poses and movements make for great exercises to improve balance because just like our marching example, they’re slow and controlled. Plus, as an added bonus, yoga is awesome for strengthening your core, which you need in literally everything you do – from maxing out your deadlift to sitting up in your computer chair.
Slow and controlled movements + plenty of core work = better balance.
3. Train With a BOSU Ball
You don’t know “difficult” until you’ve used a BOSU ball. This training tool can be applied to a large variety of movements, and bam — you’ve got yourself all knew exercises to improve balance.
A BOSU ball essentially acts as shaky ground, quite literally. Because it’s inflated, it feels a lot less stable than the floor. This means that you’re going to have to work harder to stay stable and balanced. It’s going to have to come from you — not the ground.
For example, try doing push-ups with your hands placed on the BOSU ball instead of the floor. Or, try squatting with both feet (or one foot!) on the ball. Even simply standing on the ball might be a challenge for you, and that’s okay too.
Like we discussed with yoga, your core is going to come into play here big-time. You’re going to have to find new ways — and potentially use new muscles — to be able to properly execute balance exercises using a BOSU ball.
Important note: Safety always comes first. These balance exercises should be challenging but never dangerous. If your wrists or ankles feel noticeably unstable while using a BOSU ball, you might need to work your way up to it a little more slowly.
4. Use Electric Muscle Stimulation to Engage Hard-to-Reach Muscles
As you now know, imbalance can strike due to unequal strength between the left and right sides of your body. And the culprit can sometimes be small, pesky muscles that you didn’t even know you had.
Electric muscle stimulation (EMS) is an excellent way to target these areas. By using specific Hertz ranges, the device can activate very specific muscle fibers, causing them to contract. When these contractions happen, they help increase blood flow, recruit more muscle fibers, increase strength, and improve performance (among other benefits).
The carryover to your balance is probably obvious. Electric muscle stimulation helps you improve the strength — and thus balance — of muscles that you might not otherwise be engaging. When you couple your training with a device like PowerDot, you’re getting a more well-rounded, holistic workout.
The versatility of electric muscle stimulation means that you can implement it at any point — at rest, while you’re mobilizing (more on that in a moment), and even during training. It’s the perfect supplement to your training and outside the gym to help engage even the smaller muscles that contribute to your balance and strength.
5. Mobilize All Day, Every Day
Fine, maybe not all day, but you get the idea.
Picture this: One hip is more mobile than the other. As a result, when you overhead squat with a barbell, your hips are uneven and you turn slightly toward one side.
In this case, the imbalance is due to unequal mobility in your hips.
One hip is more flexible than the other, which is slightly restricted. So, the good hip is taking on more of the work, which is only going to exacerbate the problem further. Your mobility will suffer, your strength will suffer, and your balance will suffer.
The answer, then, is to dedicate more time to mobility from head to toe. And — *drumroll* — when you layer electric muscle stimulation on top of this, the positive impact is amplified. We call that a win.
Learning how to improve balance will require you to address it from multiple angles, but when you do, you’ll be rewarded tenfold.
Ready to take action? Shop our collection today. If you want to learn more, check out our blog post on the science and history of electric muscle stimulation.