This is kind of a fun one: Can you stand on one leg? Not only stand on one leg and have that leg support you, but also lift the opposite leg up to 90 degrees (like the pictures shows). It should be done with shoes off, though (unlike the picture).
Once in this position, can you:
- Stay up tall?
- Not let your leg drop or brace against the stance leg
- Not move your hips/trunk?
- Keep your body “quiet” with only a little ankle/foot movement?
- All while maintaining for 10 seconds?
Be honest with yourself. Do you:
- Have to take a small hop?
- Bend your knee?
- Lean your body to the side or forward?
- Wave your arms?
- Hold your breath?
If so, you likely have some stability limitations. It is not suffice to say, “I have bad balance.” Especially if there is a difference from side to side. Asymmetries almost always matter, as they can lead to compensation(s). As far as the need to stand on one leg…we do that with each step we take. If you want to do anything more difficult than simple walking, it would make sense to be more competent with this.
Now, when breaking down this movement pattern, we want to look at some methods to challenge your stability at lower levels. Proficiency in lower level activities can provide you the foundation to advance to more difficult tasks. Starting the the quadruped or “hands and knees” position: Try to just lift one leg back. Then the other. You still have 3 points of contact (both hands and the opposite knee) in which to stabilize and they are shoulder-width apart. Next try to lift the opposite arm and opposite leg like the picture shows. Make sure to maintain good spinal aligment without arching your low back or rotating the trunk.
Once this becomes easy, try moving from this position with a wide base of support to a more upright position. We learned to move from crawling-to kneeling-to what we call “half-kneeling” as an infant learning to go from crawling to standing. Ultimately, this gives us a greater functional position. If you look at the picture, this is the same position as the original movement pattern, but your knee is on the ground instead of your foot AND you are able to have your front foot on the ground for added support. Place a pillow or something under your knee if needed to help decrease pressure on the knee. Once you can obtain this position easily, try to narrow your base by putting your foot directly in front of your knee. This is definitely more difficult. To advance that even further, begin to separate your trunk from your lower body by rotating to the side as the picture to the left shows. Only move onto this if you are able to master narrowed base of support half kneeling, while avoiding bending forward or leaning. Also, make sure to stay upright throughout both actvities.
One exercise to consider, if any of the above tasks seem challenging, is the single leg bridge. This is a great way to introduce single leg strength and stability. Now, there are a ton of variations with this (like anything). I want to offer the thought of lifting your butt up off the floor with both legs, then straighten one leg out. If this is easy, you may want to perform the entire movement of raising and lowering with just one leg. Some guidelines that will be important:
- Avoid arching your back to lift your butt
- Squeeze your butt first, prior to lifting up off the ground to engage your butt/hips first
- Push through your heel to make sure your butt/hips do the work, not your hamstrings
As always, re-check to determine if any of this helped you execute the original movement pattern of standing on one leg. Now, I want to re-iterate the importance of being good at self-assessment of how you are executing all of the movements and tasks I have laid out…not just in this post, but in all that you do. Always remember that quality matters and there is no way to give you wholly individualized treatment or exercise ideas in an online format. However, if you are good at applying the principles I have attempted to lay out, you can find great success in your ability to recapture movements, activities, and whatever life-given endeavors you wish. Assess your comprehensive movement quality. Break it down. Find the deficits. Work to improve those deficits. Reassess your overall movement quality. Move better. Move frequently. Live life!