Workout of the Week: Bodyweight Moves for Better Balance

June 10, 2015 Updated: August 17, 2015

Whether you are constantly on the go, traveling, or just have not found the time to get to the gym, this is the workout for you.

The exercises in this workout are functional bodyweight exercises. They strengthen your body in ways that help you move in daily life, rather than just training one body part as you would if you used a machine.

Machines isolate muscles and can act as a crutch. By not using them them, your body has a chance to improve reflexive stability, mobility, strength, balance, and agility all at the same time. With improved body awareness you can reduce your chance of injury.

Bodyweight exercises strengthen your body in ways that help you move in daily life.

Plank Elbows to Hands

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To execute the plank properly, you must hold your entire core strong. The added push of the elbows to hands will strengthen the upper body while you simultaneously work to stabilize the rest.

  • Begin in a plank on your forearms. Elbows should be right under the shoulders.
  • Make sure to keep your body in one line with abdominals and glutes engaged.
  • Make sure you don’t let the body sway or let the lower back drop toward the floor.
  • Press up onto one hand and then the other to come up into a full plank on both hands.
  • Then lower back down to one forearm and then the other to finish in the starting position.
  • Repeat 10 times, alternating the hand you begin with.

Single-Leg Bridge With Outward Rotation

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The single-leg bridge will strengthen the gluteal muscles. When you move your leg away from the midline of the body (abduction), you will stretch the inner thigh muscles (adductors) as well as strengthen the body’s ability to resist rotational forces.

  • Begin by lying on your back with arms down by your sides.
  • Bend your right knee and place the foot so it’s wider than hip width. Point the toes slightly outward.
  • Pull your left knee into your chest with one or both arms.
  • Press your right hip up off the floor about 30 degrees while keeping the torso straight.
  • Next, let go of the left leg and press the foot up toward the ceiling. You can keep the left knee bent to modify the exercise.
  • Open the left leg out to the side while maintaining stability on the right side of your body. The right hip should not change position.
  • Then return the left leg back over the midline.
  • Repeat moving the left leg out to your side and then back toward the ceiling four to six times.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Lunge to Single-Leg Stance

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This exercise will improve dynamic balance, which is the ability to stabilize and react to outside forces, on one leg.

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Lift the right leg and bend it 90 degrees at the hip and knee. This is your single-leg stance.
  • Step your right leg back into a lunge position so that both knees are at 90-degree angles.
  • Push off your right leg and bring it right back up to the single-leg stance without touching the floor.
  • Perform 10 well on this side and then repeat on the other side.

Pistol Squats

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This exercise can help eliminate differences between the right and left sides of the body. It is a difficult exercise, so you may need to try some of the progressions first before completing the full pistol.

  • Stand with arms extended out in front to help maintain balance.
  • Balance on one leg with opposite leg extended straight out and the leg as high as possible.
  • Squat down as far as possible while keeping the opposite leg elevated off of floor. Make sure the knee of the supporting leg stays in line with the toes rather than collapsing inward.
  • Press down into the supporting leg to raise the body back up to original position until the knee and hip of the supporting leg is straight.
  • Repeat as many pistol squats as you can perform well and then repeat on the other leg.

Progressions to work up to full pistol squat:

  • Prop the leg that is up in the air on a box for added support.
  • Hold onto a bench, doorway, pole, or suspension cable for support.
  • Start and end from a seated position on a bench.

Squat Jumps

This is an explosive exercise that requires control upon landing.

  • Stand with feet about hip distance apart.
  • Send your hips back to a squat position with the back straight.
  • Immediately jump upward off the floor and reach the arms up to the sky.
  • Control your landing by passing through the toe, ball, and then heel of the foot to finish in the starting squat position.
  • This landing is your preparation for the next jump, so rebound right back up in the air.
  • Perform 10 jumps.

Ashley Whitson is an ACE-certified personal trainer, Pilates-certified instructor, pre- and postnatal exercise specialist, Functional Movement Systems professional, Neurokinetic Therapy practitioner, and professional dancer in New York. For more information, visit