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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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April 04, 2011

WOW: Simple Balance Progression

By Mark Sisson
24 Comments

Complete for each leg:

1-minute Single Leg Balance
6 Single Leg Balancing Leg Sweeps
30 seconds Single Leg Balance w/Eyes Closed

How-to:

Warmup: None necessary.

Do you enjoy ankle sprains? Are you looking forward to taking a fall late in life and ending up with a fractured hip? Does feeling stable on your feet in any situation not interest you? Then stop reading.

For everyone else who wants to be stable and avoid ankle sprains and nasty falls, read on. Balance is crucial for everyday living, weight training, climbing, running, or even just walking around. Our bodies are constantly shifting positions unbeknownst to our conscious selves, and the better our balance during acute controlled instability, the better we’re able to sally forth and make the most of this life without worrying about tripping. So – I’ve got a simple single leg balance progression for you to work on today.

Remove your shoes and find an even surface to stand on. Put your hands on your hips.

“Grab” the floor with your foot. Think especially about creating a stable triangulated base between your small toe, your big toe, and your heel. Lift the other foot off the ground and keep that leg mostly straight. Put it either in front or in back of you – whichever feels less stable.

1. Keep it up until you’re able to stand for one minute without putting your other foot down or removing your hands from your hips.

2. Point the off foot forward, then slowly sweep it to the side of your body, externally rotating the hip that it’s attached to, then use internal rotation to bring it back pointing forward. When you can do six full sweeps without falling or taking your hands off your hips, move on.

3. Single leg balance with eyes closed. This can be tough, so start out by alternating eyes closed (EC)/eyes open (EO) in ever increasing intervals. So: E0 for 1 second; EC, 1 second; EO, 2 seconds; EC, 2 seconds; EO, 3 seconds… and so on until you’re able to make thirty seconds with your eyes closed. Make bigger interval jumps if it becomes too tedious and you’re improving fast enough.

Now switch legs and complete the full progression all over again.

A few things to remember:

  • Once you close your eyes, you’re shutting off a big portion of your proprioceptive input, and you’ll probably lose your balance. Note which way your balance shifts when you close your eyes and remember it for next time. Learn from it.
  • If you’re flailing like a madman, that’s not real balance. Keep your hands on your hips to really improve.
  • Balance should be trained on a regular basis. Try to work something like this into your daily routine, or train about once a week.

Variations:

If you’ve got excellent balance already and these drills are a breeze, up the difficulty. Do everything eyes closed. Do twenty leg sweeps instead of six. Do the drills on a slackline or balance beam. Later, we’ll work on more difficult progressions if this isn’t enough for you.

What Are WOWs?

  • Workouts of the Week (WOWs) are an optional component of Primal Blueprint Fitness that add a fractal and often fun and playful quality to the basic PBF protocol.
  • In most cases WOWs should only be completed by those that have mastered Level 4 of each Lift Heavy Things Essential Movement. Also, it’s recommended that WOWs replace one or both Lift Heavy Things workouts or the Sprint workout (depending on the WOW) each week instead of being done in addition to the Lift Heavy Things and Sprint workouts.
  • Learn more about WOWs and Primal Blueprint Fitness by getting the free eBook. And access all Workouts of the Week in the WOW Archive.

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24 Comments on "WOW: Simple Balance Progression"

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Alex Good
Alex Good
5 years 5 months ago

That was fun.

Daniel
Daniel
5 years 5 months ago

Regarding leg sweeps, my physical therapist gave me a great exercise for balance and awakening and strenghtening the hip and ankle joints. Insead of just leg sweeps: write the alphabet with your off-the-ground foot. The asymmetrical and back-and-forth movements of this exercise are quite challenging.

Daniel
Daniel
5 years 5 months ago

And the letters you write should be big and expansive: for an “A”, start well behind your body and finish way in front of you, etc.

mixie
5 years 5 months ago

Hey, my physical therapist has had me doing similar balance exercises for some time. Standing on one foot with your eyes closed doesn’t sound like a challenge, but that was quite a surprise.

If you want to add a little complexity to it (and give core development an extra push), you can stand on a soft surface (like sand, a couch cushion on the floor, or a foam pad). This forces me to pay more attention to using my core and posture for balance than gripping the floor with my foot/ankle.

ennasirk
ennasirk
5 years 5 months ago

This sounds like the physical therapy I did to recover from a bilateral injury (high ankle sprain on the left ankle, torn MCL on the right knee). I came back to work with my personal trainer and my trainer noted the huge improvement in my balance just from the rehab work. In fact, just today she commented on how I had really great alignment on my lunges.

I wouldn’t wish an injury/rehab on anyone, but it really did help me and I plan to continue to do balance drills like this regularly to keep up the improvement.

mixie
5 years 5 months ago

Also, practice slow, deep breathing while you’re at it. If I find myself being “too conscious” of gripping with my feet and maintaining balance through force, I start wobbling very quickly, then flailing, then falling on my face ;0). Slow, deep breathing, solid core, good posture, relaxed lower limbs, shoulders, and neck. I always joke that I have a hard time staying vertical in bare feet on solid ground, but holy buckets, this simple exercise has done wonders for improving my balance and helping strengthen my core overall.

Kevin
Kevin
5 years 5 months ago

“Sweep the leg! … You have a problem with that?! … No mercy.”

Gary Deagle
5 years 5 months ago

Staring at one single spot on the floor helps me the most with this.

AlyieCat
AlyieCat
5 years 5 months ago

Cool, happy to read this one and all the great comments to make it more challenging 🙂

Ware C-F
5 years 5 months ago
As an actor, I’ve done some training in the Lecoq method, and one thing they have you do are these brushing motions with your foot to work on balance: Stand on one foot. Start swinging your off foot front to back, so that it brushes the ground next to your on foot, but doesn’t bear any weight. Make the motion small at first – just a few inches in front to a few inches in back, and gradually get bigger until you’re swinging through the entire range of motion. At this point, you should be going from a sort of… Read more »
Primal Toad
5 years 5 months ago

I love this. I am not sure how my balance is but I am about to find out!

I will be doing this everyday till Primal Con – I have to get ready!

Jeremy Priestner
5 years 5 months ago
Love the idea of eyes closed/ blindfolded exercising. It builds a real sense of body awareness, which many people lack. This is especially a problem in commercial gyms where the walls are paneled by mirrors. The trainee doesn’t get to develop a proper visual sense of where they are relative to the objects around them. Hence, they usually aren’t very well coordinated. Interestingly, Mark Twight made use of blindfolded deadlifting quite a lot in the training of the actors of “300”. You can do a youtube search for a video of Vincent Reagan doing one legged kettlebell deadlifts blindfolded. Pretty… Read more »
Ryan Ehler
5 years 5 months ago

Gotta love the balance exercises! Over the past few years I have become a fan of using balance to properly engage the core while working out. With the proper progression you can have the ability to stand on an exercise ball and impress your friends! You will have a dang strong core as well, that can’t hurt : )

Bunnyfoot
Bunnyfoot
5 years 5 months ago

I never thought balancing with your eyes closed would be so difficult. It takes some practice!

Dennis
Dennis
5 years 5 months ago

So I did this WOW yesterday, and found it to be pretty easy. Solid 1 minute, 10 leg sweeps, the alphabet like suggested in some other comments, and a very steady 45 second eyes closed. Let me tell ya…I’m sore today!! That was fun! I’ll be incorporating that into my workouts. Gonna try it on a soft surface next. Maybe outside in the grass!

Aaron (Grok Mendoza)
Aaron (Grok Mendoza)
5 years 5 months ago

WOW that took longer than expected. but it still was fun! Mos def going to try that again.. it’s right up there with the 100 Burpees workout

Hal
5 years 5 months ago

Man, I’ve never been good at stability when my eyes are closed. So now I have something to work on, for sure. Gotta get that nervous system firing on all fronts!

Michelle
Michelle
5 years 5 months ago

I take Martial Arts which really adds to the whole balance equation. Just the other day, we did balancing side kicks in which we lifted the leg, chambered in toward the shoulder, pressed back and held. We chambered back in toward the shoulder, released, than repeated same leg for about 5 holds. I am not sure how long we held each side kick, probably about 30 sec to 1 minute. Very challenging. I have come to view my martial arts training as very Primal.

thegetinshapegirl
5 years 5 months ago

Still working on the “eyes closed” part. But I always work on balance with my clients to help prevent injuries!

Anything you can do standing, try doing it on one foot!

DAVE PARSONS
DAVE PARSONS
5 years 5 months ago

yes indeed.. There are many ways to “sweep” em off the feet…and the paw of the tiger can take care of them in mid air if they are quick enough to leap the sweep…

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[…] WOW: Simple Balance Progression […]

Mary
Mary
5 years 2 months ago
I use a variation of this with my begining kids shotokan karate students. I combine it with an exercise in learning how to do a proper front snap kick at stomach level. I have my students stand on one leg, and bring the other leg up as high as they can with their kneed bent and foot parallel to the ground. The trick that they quickly learn is to 1) keep the knee of the supporting leg soft, and 2) keep the raised knee in front of and close to their groin. Once they can do this, they can raise… Read more »
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[…] so that I can spend all day out on the water if I want without losing steam. I slackline to improve balance and core strength. More than anything, I stay fit so that I can stay mobile and engaged in this […]

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[…] to a newbie than repeatedly falling into the water because the board’s too wobbly and your balance is too underdeveloped. People with extensive surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding, or other […]

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