It’s easy to think that only complicated strength training exercise plans will improve performance and strength, however this little one-legged wonder (the Single Leg Stance) can make real change in a matter of days.
The single leg balance activates and strengthens your stabilizing muscles from your feet and ankles all the way up to your hips and improves your balance too! If you sit all day like most of us do, that deactivates your gluteal muscles which stabilize as you run stride for stride. When these muscles atrophy (decrease strength and stability) they no longer engage and support your leg and hip as your foot lands on the ground. It has a ripple effect in translating to wasted energy as your hips move side to side and increases the friction in your ITB (Iliotibial Band).
A simple exercise like this can be done anywhere, in any shoes (okay maybe not the pumps girls) and effectively strengthens those hip stabilizers so they engage and support your hip and translate to efficient forward (versus lateral) motion and no ITB friction!
While you’re at it, next time you’re out for a run scan runners to see if they’re hips are moving side to side or not at all. Seeing the difference between stabilized and weak hips can help visualize what is going on in your own body.
Try it for yourself (now if you’d like):
- Stand up with your feet hip width apart.
- Keep your arms out to your sides for balance.
- Lift your left leg a few inches off the floor and hold for 30-60 seconds.
- Engage your hip muscles to create a long, neutral line up your body. If this is confusing – try letting your hip relax out to the side and then tighten and contract it to align it under your shoulders – this is also another great exercise hip huggers.
- Repeat 2-4 times on each side. You will feel all the muscles in your foot, ankle and hip fatiguing in seconds!
- When this is easy progress to wearing no shoes.
- When that gets easy stand barefoot on a towel, pillow or pad to further challenge the muscles and balance. If you get to SuperStar status, close your eyes (very hard).
It’s simple. It’s effective. And it’s kind of fun.