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.
This is my “homework” from my personal trainer. He started me on doing this daily over four years ago. Having had both knees replaced and being 70 years old my balance is not very good. This exercise has really helped.
Very glad to see your site up and running.
Thanks for sharing Betty and for being here. Jenny
I’m currently doing PT for lower back/disc issues. The therapist noticed right away that I have weak hips and is giving me exercises for that as well. I certainly felt the weakness at the end of my first half marathon.
Gotta check if I can do these during rehab.
WOW! While at the track, I saw a young woman who looked like she was laboring through her run because her hips seemed to be pulling outward as if on elastic bands. This may explain it. Thanks for the exercise!
Amazing! This was assigned to me by my athletic therapist, to combat a few injuries I was developing during my last training cycle! All from sitting in an office chair throughout the day, just as it says above 🙂
[…] from which many running aches and pains will disappear. One great foot strengthener is to balance on one foot for 30 seconds or until it is fatigued and repeat on the other side 2-4 times. In a matter of […]
When balancing with your eyes closed is too easy, try tilting your head up so that you are looking at the ceiling.
If I keep reading your blog post, I’m going to end up on the extreme coupon show.
I tried this thinking it was stupid, I mean, who couldn't do this,,,well, I lasted 15 seconds, so I realized that I was not in the best shape that I thought that I was. This made me start researching into other exercises to improve my balance which I believe now, is the core to improve my running. True thing, just like in the movie,"The Karate Kid", balance is the foundation to winning. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.
Great advice. I was looking for my daughter, but tried it myself…I definitely do this, too.
[…] Jenny Hadfield argues that it’s easy to think that only complicated strength training exercise plans will improve performance and strength. She argues that a single one-legged exercise (the Single Leg Stance) can work wonders in transforming your running form. […]
Alternatively, you could take up tai chi which is an excellent balance improver on many fronts – the above exercise gets a little extra oomph by turning it into White Crane Spreads Wings. Search for it on YouTube.
Another great article that is exactly what I need for where I am with my "running"/jogging.
[…] have time for one exercise? Do a single leg balance, as Jenny Hadfield suggests. I start with 30 seconds and once that is easier I move on up. […]
I googled help for my poor sore first marathon feet and this article popped up !!! I thot to myself there’s JENNY again with just the advice I need !!!
Thank you thank you thank you!!!