Maintaining strength and balance is one of the best ways to keep active as you get older. Difficulty with balance is a risk factor for back, hip and knee pain. One study even showed that an inability to stand on one leg for 10 seconds was associated with an 84% risk of death from any cause (link). The following exercises for leg strength and balance are presented from easiest to hardest.
10 Best Exercises For Leg Strength And Balance
Luckily for us, the best way to improve balance is through building single leg strength. The following exercises are strength movements that also improve balance. I’ve picked these exercises because they are both safe and effective. Allowing you to build strength without stressing your joints.
The toe tap is a great place to start if you really struggle with balance. It’s easy to control so you can feel safe if you fall out. It also strengthens the glute med muscle of your stance leg allowing you to improve both at the same time.
The step up is another safe choice for leg strength and balance. This is a great place to start if more dynamic movemens like the lunge cause knee pain. Hold weights in both hands for an extra challenge.
This balance exercise is a great way to imrpove strength, balance and coordination. Maintaining your balance throughout the goal is to ‘run in place’. It’s harder than it looks.
Assisted Split Squat
For those who struggle with balance the split squat is a great option to help build leg strength. Maintaining two points of contact with the ground throughout the movement makes it easier to balance. Using assistance (like a TRX Trainer) adds an extra layer of safety and stability.
The Assisted Reverse Lunge
The reverse lunge is one of the best exercises to improve leg strength and balance. The assisted version adds more safety and stability. As you improve the goal is to use your hands less and less.
The Assisted Knee Drive
Adding a ‘knee drive’ to end of your lunge adds a nice balance challenge to this movement. Holding onto the TRX adds stability. The goal should be to hold balance position without hands.
Reverse Lunge With Balance
This move is similar to the knee drive but without assistance. The goal is to move through the movement (lunge to balance) without setting foot down. This strengthens and improv balance of your front foot.
Standing Hip Abduction
Your glute med muscle plays an important role in leg strength and balance. The Standing Hip Abduction exercise targets your glute med while requiring you to balance on one foot.
The Single Leg Deadlift
The single leg deadlift is one of my favorite leg strengthening exrercises that also improve balance. This hinge movement targets your posterior chain while providing a nice balance challenge.
The Hip Airplane
This advanced exercise is traditionally used to improve hip mobility. It also requires a good amount of strength and balance to perform making it a good choice to improve both. Grab onto wall or bar for an assisted version that helps with stability.
As with any exercise plan the goal is to build strength without aggravating joint pain. Which is why the best exercises for leg strength and balance are both SAFE and EFFECTIVE. To use these esxercises I recommend finding the level you feel comfortable with and slowing working your way up.
For the last 10 years I’ve been helping adults build the strength and confidence to live active, healthy, and happy lives. My free program ‘Solving Pain With Strength’ gives you a step-by-step, approachable way to build strength without stressing your joints. Download it below and get started feeling better today.