November 9, 2022

Injury prevention – exercises to build balance

Injury prevention – exercises to build balance

As snow and ice make their annual return to Manitoba, so too does an increased risk of slips and falls. But beyond wearing the proper footwear, watching for hazards and taking your time, what else can you do to improve your balance?

Last winter, we asked Florent Thézard, Wellness Program Leader at Manitoba Blue Cross and certified athletic therapist, to share simple exercises to maintain and build your balance.

Now that we’ve got the basics covered, Thézard offers a few more advanced exercises to tackle as winter once again settles in.

Deadlifts:

A standard deadlift is a great full-body exercise; it works your core muscles while targeting your hips and back. A single-leg deadlift can not only work your core, but can improve your balance.

Standard deadlift (2-3 sets of 8-10 reps)

1. Ensure your feet are shoulder width apart or slightly narrower

2. Push your hips back, allowing your knees to bend slightly (your flexibility will dictate the amount of knee flexion)

3. Maintain a “neutral spine” throughout – don’t round excessively  

4. Go as low as you comfortably can, pause briefly, and come back up, pushing through the middle of your foot (balanced weight distribution) and squeezing the muscles at the back of your hip (glutes & hamstrings). You should feel as though the back of your leg is a rope: its tension is bringing you back to the starting position

Single-leg deadlift (2-3 sets of 4-6 reps)

1. Stand on one leg, keeping hips “level ” (don’t lean to one side)

2. Push your hips back, allowing your knee to bend slightly as your hands get closer to the ground (let them fall naturally)

3. Go as low as you comfortably can, pause briefly, and come back up, pushing through the middle of your foot (balanced weight distribution). You should feel as though the back of your leg is a rope: its tension is bringing you back to the starting position

Single-leg deadlift with rotation (2-3 sets of 3 touches per leg)

1. Stand on one leg, keeping hips “level” (don't lean to one side)

2. Push your hips back, allowing your knee to bend slightly, as you aim for three spots to touch with your hand:

          a. Ahead and to the side (same side as stance leg)

          b. Straight ahead (regular single-leg deadlift)

          c. head and across (towards “open side”)  

3. Go as low as you comfortably can, pause briefly, and come back up, pushing through the middle of your foot (balanced weight distribution). You should feel as though the back of your leg is a rope: its tension is bringing you back to the starting position

Squats:

Your standard squat is a fantastic way to exercise your core, your thighs and your glutes. Single-leg squats can work these areas while also building balance.

Standard squats (2-3 sets of 8-10 reps)

1. Ensure your feet are shoulder width apart

2. Point your toes slightly out and forward (whatever is comfortable)

3. Push your hips back and down – your knees will bend accordingly

4. Try to keep your knees over your feet (don’t worry if they go past your toes)

5. Go as low as you comfortably can, pause briefly, and come back up, pushing through the middle of your foot (balanced weight distribution)

Single-leg squat (2-3 sets of 4-6 reps)

1. Stand on one leg, keeping hips level  (again try not to lean to one side!)

2. Push your hips back and down, and allow your knee to bend

3. Go as low as you comfortably can, pause briefly, and come back up, pushing through the middle of your foot (balanced weight distribution)

Single-leg Y-squat (2-3 sets of 3 touches per leg)

1. Stand on one leg, keeping hips level (again, don't lean to one side)

2. Push your hips back and down, allowing your knee to bend, as you aim for three spots to touch with your foot that’s off the ground (drawing an imaginary “Y”):

          a. Straight ahead

          b. Behind you and to the “open” side

          c. Behind you and across your back

3. Go as low as you comfortably can, pause briefly, and come back up, pushing through the middle of your foot (balanced weight distribution)

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