I've taken up skating again with a real interest in finally developing myself enough to play hockey. Currently, I can't stop or do much of anything on the ice for prolonged periods because of two things: poor balance and a pronated left foot. The problem with my foot will be less serious once I develop some muscle and find my insoles, but the balance thing will obviously take some time. I get to the rink at least once a week, but I'm finding it harder to go more because I'm not getting better as fast as I'd like to. Are there any exercises I can do at home to build my balance? I'm 6'0 175-80 (down from 225 due to illness over the past year) so it's almost like I'm starting from a clean slate physically- I have very little muscle anywhere but my legs, and am rail thin. I'm going to begin bulking up with muscle, but I think I need to work on gaining balance first, something I've never really had.
Stand on one leg. Bend over and pick up a ball one-handed. Something about the size of a baseball or an orange is good. Stand upright. Still standing on one leg, pivot to a different angle and set the ball down.
Stand on one leg, choose a point just slightly out of reach. Reach for the point with one hand, then the other. Do this about 10 times per side.
Stand on one leg. With your right hand, reach for a point on the far right, then for a point in front of you, then for a point on the far left. Do this about 5-8 times, then switch to the other arm.
Do these at first with your shoes on. Once you've mastered them, do them with your shoes off. Yoga can also be helpful. A balance board is great but I think it does more for core body balance and less for one-legged balance. You should also think about an agility ladder. Agility ladder drills are a lot of fun, and you can build a ladder yourself for only a few dollars.
Here’s a simple exercise that I learned in physical therapy after I tore my mcl in a hockey game last year…
After warm ups and stretching sit on an exercise ball, the type that is used in yoga for stretching etc. Make sure the size is correct for your height… I think the yellow or 75cm size will work well for your height. I’m 6’3” and this is the one I have used.
Now that you’re sitting on the ball with your back straight and both feet flat on the floor pick one foot up by pointing your toes ahead. Keep your hands away from the ball and your torso. The point is not to reach parallel with your leg but to force your muscles to make small corrections to hold your balance. Hold this position for up to a minute if you can. Switch and repeat 10 times.
If you have a friend nearby you can make it more interesting by adding a round ball into the mix. A basketball or similar size works well… Have your friend toss the ball to you and you back to him/her while you hold one foot off the ground back and forth. Resist the temptation to bounce… This is cheating! A light toss to you chest high is all it takes to start. Keep the ball moving as you should not hold the ball to stabilize for very long. You are training your quads and core to make small corrections for balance and stability. Repeat this for approx 30 seconds worth of tossing on each leg 10 times or so.
Next have your friend toss the ball to you moving his target to you from left to right at arms length. After you’re comfortable with the left to right ask your friend to make it random. This adds to the challenge.
This a simple exercise that is no impact, unless you fall over with laughter like I did the first time, and will really help. One quick note: Be sure to stretch your hamstrings before you begin so you can lift your legs off the ground with your knees as straight as possible.
Two things... If you want to build up the strenghth in your legs and balance at the same time... Stand on one or two legs and just hop side front other side back a 10 times rest for a minute and do it again for 3 or 4 sets
The above excercises are all great for building stability and strength but unfortunatly your balance cannot be improved. There comes a point in childhood where you can no longer improve your balance. For example, if you were not extremely active as a child, your balance as an adult would be poor. It's impossible to significantly improve balance as an adult as balance is not a matter of having properly toned muscles but a complex cranial phenomena.
At the same time there is hope. You can improve your center of gravity - stability. Strong chest, back, abs, glutes, hams and quads can all add to a lower center of gravity (which is usually located at your belly button).