Physical Balance is this marvelous fusion of many bodily systems that allows us to resist gravity and move in bipedal motion. More than that, humans play with Balance and find ever challenging ways to move all the while maintaining Balance. You have only to look at an individual walking down the street to readily see how what state of physical Balance they have. Some people don’t just walk, they flow across the ground. I could just as easily bring attention to world class gymnasts, trained to excel in Balance. The amazing thing about the human balance ability is that it can be enhanced, improved, and trained. If you challenge yourself in Balance the body responds by improving in Balance.

Let’s take some time now to assess our physical Balance skills. Let us review some basic balance skills, to give us a reference point from which we can judge our progress. The test for basic Balance skills, those necessary for daily living, is the Berg Balance Test. It was originally developed to assess the physical Balance capability of seniors. This is a good place to start. Follow along with the simple exercises.

Having reviewed basic daily Balance skills let us focus our attention on more advanced Balance skills. Don’t expect to ace these all at once, we just want a reference point by which to judge our future progress. Sports educators have this great ability to analyze human movement, and to suggest specific exercises to strengthen specific muscle groups with the goal of improving a component of human movement. The end result is an improved movement to achieve a specific goal. The goal may be victory in sports, or increased endurance, or an economy of movement. Sports educators and trainers are fond of static balance tests referenced to some unit of quantifiable measurement. Lets get started. Take your time and be careful.

1) Star Excursion Balance Test

2) The Flamingo Balance Test
We want to test your ability to balance on one leg. Stand on a small platform, a thick book will do. Stand in your bare feet and hold onto an adjacent wall to start. Lift one leg up while bending the knee. Hold the suspended foot close to your rear end. Let go of your support and begin free standing Balance. Start counting seconds or have someone run a stopwatch. Every time you lose balance or drop the foot in an effort to maintain balance stop the count. Start over each time you lose Balance. You want to get less than 15 falls in the first 30 seconds. If you are doing extremely well with this, try it with your eyes closed but be ready to grab support. Everyone will be different. Keep a note of how well you did. Switch legs and repeat the test.

3) The Stork Balance Stand Test
Stand on the thick book again in your bare feet. Stand normal stance with hands on your hips. Now, same as the last test, raise one leg while bending the knee. Place the raised foot against the inside knee of the standing leg. Now it gets tricky; raise up and balance on the ball of the supporting foot.
(raise the heel up) Start counting. If you drop your heel, drop your hands, or drop the suspended foot-stop the count. Try again for a longer duration.
Switch legs.
Try it with your eyes closed.
Stay close to some support you can easily grab. You’ll be surprised at how important the sense of vision is to Balance.

4) Stick Lengthwise Balance Test
Place a stick flat on the ground. Stand on the same stick with the balls of both feet. Start counting. If the heels come down, or you roll off the stick to reacquire balance, than stop.
Try it with your eyes closed.
Stay close to some support you can easily grab. You’ll be surprised at how important the sense of vision is to Balance.
I like this test because it is similar to Balance Board training that I’ve done.. I’ve laid a Balance Board lengthwise along a 2 inch (50mm) diameter plastic pipe. Balancing with this sort of set-up forced me to focus on my toes and heels and gave me deadly edging skills for high-speed snowboarding.

5) Balance Beam Test
Originally intended to be done on a gymnastic Balance beam. We can simplify this test to make it accessible to anyone. Get yourself a length of 2×4 wood. Failing that line up a series of books all of the same thickness.
Place whichever you were able to obtain flat on the ground.
The test is to walk calmly and smoothly from one end to the other. I’ve read that it should be done one way in six seconds. Disregard the time. Try to do it without wobbling, hesitating, falling off, and generally losing balance. You could try it on a balance beam but remember that it’s a long way down if you fall off.

6) Modified Bass Test of Dynamic Balance
Indicate with tape, a series of footsteps on the floor. Space them according to your normal walking stride, maybe just a bit more. The object is to stand on the first step on the ball of one foot, the other is held off the ground with bent knee. Hold this static position for 5 seconds. Assuming you are starting on your right foot, hop to the next step, landing on your left foot and hold a new static position on the ball of your foot for 5 seconds. Continue down the line of steps until you are done. Its like the childhood game of hopscotch except you switch feet. it’s a combination of static and dynamic balance. Professionals would assign a pass or fail grade based on whether you touched the ground or failed to maintain the static pose ,but for our purposes simply keep practicing it and take note of improvement.

7) Balance Board Test
This test equilibrium, or the combination of agility and balance
There is a special design of equipment for this test but we can improvise. You can buy a Balance board or make one. For the purposes of this text a one foot length of PVC plumbing pipe at 1 inch (25mm) diameter will serve us well. Lay the pipe on the ground and place atop it a 1 inch (25mm) thickness board with square dimensions at least equal to the length of your feet. Stand atop the board and hold onto something for initial support. The actual documented test calls to maintain a static position. We can do one better on this, while holding onto something, gently rock back and forth. Build up your confidence and try it without support. Try to get a simple back and forth rhythm and not hold onto anything. Hard at first, yes, but with repeated practice your mind and body will figure it out. Forget about time and scores, just have fun with it.

8) Standing Balance Test
The simplest of all balance tests. Stand on one leg for as long as you can.
Jazz it up. Stand with arms at rest, arms raised, eyes open, and eyes closed.
Switch legs. Count while you do this or have someone run a stopwatch.
Try to improve your time.

For all of these balance tests, our advice is just get to a point where you can do it then try to better your time. Remember to do them in your bare feet. There are some amazing Balance tools out there and some very skilled coaches waiting to provide specialized exercises and training to improve your Balance skills. All of this and more we will explore in another section.

Sincerely Yours In Balance
Editor In Chief