Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Single Leg Balancing - The Power of One

by Chris Johnson, PT
on endurancecorner.com

Triathlon performance largely depends on the ability of an athlete to maintain a straight and balanced position over the course of three disciplines. On the swim, we strive for a streamlined stroke. On the bike we try to establish and maintain an aerodynamic and powerful position. On the run we aim for an upright posture. The unfortunate reality for most triathletes, however, is that we have not earned professional status and therefore need to work.

In the case of most jobs, an inordinate amount of time is spent sitting, which often leads to a bent forward and slouched position. In time, we become a postural wreck and lose our sense of balance. Next thing you know, training sessions start to feel more like battles of attrition as we fight to exercise tight muscles in a lengthened and upright position while hoping that we avoid injury.

The Single Leg Stance
One exercise that is particularly helpful for triathletes in offsetting the ill effects of sitting is balancing on one leg. While many of you probably think that you could fall asleep on one leg, you might be surprised! Single leg stance involves a complex interplay between several regions of the body.
  • Working from the ground up, the foot should be positioned so it’s pointing straight ahead.
  • The knee should be slightly bent rather than locked.
  • The hip should be positioned over the knee and foot while the pelvis should be maintained in a level and squared off position.
  • Lastly, the head should be stacked on the torso.
While it may seem to be a trivial task, proper execution of single leg stance is a rarity even among high-level triathletes, so there is always room for improvement!
Tips for Incorporating the Single Leg Stance Into Your Daily Routine
  1. Start barefoot on a firm surface to ensure proper form. This will afford you more control versus a cushioned surface and allow you to focus on the quality of the exercise.
  2. Also start by resting your hands on the top of your head with your fingers interlaced. This brings about a better sense of head position while improving overall alignment [top image, click to enlarge].
  3. Once you have the fundamentals down, begin to increase your time in the position up to 60 seconds. If you fatigue or lose form before 60 seconds, stop. [second image]
  4. As your ability to balance on one leg improves, you can increase the difficulty by practicing it on a cushioned surface or adding arm movements to replicate running. [bottom image]
  5. Lastly, as a general rule of thumb, single leg stance should be performed at least once every hour of the workday.
If you are a triathlete who spends the majority of your workday sitting, single leg stance will be prove to be a game changer. It is a simple and inexpensive exercise that can be performed anytime and anywhere. The next time you are at work and find yourself getting sucked in to your chair, stand up and balance on one leg. This will not only help you survive the office but will also improve your training and racing.


Chris Johnson is a successful physical therapist and certified triathlon coach in New York City, who specializes in providing care and coaching for endurance athletes. He spent the early part of his professional career as a physical therapist and researcher at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma (NISMAT) of Lenox Hill Hospital before opening a private practice in the West Village of Manhattan, Chris Johnson, PT, LLC. He is the co-founder of Formula Tri Club and currently races at the amateur elite level. He also maintains his own blog, Critter’s Corner, which focuses on medical and performance issues related to triathlon. You can contact him at chris@chrisjohnsonpt.com

1 comment:

Christopher Johnson said...

Hi Triathlon Goddess. I like your blog...very clean and easy to navigate. Thanks for reposting this piece on single leg balance. I hope you are well and please let me know if there is anything I can to to help your efforts. I posted a piece on my website today pertaining to single leg balance that I think you may enjoy. Check it out when you get a chance and look forward to speaking with you in the future.

All the best.