How to Ease Your Backache With One-Legged Balance Challenges

A great strategy for managing backache is to work on strengthening and stretching your hips. One-legged balance challenges improve power and coordination of the hip muscles.

Lateral (outer) hip muscles, in particular, are key for spinal support. Keeping them strong and flexible is part of most therapeutic back exercise programs.


Start on Two Legs

Woman doing a side lunge

fizkes / Getty Images

You may not be able to fully stand on one leg for long enough periods of time, but no matter what your fitness level, there's a lateral hip strengthening exercise for you.

In the image above, the model is demonstrating a hip-strengthening exercise called a lateral lunge by using both legs to support her standing body. By bending one leg (at the hip, knee, and ankle joints) and extending the other out to the side, she is challenging her lower extremity muscles.

Her outer hip muscles on the bent leg are doing the lion's share of the work, providing stability and balance for the position. And the extended leg is likely getting some extra contraction in places that are key for pain-free upright body posture and back fitness, as well.


Balance While Kneeling

Woman balancing on knees

dusanpetkovic / Getty Images

Consider going one-legged while kneeling, provided you can move into and out of this position in a safe and comfortable way.

If you are a beginner or have an ongoing back condition, start by simply "standing" on one knee, and extending the other leg out to the side, period. It's okay to put your leg somewhere between front and side, depending on comfort and your ability to stay stable in this position. Keep your arms down by your sides and don't try to tilt your torso.

When your balance improves while in this basic kneeling position, you can begin to add in one or more trunk, leg, or arm variations.

As you progress, you can:

  • Raise your arms
  • Add a trunk tilt
  • Move the extended leg more towards the side and less towards the front

Kneel, Lean, and Purposely Destabilize

Women doing a kneeling balance exercise in class

gilaxia / Getty Images

Place an exercise ball to one side and hold onto it lightly with your hand. Bend over at your hip joint, keeping your spine straight and remembering to breathe. Stay there for up to 10 seconds—but stop if you begin to lose your form or experience pain.

A few variations:

  • If you're a super-beginner, use a stationary object instead of a ball.
  • If you're up for a challenge, you can roll the ball either in and out sideways, or forward and back. This will engage your hip and core muscles as you work to remain in position.

Take the Stairs Sideways.


Artu Nepomuceno / EyeEm / Getty Images

Stairs provide a convenient way to weave physical challenges that have therapeutic benefits into your daily routine. Consider climbing and/or descending a few stairs sideways to help strengthen your hip muscles and build balance.


Easy Standing Balance Challenge

Woman balancing on one leg with knee raised

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

An old classic balance challenge is to stand on one leg with the other bent at the knee and hip. Hold onto something if you need steadying, and stay there for up to 15 seconds. Repeat this about 5-10 times per day for each leg.

To start, keep your arms by your side, but once staying put in this position becomes easy (and it should always be pain-free, of course), take 'em out to the side.


Challenging Standing Balance Move

Asian woman make yoga Warrior pose on foot
Prasit photo / Getty Images

This one-legged balance challenge, referred to as the Romanian deadlift, relies heavily on your hip muscles, especially your outer hips, for support.

This challenge is advanced, so it's not for everyone.

The idea is to bend at the hips until you are parallel to the floor. Keep a nice long line from the top of your head to the bottom of your foot (of the extended leg).

At first, you may only be able to stay for a couple of seconds, and/or you may not fully reach parallel, but that's okay. With practice, you may be able to build up your ability and the amount of time you spend. A good goal could be 5 or even 10 seconds at a time.

Don't forget to do this on the other side.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical Activity Prevents Chronic Disease. Published May, 2020.

  2. Penney T, Ploughman M, Austin MW, Behm DG, Byrne JM. Determining the activation of gluteus medius and the validity of the single leg stance test in chronic, nonspecific low back pain. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2014 Oct;95(10):1969-76. doi:10.1016/j.apmr.2014.06.009

By Anne Asher, CPT
Anne Asher, ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, and orthopedic exercise specialist, is a back and neck pain expert.