How to Ease Your Backache With One-Legged Balance Challenges

Fitness is not just for the athletic anymore. Along with playing important roles in preventing and/or managing chronic conditions, including heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, depression, dementia, and anxiety, staying in shape—especially keeping muscles strong and flexible—can help make your backache go away.

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

A great strategy for strengthening the muscles on the outside of your hip is to do one-legged balance challenges. This type of exercise forces your hip muscles (especially those on the outside) to work hard and coordinate well. While it's true that your hips get benefits from this, your back will likely reap rewards, as well.


Start on Two Legs

Woman doing a side lunge

fizkes / Getty Images

No matter what your fitness level, there's a lateral hip strengthening exercise for you. You may not be able to fully stand on one leg for long enough periods of time to reap benefits for your gluteus medius and other outer hip muscles, but effective modifications do exist. 

In the image above, the model is demonstrating a hip-strenghtening exericse called a lateral lunge by using both legs to support her standing body. It's just that by bending one leg (at the hip, knee, and ankle joints) and extending the other out to the side, she adds a degree of challenge to the muscles of her lower extremity.

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. That said, it's very 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.

Involving the arms or incorporating a trunk tilt are progressed versions of this position, and they will most likely increase your challenge. The same is true for moving the extended leg more towards the side and less towards the front. After developing the requisite strength and balance while in this basic kneeling position, at that point, you can begin to add in one or more trunk, leg, or arm variations.


Kneel, Lean, and Purposely Destabilize

Women doing a kneeling balance exercise in class

gilaxia / Getty Images

A variation of the one-legged kneeling challenge is to 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 do less if you start to lose your form or experience pain.

If you're a super-beginner, use a more stationary object than the ball. But if you're up for a challenge or two, you can roll the ball either in and out sideways, or forward and back, to purposely destabilize yourself. This will likely engage your hip and core muscles as you work to remain in position.


Take the Stairs Sideways.


Artu Nepomuceno / EyeEm / Getty Images

We're big proponents of weaving physical challenges that have therapeutic benefits into your daily routine. So the next time you see stairs, consider climbing and/or descending a few of them sideways.


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. 

Don't forget the other leg, but if one side is painful, either do the easiest version or don't do the exercise at all on that side.

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 not for everyone. It's more advanced. Also, if it causes any pain whatsoever, stop the exercise.

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 may be 5 or even 10 seconds at a time.

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

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5 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. Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Differentiating Hip Pathology From Lumbar Spine Pathology: Key Points of Evaluation and Management. Copyright 2017.

  3. Livestrong. 4 Positive Reasons Why You Shouldn't Overlook Stair Climbing as Exercise. Published April, 2019.

  4. The Conversation. Standing on one leg is a sign of good health - and practising is good for you too. Published October, 2021.

  5. Benefits of the One-Legged Romanian Deadlift. Published May, 2019.