5 Single Leg Exercises For Seniors To Improve Strength and Balance

Many seniors have difficulty with activities that require being on one leg. That may be balancing on one leg when walking, going up and down stairs, or getting up from the floor. Additionally, those same activities may result in hip or knee pain.

Watch this video to learn 5 single leg exercises for seniors to improve strength, balance, and confidence on one leg.

Table of Contents

Exercise 1: Single Leg Chair Stand

The first of the 5 single leg exercises for seniors is a single leg chair stand.

Start from a seated position, and put one leg out in front of you and the other one behind you.

Single leg chair stand

Then lean forward at the hips and use your back leg to help push you up.

Single leg chair stand exercise

The other foot is touching the ground but it's not going to do a lot of work.

You perform this exercise by leaning forward, pushing the weight through the back leg, and then standing up.

You have the chair behind you for safety so just in case you have balance concerns you won't fall backwards.

But what if you have difficulty even getting out of a chair using two legs?

In that circumstance, you can do the exercise in reverse.

Start from a standing position with one leg forward and one leg backwards and then sit your bottom back towards the chair.

Only go as you can go and then come back up.

The farther down you go the harder the exercise gets.

The higher up you stay the easier the exercise is.

Go down as far as you can comfortably without feeling unsafe and without causing knee pain.

Exercise 2: Partial Lunge / Split Squat

The second exercise is a partial lunge or a split squat.

To do this exercise, stagger your feet in a fairly wide stance.

split squat / split lunge

Then go down into a lunge just as deeply as you can comfortably.

The farther down you go the harder the exercise becomes.

The wider your stance is the more weight that's going to put through your heel resulting in greater glute strengthening.

If you have a really narrow stance, that's going to strengthen your quads more but it's also probably going to put a little bit more stress on your knee.

Therefore if you have knee pain, I would recommend starting with a wider stance and only doing a partial lunge.

Ideally, you can do this as a balance exercise too without holding on.

If you have some balance problems, feel free to hold on to a wall or a piece of furniture for safety.

Exercise 3: Single Leg Step Up

The next exercise is a single leg step up.

Instead of doing a front step up, we're going to do it from the side.

This allows you to have a little bit more control over the exercise.

Additionally, it allows you to maintain tension on this one leg throughout the entire duration of the exercise.

lateral step down

Using an adjustable step allows you to adjust the intensity.

If a tall step is too hard for you, then just use a shorter step or even a thick book can be helpful if you're just starting out.

Keep your weight through the heel of your foot as you're stepping up onto the step.

Additionally, you want to keep your knee in alignment with your toes.

Hold on to something for balance if you need to.

This also helps you to lean forward, which activates your glutes more.

Exercise 4: Single Leg Deadlift

The next exercise is a single leg deadlift.

For this exercise you'll balance on one leg, hold on to something if you need to.

Then bend down as if you're bending down to pick something up off the floor.

single leg deadlift exercise

This is sometimes referred to as a golfer's bend, like a golfer bending down to get their golf ball out of the hole.

Think about doing is pushing your hips backwards rather than bending your trunk.

Hinge at your hips and pushing your hips backwards. The knee stays fairly straight but it doesn't need to stay 100% straight.

Squeeze your glutes to push your hips back forward and return to standing.

Single leg deadlift exercise

As you get better and more confident at this, you can move to doing a single leg deadlift without holding on and/or using a weight as shown above.

Exercise 5: Single Leg Heel Raise

The final exercise is a single leg heel raise. This is to help strengthen your calves for when you push off when you're walking.

To do this, stand on one leg facing towards a wall. Then go up on the toes of the leg you're standing on.

Single leg heel raise exercise for seniors

Hold for about a second and then come back down slowly.

Repeat for repetitions until your calf muscle gets tired.

single leg heel raise

You want to try to raise up as high as you can comfortably go and then come back down.

If you don't have the strength to raise all the way up, you can start out by going up on two legs and then coming back down on one leg.

Double to single leg heel raise

It's easier to lower a weight than it is to lift it. When you get stronger, progress to just doing one leg.

Try to keep your Achilles tendon in a straight up and down position.

You don't want to allow your ankle to roll inwards or roll outwards.

So those were the 5 single leg exercises for seniors.

Bonus Exercise: Single Leg Balance

But wait, there's one more really important single leg exercise...

And that's simply balancing on one leg.

Balancing on one leg is one of my favorite exercises for seniors

The ability to balance on one leg for 10 seconds or more decreases your chances of dying within the next 10 years by 50%.

So that's one of the reasons why it's one of the best balance exercises for seniors.

Need Help To Improve Your Strength and Balance?

If you live in the St. Louis area and need help to get stronger, improve your balance, and be more confident when walking, we'd be happy to help you at More 4 Life.

Just tap the button below to request an appointment with one of our specialist physical therapists.


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