BalanceThank your body's self-awareness next time you save yourself from a spill in your fou-rinch pumps: Nerve endings in your tendons and muscles sense the subtle changes in your body position, says fitness expert Todd Durkin, author of The IMPACT! Body Plan and owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego. That unconscious info, combined with (and enhanced by) your coordination and strength, is used by your motor system to rule how well you stay on your feet.
The Test: Single-Leg Balance and Touch
Test each leg separately. Stand on your right leg, knee slightly bent (a), and bend down to touch your toes with your left hand, keeping your back flat and raising your left leg behind you (b). Return to the starting position without putting your left foot down. Repeat as many times as possible in 60 seconds.
Excellent If you touch 21 times or more
Good If you touch 10 to 20 times
Below Average If you touch fewer than 10 times
Boost Your Balance
Anchor your roots with this modified tree pose: Standing on your right leg, place your left foot on your right inner thigh, left knee turned out. Close your eyes and extend your arms overhead. Hold for 20 seconds, then return to start. Repeat on the opposite side. Your goal: Minimize the number of breaks in form, like moving your hands or opening your eyes.
The leg and butt muscles are loaded with strength and calorie-burning potential, but many women don't utilize them. This lower-body power problem is twofold, says Alwyn Cosgrove, Men's Health fitness advisor and the other half of the husband-and-wife team that owns Results Fitness. First, most women let their quads do more work than their hamstrings (a muscle imbalance that decreases overall strength and increases risk of knee injury), and second, one leg usually outmuscles the other (which can lead to hip and back problems). This test will reveal any discrepancy.
The Test: Three-Rep Single-Leg Squat
Test each leg separately. Starting with rep one, perform the exercise as instructed with proper form. Complete it successfully, and continue to the next rep. When you can't complete a rep with correct form, that's the end of the test.
Rep one: Place a bench about a foot behind you and stand on your left leg; lift your right leg and both arms in front of you (a). Bend your left knee and lower until you are sitting on the bench (b). Pause, then drive back up to the starting position.
Rep two: Get into the starting position from rep one (a) and lower yourself until you are almost sitting on the bench (b). Graze the bench and drive right back up without touching the bench.
Rep three: Stand on the bench and balance on your left leg with your right foot off the bench, arms straight in front of you (a). Bend your left knee and sit back as far as you can into a squat (b), while still being able to drive back up to the starting position.
Excellent If you can complete all three reps with proper form
Good If you can complete reps one and two with proper form, but not rep three
Below Average If you cannot complete rep one with proper form
Even the Score
It's not uncommon for each leg to score differently, says Cosgrove. The fix: Add the single-leg squat to your routine two or three times a week. Select the rep you did with your weaker leg (or rep one, if you couldn't do any). Starting with that leg, repeat the move as many times as you can, then do the same amount with the stronger leg. Rest for 60 seconds, then repeat for a total of two sets. After three weeks, retake the test and see where you stand.