Having a good sense of balance doesn't just keep us from falling over. Balance is at the very core of our bodily awareness; balance training strengthens our core (core training improves balance, too) and improves our coordination so we not only stay upright but have better control over our movements.
So, if you want to improve your athletic performance by strengthening your core, improving your coordination, and preventing future injuries, keep reading!
The 4-way pick-up and punch is a dynamic exercise performed in four positions with various progressions and modifications. This exercise is the ultimate single-leg balance, stability, and coordination master. We are going to add dumbbells to the movement for maximum effect; however, it's important to note that you shouldn't sacrifice your form by using heavy weights. Don't push your limits because you want to lift more; rather, lift what is comfortable enough for you while still maintaining correct form.
This is the hardest progression of the 4-way pick-up and punch, but every movement can be modified based on your ability and skill level. We can start here and make modifications as needed.
Start by grabbing a box or an object that has height and is sturdy enough to place your foot on. Carry two dumbbells that are a comfortable weight and place your right foot behind you, resting on the box in a toe-touch. Now that you are in your stance, squat and reach down with your right arm toward your left toe while keeping your left arm tucked into your side. As you come back up, tuck your right arm into your side and punch your left arm up diagonally. You can easily remember this movement as "same side reach, opposite punch", and then you can also switch it up to do an "opposite side reach, same side punch." Switch legs and do the same routine on the other side to complete all four positions of the movement.
If you don't have the strength to balance on a single leg, we can easily modify the movement!
We will still be using the dumbbells; however, there is no need for the box for this modification. Simply stagger your feet, with the right foot back and heel lifted, in a toe-touch formation. Keep as little weight as possible on the back foot to simulate balancing on one leg, but the back foot is still touching the ground for more stability! Make sure your left foot is in front of you and flat, and do the same arm movements as the retro position above. Remember to utilize all four positions and then switch legs:
Same side reach
Opposite side punch
Opposite side reach
Same side punch
Lastly, this final modification can be made if neither of the positions above give you enough stability or balance.
Instead of a toe touch, you will stand in a bilateral split stance, with the right foot slightly farther back and flat on the ground. This will allow for more contact with the floor, and you only need to lift your back heel when squatting and reaching. You will still hold the dumbbells and do the exact same movements as in the above progressions. Perform all four positions and then switch legs!
If you are having trouble with balance, try working on your breathing and the timing of your breath through harder motions like the punch. You can also try having your eyes fixed on an object out in front of you to help with that balance component.
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Ariela Liberman is a Marketing Associate and a staff writer for Fit Societe, with a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies. Born and raised in San Diego, she is a Southern California native with a passion for writing, digital marketing, health, and wellness.
Reviewed by Scott Ryan, BS, CSCS, CF-L1, CF-W, BFRC, a professional coach and Director of Fit Societe, who specializes in Applied Functional Science, Strength and Conditioning, CrossFit L1, and Olympic Lifting. He attended New England College in New Hampshire obtaining a bachelor's degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis on Biomechanics. He has a passion for injury prevention and coaching, as he was a collegiate athlete who suffered sports injuries. His goal is to get athletes back to optimal shape as well as prevent future injuries.