Fall Prevention Awareness : Strength

September 21st-25th is Fall Prevention Week! 

Fall prevention covers a variety of topics, and strength and balance seem to be the ones that come to mind the most. The 10 AM and 2 PM daily exercise classes usually include activities related to fall prevention, and this article is meant to break down some of the more common exercises. Details such as what muscles are being worked, how it relates to fall prevention, variations, and progressions to increase difficulty/challenge will be covered. These are details that normally are not covered during a class.

Let’s start off with the Sit to Stand of which is near and dear to my heart…

The Sit to Stand/Squat

  • Muscles Used: Quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves (lower body)
  • Relation to Fall Prevention: Increases overall strength of the legs, allows us to better get up from a seated position as well as control ourselves down to a chair/couch.
  • Variations: Staggered sit to stand, squat holds, mini squats, eccentric sit to stands (slow on the way down)
  • Progression: The higher the chair/seat, the easier the sit to stand. Increase the challenge by lowering the chair height or add hand weights for resistance

Side Leg Raise/Hip Abduction

  • Muscles Used: Hip abductors (sides of your hips), glutes (your butt) – When performing the side leg raise with your right leg, the right glute muscle is actively working to abduct the thigh while the gluteus medius on the left side is stabilizing the pelvis.
  • Relation to Fall Prevention: Strengthens muscles used in walking, balancing, and lifting. Keeps pelvis in line.
  • Variations: Side lying on bed or mat, Sidestepping, Seated/side lying/supine clamshells, Monster walks
  • Progression: Add ankle weights, a looped resistance band around the legs, or single leg balance. Note that if you choose to use a looped resistance band, being wrapped at the knees is easier than down at the ankles.

Heel/Calf Raises

  • Muscles Used: Gastrocnemius, Soleus (Back of lower leg)
  • Relation to Fall Prevention: Keeps your ankle joints mobile. Increases ankle strength & stability. When walking, you push off with your trail leg to move you into the next step. This “push off” is your calf muscles contracting.
  • Variations: Single leg heel raises, 2 up 1 down (concentrate on the lowering), heel raises on edge of step (for increase range of motion)
  • Progression: Add ankle weights or hold hand weights for added resistance

Leg Kickbacks/Hip Extension

  • Muscles Used: Glutes (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus)
  • Relation to Fall Prevention: Think of when you walk; as you step forward with your right leg your left leg trails behind. Your left leg is actually in hip extension and your glute muscles are responsible for propelling your hips forward into the next step. Strong glute muscles are key for pelvic alignment and lower back support.
  • Variations: Donkey Kicks, Prone hip extension, On all fours leg kickbacks
  • Progression: Add ankle weights or hold hand weights for added resistance, add single leg balance

Marching/Knee Lifts/Hip Flexion

  • Muscles Used: Hip Flexors muscles (iliacus & psoas)
  • Relation to Fall Prevention: Lifting our legs up so that we do not trip. Steps and stairs usually are between 6-8 inches high, without proper range of motion and strength, it would be difficult to lift your leg up to the proper height.
  • Variations: Marching and various speeds, Forward/Side step overs, Seated March, Seated step overs (getting out of a car), Lift knee and hold, supine march, Supine straight leg raise
  • Progression: Add ankle weights or place hand weights on knee for added resistance, Leg lift holds with single leg balance


***Note all of these exercises can be progressed by increasing/decreasing the number of sets and repetitions. I recommend starting with two sets of 8-10 repetitions and slowly adding more as you get stronger (2-3 sets of 10, 12, or 15 reps).


Exercises such as those listed above are functional and do help in reducing fall risk. Keep in mind, strength is one of many factors that plays a role in your risk of falling. What does it mean for an exercise to be functional? Function has purpose. Functional exercise is exercise with a purpose and is related to improving everyday activities (walking, getting around your apartment, reaching, etc). Ask yourself, when would I use this in real life or throughout my daily routine? Or how does this apply to everyday life? A sit to stand is functional because we get up and out of chair or sofa multiple times throughout the day. The available exercise classes usually include functional exercises for you to try and practice. I hope this post provides some clarity and reasoning to some of the exercises done in class.

I look forward to checking back in with you all as we enter Fall Prevention Awareness Week!

Ryan Meisel
Wellness Manager