Providing a total body workout that encourages all your body systems to work together to maintain balance, balance boards engage almost every muscle in the human body.
The primary target of the balance board, however, is the core, back, glutes, and leg muscles.
With practical applications for almost everyone, including athletes and performers, musicians and dancers, and children and hobbyists, balance boards are steadily gaining popularity. They have even been embraced by physical therapists, chiropractors, and psychologists to aid in the prehab and rehab of their patients as well as cognitive training.
Though there are many different balance board designs, they all share the basic structure utilization of a flat surface sitting on an unstable base.
History of the Balance Board
The first known records of the balance board come from the training of old-timey circus performers: tight rope walkers, trapeze artists, and large ball walkers were among its first users. Often, these were crudely fashioned by performers themselves out of wood planks affixed to logs or balls.
The “Paul Bunyan Balance Board” was one of the first commercial balance boards marketed during the 50s. Made of wood, it depicted Paul Bunyan and his ox balancing on logs on the top.
Another, the Bongo Board, was created in 1952 by famed World War II pilot Stanley Washburn, Jr, who discovered the concept by watching African children balancing on a plank over a log.
Skiers and surfers also utilized balance boards to train in the offseason when there was no snow in the days before artificial snow was invented.
Today, balance boards come in countless shapes and sizes and are made using a variety of modern materials.
How to Use the Balance Board
There are many different exercises you can perform on a balance board once you master the basic technique of keeping it level, but this vital step needs to be addressed first.
Executing a Basic Balance Stance on a Balance Board
Step 1: Lay the balance board on the floor away from any debris, but close enough to reach a wall or other stable surface.
Step 2: Place one foot on the outer rim of the balance board.
Step 3: Steady yourself if necessary on the wall or stable surface.
Step 4: Slowly bring the other foot to the opposite side of the balance board, engaging your core.
Step 5: Add pressure to the front, back, and sides to wiggle it and get a feel for the motions.
Step 6: Try to maintain a board surface that is level with the floor and stable, so that no part is dipped toward the floor.
Step 7: Once you’ve mastered this with your feet at the outer rim, move your feet closer together for an added challenge.
Benefits of Using a Balance Board:
- Tightens core musculature
- Aids in prehab and rehab
- Improves balance and coordination
- Reduces back pain
- Increases spatial and body awareness
- Improves posture
- Increases functional strength
Variations of Balance Board Exercises:
- Straight-arm plank
- Incline pushups
- Decline pushups
The Key to Fitness Hangs in the Balance
Engaging all the body’s muscle groups in one exercise and getting them to work together to perform a simple task using minimal equipment provides one of the most valuable workouts for the time spent.
There’s been a slight shift in focus in recent years among the fitness community toward functional strength, placing less value on how much weight you can bench press than spatial and body awareness and how your body performs in real-world functional situations. To this end, there’s no better tool out there than a balance board.