Balance board workouts are a training method involving a series of standing and weight-bearing exercises completed on an unstable surface. They aim to train the muscles around the ankle and improve balance.
Common in rehabilitation settings and conditioning programs for athletes, balance boards can also target upper body stability and core strength.
This article breaks down balance board basics such as benefits, drawbacks, and exercises that target all the major muscle groups.
What are balance boards?
Balance boards, which include rocker boards and wobble boards, are a fitness tool you can stand on while performing exercises to help improve balance and posture, aid in rehabilitation, prevent lower body injuries, and increase core strength, among other benefits (Trusted Source).
There are different balance boards to choose from, but ultimately it comes down to what works best for you.
A balance board is typically made of wood and has a flat top and a dome-shaped, unstable bottom in the center of the board. This allows the board to move in different directions.
Rocker boards can be rectangular or have a curved U-shape, which allows you to move from side to side or from front to back.
Round balance boards, also called wobble boards, allow you to move both side to side and front to back, but they also allow you to tilt the board in a circle (aka “around the world”).
Physical therapists often use balance boards in the rehabilitation of lower leg injuries — more specifically, ankle sprains. Balance boards are also a valuable training aid for preventing sports-related injuries and protecting against falls in people of all ages.
Additional benefits of using a balance board include:
- improved balance and coordination
- stronger lower leg muscles, especially the peroneals
- increased motor skills
- injury prevention, especially for the ankles
- help with injury rehabilitation
- improved posture
A balance board is a training device to help improve balance, rehabilitate and prevent injuries, and increase motor skills. There are different styles of balance boards, such as round and rectangular.
Balance boards for weight loss
Balance boards are best known for their role in injury prevention, rehabilitation, and balance training. However, any form of physical activity burns calories, so using a balance board may also aid in weight loss.
One small study looked at the differences in energy expenditure for 30 healthy adults while they were at work. The researchers measured participants’ energy expenditure while sitting, while standing on a flat surface, and while standing on a balance board (Trusted Source).
Participants performed a total of 1.5 hours of typing — 30 minutes in each of the 3 positions. Results showed that energy expenditure was 14.2% higher when using a balance board than when sitting (Trusted Source).
The number of calories burned during exercise depends on several factors, such as the type of activity, the intensity, and your body weight. To determine an average, you can use a physical activity calorie counter that allows you to input body weight, duration, and activity.
While you may not find “balance board” on an activity list, you can choose a similar activity such as calisthenics. For example, a 150-pound person doing 20 minutes of moderate calisthenics will burn about 80 calories (3).
Since balance board training raises your heart rate, it increases energy expenditure. An increase in the number of calories you burn per day can contribute to weight loss.
Improving your balance with a balance board
The ability to balance is a function of three bodily systems:
- visual system
- vestibular system
- proprioceptive system
Specifically, balance board training can improve proprioception, which is the perception of your body position and movements in three-dimensional space. In other words, it’s your body’s ability to sense its location, movements, and actions (Trusted Source).
Experts believe that ankle proprioception plays a critical role in balancing. Using balance or wobble boards can train the muscles, ligaments, and tendons to work together to create stability at the ankle (Trusted Source).
One recent review looked at 7 randomized controlled trials with a total of 3,726 participants and found that proprioceptive training using a balance or wobble board can reduce the risk of a first-time or recurrent ankle sprain (Trusted Source).
One small study found that stroke patients who performed wobble board exercises along with conventional physiotherapy showed a significant increase in balance compared with a control group that didn’t use the wobble board (Trusted Source).
Another small study in 2011 assessed the effects of wobble board training on physical function in 23 older adults. Participants who used a wobble board twice a week for 9 weeks showed a significantly greater increase in standing time on a wobble board than the control group (Trusted Source).
These results suggest that older adults can improve their standing balance with wobble board training (Trusted Source).
Improved balance is the most notable benefit of using a balance board. Through various exercises, you can increase proprioception; strengthen your knees, hips, and ankles; and improve your posture.
Drawbacks of balance boards
Like any other piece of exercise equipment, a balance board can potentially be misused or present challenges, especially if you’re not familiar with how to use it.
The biggest drawback of balance boards is ironically also one reason it’s such a great fitness tool: It requires you to balance on an unstable surface.
Improving balance and ankle strength are two of the key benefits of this type of training.
That said, if you have weak or injured ankles, problems with your knees or hips, or limitations with your balance, using a balance board may present some challenges and safety issues, such as an increased risk of falling.
If you’re new to exercise or have any issues with your ankles, hips, or knees, consider working with a physical therapist or certified personal trainer. They can teach you how to use the balance board correctly.
Balance boards require you to stand on an unstable surface. This can increase your risk of falling, especially if you’re new to this type of training or you have certain injuries.
Balance board exercises
If you’re new to balance board training, consider doing these exercises close to a wall or a stable surface like a table that you can place a hand on.
You can create an entire workout using a balance board. To help you get started, here are five exercises that target the major muscles in your body.
Basic balance sequence
This balance sequence starts with a basic stance, moves to a front-to-back tilt, and ends with a side-to-side motion. This targets your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and core muscles to help improve stability, coordination, and spatial awareness.
- Begin by standing on the balance board with your feet hip-distance apart. Your feet should be on the outer edges of the board.
- Keep your posture upright and maintain a neutral spine.
- Pick a focal point in front of you to focus on. This can help with balance.
- Shift your weight so the edges of the board don’t touch the floor. Your arms can be in front of you or at your sides.
- Balance in this position for 30 seconds.
- Slowly tilt the board forward until it touches the floor.
- Slowly tilt the board back until it touches the floor behind you. Your arms can be in front of you or at your sides.
- Tilt forward and back slowly for 30 seconds.
- Stand in the starting balance position.
- Slowly tilt the board to the right side and then to the left side.
- Tilt from side to side for 30 seconds.
Balance board mini squats target your glutes, quadriceps. hamstrings, calves, and core muscles.
- Start in the balance position, but move your feet a few inches toward the edges (a little wider than hip-distance apart).
- Place your arms in front or at your sides for balance. Alternatively, you can hold onto the wall or a stable surface to help with balance.
- Slowly bend at your knees into a squat position. Go only as far as you can while maintaining balance.
- Push through your heels and stand up.
- Complete 10–15 reps.
The balance board plank targets your abdominal muscles (core), glutes, hips, legs, shoulders, back, and arms.
- Get in a push-up position with your hands on the balance board, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Your feet will be behind you, either together for more challenge or apart for more stability.
- Engage your core muscles and make sure your body is in a straight line.
- Keep your arms extended, but leave a slight bend in your elbows so they’re not locked out.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds or as long as you can.
Balance board push-ups take the plank one step further and target your chest, triceps, and core muscles.
- Start on the floor in a push-up position with your hands on the balance board, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Your feet will be behind you, either together for a more advanced variation or apart for more stability. Your body will be in a straight line.
- Engage your core muscles and keep your head looking forward.
- Bend your elbows and slowly lower yourself as far as you can go while keeping your body in a straight line.
- Pause and return to the starting position.
- Complete 5–10 reps.
The balance board glute bridge targets your glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, arms at your sides, and feet pointing toward the balance board.
- Lift your feet and place them on the balance board. Your soles will be in contact with the balance board.
- Engage your glutes and press your feet into the balance board to lift your hips off the floor. Go as high as you can while maintaining balance.
- Squeeze your glute muscles and hold this position for a few seconds.
- Slowly lower your body to the floor.
- Complete 10–15 reps.
You can target all the major muscle groups with balance board exercises. Try the basic balance sequence, mini squats, push-ups, planks, and glute bridge. If you need help balancing while doing standing exercises, hold onto a wall or a stable surface.
The Take Away
Balance boards are an excellent tool to address issues with balance, rehabilitation, injury prevention, and general fitness.
There are different styles of balance boards to choose from, but ultimately it comes down to what works best for you.
It’s a good idea to speak with a doctor, a physical therapist, or a qualified personal trainer before adding balance board training to your workout routine, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or ankle, knee, or hip injuries.
All in all, balance board exercises are a great way to increase your balance and stability, which will help you enjoy your favorite activities for years to come.
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