In our quest to get fitter, stronger, leaner and healthier we invest a lot of time and energy into the traditional, established training methods; we lift, we run and we jump. But for a long time, most us haven’t given a single thought to balancing. If we had, we could be a whole lot fitter, stronger, leaner and healthier right now. Here are 10 balance board benefits that you wish you’d known earlier.
Benefit #1: It Will Make You a Better Athlete
Balance board training will improve your agility. The ability to make quick transitions is a fundamental skill in most sports. It will allow you to instantly transition from offense to defense and to better react to the unpredictability of the ball and your opposition.
Developing a stronger balance in a fixed position will enable an athlete to stand his ground more effectively. For a beach volleyball player negotiating the shifting sands under her feet or a basketball point guard in a defensive stance, maintaining a fixed position is crucial.
Coordination is vastly improved when you train on a balance board. You will be more in tune with your body, better able to fluidly move from one position to another. This will result in the conservation of energy, allowing you to achieve maximum result for minimum output.
Balance board training will vastly improve your ability to stabilize your body. Whether you’re a skater on ice or a gymnast on the beam, controlling your body’s stability will put you at an advantage.
Benefit #2: It Will Make You Less Injury Prone
Many common injuries, in everyday life and in the sporting arena, are the result of poor balance and coordination. Regular balance board training will make you more spatially aware, enabling you to auto correct your body position instantly when danger arises. Your proprioception will be enhanced, allowing your body to more effectively deal with balance-related challenges.
Balance board training will also strengthen key joints that are often the causes of injury. Ankle sprains are a major contributor to injury in many sports. A study, which was published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that regular training on a balance board significantly reduced the incidence of ankle sprains. This was especially true in the cases of athletes who had previously had an ankle sprain. The researchers believed that balance board training strengthened the ankle joint, making it more robust, agile and strong.
A 2008 study showed that rehabilitative ankle training was effective in reducing the recurrence of ankle injuries. Six weeks of balance board based training substantially reduced the rate of recurrence over the next 12 months. A control group, who did not do any balance board training as part of their rehabilitation, had a higher rate of re-injury over the ensuing 12 months.
Benefit #3: It Will Improve Your Brain
When you improve your balance and posture, your ability to focus and give attention to a subject improves. The ability of your brain to coordinate its two hemispheres and to perfect fine motor skills is dependent upon your body alignment and what is known as vestibular processing. Vestibular processing can be defined as your spatial perception of the world around you.
Dr. Jean Ayers, a pioneer in the field of vestibular processing enhancement, used the balance board in her sensory integration therapy sessions. She worked with people with sensory integration disorder. Clinical trials conducted by Dr. Ayers showed that balance training helped to improve eye control, coordination, language development and concentration.
Dr. Ayers found that balance training forced the user to constantly be using neural networks in order to coordinate the mind and body. This helps us to be better learners. (source)
Benefit #4: It is Progressive
If you’re one of those people who have shied away from balance training because you think you’re just too uncoordinated and don’t want to look foolish in front of your gym peers, think again. Balance Board training allows you to start with exercises that are easily accessible by even the most uncoordinated among us, and then progressively move on to more challenging exercises as we gain confidence.
Balance Boards are not all the same. In fact, there are five basic types of balance boards, with varying levels of difficulty. A person who is just starting out with balance training should use a rocker board, which is a flat platform attached to a fixed fulcrum. The only movement possible is tilting from front to back. Your challenge is to prevent the edges of the board from touching the floor while staying upright on the board.
Once you’ve gained confidence with the Rocker Board, you can move on to a Rocker-Roller Board, which adds in sideways movement, thanks to a cylindrical fulcrum. From there, it’s on to a Wobble Board, which uses a semi-spherical fulcrum with the flat side attached to the board. You are now able to move through 360 degrees of movement, providing a whole new level of challenge.
The biggest Balance Board challenge comes by way of the Sphere and Ring Board. The key feature of this board is that the fulcrum is not fixed to the board. Rather, the fulcrum is in the form of a small ball that is able to move freely within the confines of a ring on the underside of the board. This provides for an extreme challenge designed to test those who have advanced through the previous board levels.
Benefit #5: It Will Develop Your Core Muscles
The core muscles are comprised of a number of muscles that overlap and extend from the base of the neck to the muscles between the legs. As well as providing support to the torso, these muscles stabilize the spine. Every move that we make relies on core strength and stability.
Training on a balance board challenges your core constantly. The imbalance of your position keeps your intercostals, abdominals and infraspinatus firing as you make slight adjustments to keep yourself upright. This strengthens the stabilizing muscles of your trunk.
The core strength that comes from training on a Balance Board will make you less prone to injury. The strain on your limbs will be reduced and you’ll be keeping injury prone areas, such as your lower back, healthy.
Benefit #6: It Will Improve Your Posture
Poor posture is extremely common these days. A lot of the problem results from the fact that we are constantly looking at a screen. Whether it’s a computer monitor or cell phone screen, the body position is the same. Invariably we are hunched forward with a rounded lower back and shoulders that are drooping forward.
The result of the constantly rounding positioning of the torso is that we develop a posture that has our shoulders hunched and our eyes on the ground. Not only does this convey a negative self-image, it is also bad news for your spine.
The Balance Board offers a solution and an antidote to all of those hours that we spend on technology. By strengthening the deep stabilizer muscles of the torso, you’ll build a strong foundation for your spinal bones. This, in turn, will provide you with the strength to hold your shoulders high and keep your joints in place.
Correcting your posture through Balance Board training will make you less prone to injury. It will also enable you to project a more positive self-image to the world.
Benefit #7: It Will Make You Stronger
There’s more to strength than spending all day with the heavy iron. By improving your balance, you will be able to work muscle groups that you previously haven’t been able to activate. Often the small stabilizer muscles that work in concert with your ‘star’ muscles (chest, back, thighs) are the difference between success and failure on a lift.
When you train on a Balance Board, the small stabilizer muscles come into play immediately. The imbalance of your position forces them to contract in order to help get you balanced. At the same time, your larger muscles are having to work to keep you stable. When you are exercising on a flat surface, such as the ground, these muscles are not called into play.
You can benefit from the recruitment of your muscles to help keep you balanced by performing some of your traditional weight training and bodyweight resistance exercises on the Balance Board. Doing so will allow you to dramatically increase both the intensity and the effect of the movement.
Doing a push up with your hands on the board while your feet are on the floor will bring all of the stabilizer muscles of your arms and shoulders, as well as your core and even your quads into play. To make the exercise even more demanding (and beneficial) try placing your feet on a second balance board!
Benefit #8: Balance Boards Are Great for Kids, Too
Developing balance and coordination starts from an early age. It’s a marvel to see a toddler master the ability to walk in just a few months. However, many children today lack the basics of body awareness, coordination, and balance needed to perform tasks that were second nature to previous generations.
Training with Balance Boards is an ideal way to help children to develop their confidence in this area. Because Balance Boards resemble skateboards, they have appeal to many youngsters. And, because they are low to the ground, they don’t appear threatening.
Balance Boards are being used in physical education classes around the globe to help children to develop not only their balance and coordination, but also their posture and core strength. They are also proving effective to help children with conditions such as cerebral palsy to improve their coordination. Having a Balance Board in the home and encouraging your youngster to use it will benefit him greatly.
Benefit #9: It Develops the Mind-Muscle Connection
The ability to single-mindedly focus on the task at hand is often what separates success from failure. Nowhere is this more evident than when working out. Many gym goers appear to cruise through their workouts as if they are painting by numbers. They follow a set rep scheme without fully engaging in the work at hand. They have failed to make the vital mind-muscle connection.
Contrast that with a person who has learnt to connect their mind into the workout. Their brain is zoned in on the working muscle, they are feeling the contraction and extension and they are self-monitoring their form. They are in the moment and the only thing that matters is successfully completing the set.
Learning to train this way doesn’t come easy. Yet, the Balance Board forces you to do it constantly. You cannot afford to have your mind wander for an instant. Every second on the board requires you to be switched into what your muscles are doing.
By spending time on the Balance Board you will develop your mind-muscle connection, which you will then be able to carry over to the other aspects of your training in order to maximize your results.
Benefit #10: The Balance Board Benefits You in the Water
One of the risks of Balance Board training is falling and injuring yourself on a hard surface. This is especially a concern for people with arthritis, the elderly or those coming back from injury. That’s a major reason why Balance Board training has taken to the water.
Aquatic Balance Board training offers all of the benefits of land balancing. However, when you fall, you will simply be landing on the soft surface of the water. The Balance Boards used for aquatic training are slightly modified to allow them to stay buoyant, but otherwise, are just the same as the ones you’ll find in the gym. The balance board benefits you in the water especially if falling on the ground is a concern for you.