What is a Balance Board?
A Balance Board is a device used in training for balance. It consists of a lever setup that is similar to a seesaw. It has a board that the person stands on which sits on top of some type of fulcrum. When standing on the board, the user must balance his body to prevent the ends of the board from touching the ground and to stay on the board.
Are there different types of Balance Boards?
Yes. There are five basic types of Balance Board on the market, which can be grouped according to the two following criteria:
- Is the fulcrum attached to the board?
- Can the board move through a 360-degree arc or can you only tilt it in the two opposite directions?
The five types of Balance Boards are:
Balance Board Type
Sphere and Ring Board
What’s the difference between the 5 types of Balance Boards?
The different types of boards offer different levels of balance challenge. The variation in difficulty depends upon the range of movement that the board allows. The range of board movements are:
Here is an overview of each of the five major board types:
- A Rocker Board, which consists of a circular flat board with an attached fulcrum below it, is the least difficult board to use. It will only allow you to tilt from left to right.
- A step up from the Rocker Board is the Rocker-Roller Board. Whereas the Rocker Board is on a fixed pivot, the Rocker-Roller has the board on top of a cylindrical wheel which is able to move relative to the board. This provides the extra challenge of the board sliding sideways as it is moving up and down.
- A Wobble Board has a semi-spherical fulcrum with the flat side connected to the board. This provides 360-degree movement. This provides a greater challenge than standing on a board that only provides two-directional movement.
- A Sphere and Ring Board consists of a small inflatable ball which is placed under a board that resembles a skateboard without the wheels. On the underside of the board is a ring that keeps the ball from rolling away. By balancing on the board the user is able to recruit muscles that are not used in bi-directional boards.
- A Spring Board consists of springs that are connected between two boards. Standing on the top board compresses the springs, which provide a unique balancing challenge.
What are Underwater Balance Boards?
Underwater Balance Boards are similar to those used on land. Underwater boards were first used for rehabilitative work with physical therapy patients. A major advantage of working in the water is that, if you fall, you will not hurt yourself, so long as you avoid inhaling water.
There are aquatic versions of the rocker board and the wobble board. Depending on the specific brand, the user either stands, sits or kneels on the board.
What is the difference between a Balance Board and a Bosu Ball?
Both the Balance Board and the Bosu Ball train your balance by offering an unstable surface to exercise on. Whereas the Balance Board always provides a flat surface to stand on, however, the Bosu Ball allows you to work on both a flat and a spherical surface. A Bosu, which means 'both sides used', is an air-filled dome that is able to challenge your stability in every direction.
In terms of which is more effective at training your balance and stability, a recent study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research concluded that, whereas the Bosu Ball did not challenge the trainer significantly more than standing on a stable surface, a Balance Board provides greater neuromuscular activation.
Why should I use a Balance Board?
The Balance Board is an effective means of training for balance. Balance training offers the following key benefits:
- Equilibrium Repair – As we journey through life, our center of balance, or equilibrium, can easily be compromised. Our posture, our job, injuries and other factors make coordination increasingly difficult. Balance training is an effective means of restoring equilibrium.
- Coordination – Most gym exercises require individual muscles to work in isolation. In real life, however, the body functions as a whole unit. Balance training calls on all of the body’s muscles to work together, boosting functional fitness.
- Reaction Speed – Practicing on a Balance Board trains your neurological pathways to react faster, without over-reacting. This is very effective for athletes who need to react instantly to a prompt.
- Injury Prevention – Improving balance has been recognized as a key factor in preventing injury to the ACL knee joint, as well as the ankles and hips.
- Overall Fitness – Many of the traditional exercises that you were performing while standing on the floor can be done on a balance board. This will make the exercise more effective, as you are now recruiting many more stabilizer muscles, including the all important core muscles.
Will using a Balance Board help reduce ankle injury?
Yes. A recent study out of the University of Wisconsin is just one of many that has analyzed the effect of a regular balance training program on ankle injury. This study documented that a balance training program, implemented throughout a sports season, will reduce the rate of ankle sprains by 38% in high school basketball and soccer players.
A major problem for people who suffer an ankle injury is the recurrence of the sprain. A major study conducted in 2008 concluded that six weeks of balance training, undertaken soon after the initial sprain, would substantially reduce the rate of recurrence.
Can the elderly use a Balance Board?
Absolutely. According to Dr. Anthony Komaroff, Harvard Medical School Professor, as we age our balance declines as a result of vestibular system cell death, decreased vision, blood pressure related dizziness, loss of muscle mass and strength, and slowing of reflexes.
Dr. Komaroff advocates “Along with regular aerobic exercise and weight training, balance exercises are important as we get older. Such exercises really can help you improve your balance.”
A number of studies have shown that the use of a balance board can have significant benefit for the aged population. One study, out of Kansas City University, concluded that use of a balance board three times per week for just 10 minutes per session, can significantly improve balance and potentially decrease the risk of falls in the elderly.
How frequently should I use a Balance Board?
Unlike individual muscle training, you can’t really overtrain on a balance board. The more balance training your body receives, the better coordinated it will become, and the better your reaction speed and ability will be.
Using the balance board is, therefore, recommended. Sessions do not have to be long, with 10-15 minutes being about the ideal length of time.
As well as using your Balance Board on a daily basis, you should actively look for other opportunities throughout the day to practice improving your balance. Regularly balancing on one foot, sitting on a Fitness Ball rather than a chair and walking on a balance beam down at the local park are all ways to further develop your balance.
Can using a Balance Board make me a better athlete?
Most definitely. Improving your balance will enable you to be a faster runner, a stronger swimmer, and a more powerful thrower. A major athletic benefit of balance board training is that it will make you less susceptible to athletic injury.
A study reported in the Active Sport Physiotherapy Clinic website studied 116 volleyball teams, half of whom trained with a Balance Board. The balance group spent just five minutes doing one of 14 prescribed exercise on the board every day. The training continued over the 36-week volleyball season. Players in the board group had fewer injuries than those in the control group. The study’s authors concluded that balance training is an effective way for an athlete to prevent ankle injuries. They also noted that balance training does not have any negative side effects, unlike ankle bracing and taping.
Balance training can also make you stronger. According to Louis Stack, a Canadian national speed skiing team member and balance training expert, “Balance conditioning is a way to train the body to make better use of the strength you already have. When you train someone for stabilization, proprioception and balance, by default he or she is at less risk for injury. Good balance reduces [the] need for additional effort.”
Can using a Balance Board help with my lower back pain?
Yes. Lower back problems are often a result of poor posture. Balance training can help to improve posture. According to health authority website WebMD, a key way it does so is by strengthening the muscles of the core.
In order to ensure that your time on the Balance Board maximally improves your posture, make sure that you engage your abs on every movement. You can do this by inhaling deeply to engage all the ab muscles. This will help them to work together to create abdominal bracing, which will result in torso stability.
The group of muscles located at the bottom of your pelvis, which are known as the pelvic floor, are also important to improving your posture and reducing lower back pain. These layered muscles provide hammock-like support from the pubic bone to the tailbone. Balance work will assist to make these muscles stronger, allowing them to take a lot of the pressure off the lower back.
What are the risks associated with the use of a Balance Board?
The main risk of using a Balance Board is falling off the board. Even though you are not very high off the ground, balance board falls have been known to break bones, sprain ankles, and tear ligaments.
Protective safety gear such as knee and elbow pads can help to give protection in the event of a fall.
People who have a history of dizziness should not use a Balance Board. Do not use a board if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Do you have any tips for a safe use of a Balance Board?
- Remember that doing any movement on a Balance Board will make that movement much more difficult. It is important to ease into Balance Board training. Focus on using good form, ensuring that you maintain a neutral spine position at all times.
- If you have frequent problems with dizziness or have a history of balance issues, you should consult your doctor before starting an exercise program on a Balance Board.
- Make sure that there are no obstacles, such as clothing or paper in the workout area that may interfere with the movement of the board. You should also try to exercise in as large an area as possible to prevent the board from crashing into walls or furniture.
- Make sure the area in which you work out is well lit.
- It is a good idea to invest in a non-slip mat to place your Balance Board upon. This will allow free movement of the board and provide a measure of extra cushioning if you fall. You should not use the Balance Board on a slippery surface.
- You should do your Balance Training in bare feet. This will provide sensory feedback to your neuromuscular system. It will also enhance your stability.
- When you are training on the Balance Board, never jerk or swing your body into position. Rather, your movements should be slow and controlled. You want to use the power of your core and other muscles, rather than momentum, to do the work.
- You should begin your Balance Board sessions with a light cardio warm up. You should also do some dynamic stretching before using the Balance board. Conclude your workout with a cardio warm-down.
Now that you have the answer to what is a balance board, take that knowledge and put it to good use – your life will be a whole lot more balanced as a result!