Balance boards are not such a new exercise tool anymore, they have become more and more popular over the last few years. As more and more people get them, more fun and beneficial exercises start to be invented.
Balance boards are unique in the way that they are designed to strengthen some of your most important and least seen muscle groups, especially your core. Because they are so versatile, you could get almost all your workouts in on just a balance board. Of course, I am not discounting other exercise tools like barbells or treadmills, simply making the point that you can work a ton of muscle groups with just this one board. You will work out similar muscle groups as jump ropes or exercise balls, although maybe not as intense.
Barbells can be used for core exercises if you hold them while doing pushups, but they are designed and used mainly for arms and shoulder muscle targeting. With a balance board, you have access to your upper body muscle group, your core (including back and lower back as well as abdominals), and even your legs (calves and upper legs as well). The only piece of equipment I can think of that offers this much versatility to the user is maybe a swimming pool or rowing machine.
Before You Start Balance Board Exercises
Do it with a Friend
It is recommended when you are first getting used to using a balance board to exercise with a friend or workout buddy as a spotter. It can feel unnatural at first and you could easily lose your balance and wind up falling and getting hurt. Be careful, keep in mind most of the serious injuries that happen at home happen on those tiny little step ladders. A short fall to the ground when you are not prepared can end up spraining an ankle or smacking your head.
Check out The Surrounding Area Where You Set it Up
Where you decide to exercise with your board is important, because you will be moving around a lot and will need to have about six to seven feet of open space on all sides to avoid hitting something while exercising and making space for you if you do happen to fall off. Ideally, you can set it up in a big open area like a recreation room or better yet, a dedicated workout room. The worst possible place is anywhere near a table with sharp corners or chairs that can jab you.
Place on a Safe Surface
Many people have wood floors or tile, which are both hard surfaces and can hurt when you fall on them. While sometimes falling on a hard surface is not a big deal, if you land wrong, it could be dangerous. If you happen to have an exercise mat, that would be a perfect place to set it up. If you do not have a mat, floors covered in the carpet are a good alternative. Carpet flooring is almost always placed on top of a layer of padding. This padding is not usually very thick, but it will help soften the blow if you fall off. The most likely injury on a carpeted floor is a skinned knee or elbow.
I know you hate wearing this stuff. However, a helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads are not a bad idea if you are new to using a balance board. For some people that have poor balance, wearing protective gear is a good idea even as you get used to the feeling of being off-balance. This is not a requirement but more of a suggestion. Once you get good at staying upright you can probably safely take off the extra gear. However, if you are especially heavy, it may be smart to keep it on when always exercising because even a short fall is more dangerous the more you weigh.
Walls are Your Friend
When you are still learning, setting up near a wall that has nothing against it is a smart idea. This will allow you to brace yourself against the wall and practice some of the side-to-side exercises unimpeded. This may be annoying because you will want the full range of motion, but until you are used to the board, this is something you should consider. Better safe than sorry.
Balance Board Plank Exercise
If you are already familiar with the traditional plank, this will not be exceedingly difficult to learn. The only difference here is you are placing your hands on either side of the board instead of on the flat ground. This is much harder than you think it would be.
- Place both your hands in front of your chest on either side of the board
- Keep your legs fully extended behind you with your knees straight and your weight resting on your toes.
- Hold this position for the amount of time you are comfortable with, do not try to push yourself too hard at first, this will be difficult as the board tries to move left and right and you correct with your arm and shoulder muscles.
This is a killer workout and will target your core, legs, arms, and shoulders, and even your back and glutes. The balance board plank is probably the best and most beneficial (and least dangerous) of all the exercises in this list. Highly recommended as the first one to try.
The lunge will work your legs and core while improving your sense of balance all over the whole body. This will feel awkward for a while because normally when you are doing lunges you have your front foot flat on the ground, giving you a strong sense of balance and safety.
With the lunge on a board, you will not have that solid ground beneath your front foot and will feel off balance and weird until you get used to it.
- Place your front foot on the balance board pointing straight ahead of your knee.
- Place your back foot back extended behind you.
- Lower your body to the ground with your hands on your hips for additional balance.
- Bend both your knees as you descend until your back leg’s knee gets a few inches from the ground.
- Raise your body up slightly and extend your knees.
You will feel your calves, upper leg muscles, and glutes working on this one. If repeated enough times it will feel like an entire workout by itself. A word of caution, keep aware of your ankle on that front foot, as the balance board wants to tilt, be careful not to let it happen or you could twist your ankle. It may be a good idea to wear a compression brace on that front ankle if you are a beginner.
Push-Ups on the Board
These are like traditional pushups, only you will have to keep your balance at the same time you are pushing your body weight up from the floor. This will work parts of your arms that you may have never felt before, and it will significantly improve your balance in the upper body. These pushups will tire you out twice as fast as traditional pushups. If you can do 50 pushups, you can probably only do 25 on the balance board at first. Don’t let this stop you, keep at it, and eventually, you will be moving quickly, and your arms and shoulders will be twice as strong.
- Place your feet behind you on the balance board with your arms extended in front of your chest
- Keep your back straight and arms fully extended
- Lower your body to the ground slowly while maintaining your balance
- When you get close to the ground, extend your arms and push your body up to the starting point
You will notice this is more difficult than the pushups you are used to, but the additional muscle groups this is targeting will thank you for it. Just be careful not to do too many and let your arms get weak, you could fall flat on your face. This has happened more than you may think!
This exercise will work your quadriceps, calves, core, and glutes as well as your back. Of course, since this is a balance board it goes without saying that this will greatly increase your balance in your whole body.
- Start by standing on the board with feet even on either side, just open your feet a little so they are closer to the edges of the board. This will give you more balance.
- Set your arms at your sides, or if you are not comfortable yet you can have something nearby to hold onto to maintain balance.
- Bend at the knees and lower your body into the squat position, do not try to go all the way down. Only go as low as you can safely go while staying balanced.
- Extend your legs slowly and stand back up until you are upright again. Maintain this position for a few seconds and regain full balance.
- Repeat these steps as many times as you are comfortable with, without overdoing it and losing leg strength.