Balance boards have far reaching benefits when used for fitness. The instability of the activity means that at any one time a whole range of muscles are working together rather than just one being targeted. Exercises that are simple on flat ground suddenly take on a new life when you’re on a board and put you to the test in a whole new way.
Swifty Fitness’ wooden balance boards give you the opportunity to put yourself to the test, both physically and mentally. It’s not a typical form of exercise a lot of us are used to though. So, we’ve broken down some of the best exercises you can do on your new board to feel the benefits, whether you’re a first timer or a seasoned boarder!
Balance Board Beginners – How Do I Get Started?
The thought of hopping on your new balance board may seem daunting at first. The best thing you can do your first time is take it slow. Even if you’re a seasoned balance boarder it’s best to take your time on your inaugural ride to get to grips with the weight and feel of your new board.
Start by a wall, in a door frame, or with a friend nearby that you can hold onto. With the cork roller under one end of the board put your dominant foot on the other end. Place your other foot on the end over the roller and shift your body weight over the roller, using your arms to balance. Adjust your body to get your centre of gravity over the roller and hold this position for as long as you can
Once stable try leaning both ways and rocking the board back and forth to get an even understanding of your balance and know which is your dominant leg, and which may need more focus.
For your first time this will likely be challenge enough. Once you’re confident at this and looking for some other ways to put your skills to the test you’re ready to tackle some of these.
BALANCE BOARD EXERCISES FOR YOUR CORE
Our core is crucial to our balance and the movement of our body as a whole. Developing and maintaining a good core strength is something we should all be thinking about, and is an area that the balance board excels in working.
Many tend to think that your ‘core’ is just your abs however it actually consists of multiple muscle groups and is the combination of the full trunk’s musculature. It’s about more than getting a six pack!
Beginner – WIDE LEG PLANK
Facing the side of the balance board place your hands, arms straight (or forearms and elbows) on the board and stand (or kneel) on the ground with your body fully extended. Go into plank position and hold for 30 secs. Rest.
For the first balance board core workouts we’re turning to the dreaded plank. The plank is infamous in workouts of all shapes and sizes but it always deserves a place because the benefits can’t be denied!
By varying a standard plank with the addition of the balance board, your core will be put to the test as a whole, rather than putting any particular pressure on one muscle group. The unstable base for your arms is sure to get your core firing. Using a wider stance at first will help you get to grips with the movements stance and differences compared to a regular plank on the floor, and you can make it harder by bringing your legs closer together.
If you’re confident with this you can expand on this simple exercise in a number of different ways such as lifting one leg up then the other during the plank or move between resting on your elbows and forearms and straight arms during the plank - 'walking' between the positions.
Looking for a way to get active outdoors? Learn more about the benefits of a scooter fitness workout
Intermediate – SIT THROUGHS
Start with your hands on the board and stood on your toes to the side. Keeping your hands on the board sweep your left leg across your body to your right side so it is extended. Rotate your body with the sweeping leg and remains standing on the other leg. Briefly hold the extended point and return to the first position. Repeat on the other side.
It may look like a bit of a break dancing move but sit throughs are a good way to get your core working your obliques, lower abs and transverse abs. It's a good mix of agility and balance as well as something that will get your muscles working.
As well as being a great core burner sit throughs are a good way to help tone your shoulders too. The constant movements and adjusting your body position keeps all your muscles working and moving together, helping your overall coordination.
Expert – ROCKING PLANK
Rest your feet on the board, one at the front, one at the back. With your elbow on the floor far enough away that you are fully extended. Raise your torso up and engage your abs to create a straight line with your body. Hold for 30 secs. Rest, and repeat facing the other way.
That’s right, we’re going for another plank for our expert core workout. Sorry. This variation on the plank is a great way to put your obliques to work as well as giving you all the benefits of a regular plank. By just having your toes on the board it will make for a great exercise to test your foot and ankle strength too.
The constant movement will keep your whole body adjusting constantly, making for a rounded exercise that will test even the pros!
Learn more about Swifty Fitness - what is it, what are plans are and why we expanded into home fitness equipment!
BALANCE BOARD EXERCISES FOR YOUR LOWER BODY
Clearly using your balance board is going to have plenty of benefits for your legs from the simplest of uses. If you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge, here are a few alternative ways you can target certain muscles.
Beginner – SQUAT + HOLD
Stand on the board and get your balance. Lower yourself down into a squat position, hold for a few seconds, slowly raise yourself back up. Repeat.
One of the best ways to approach balance board exercises are to find ones that work well on solid ground and repeat them on the board! The squat is a classic and go-to for many people because of the huge benefits it can bring to your lower body muscles.
By taking the idea of a squat and putting it on an unstable base it gives you all benefits of a regular squat and then some. Holding the lowest position give you a good chance to test your foot and ankle balance as well as putting your quads, glutes, hamstrings and more to work at the same time!
Intermediate – JUMP AND DIP
Stand on the board with your legs shoulder width apart. When you have your balance jump up in the air and land with your feet in the same position. Go dip your body down, and raise yourself back up to standing. Regain your balance, and repeat.
We’re getting airborne for the intermediate exercise! Adding a small jump to the squat exercise opens you up to a range of challenges and benefits.
Not only does it require you to evenly push off with both feet to keep the board flat enough to land on but as you land your whole lower body has to quickly react to regain you balance. This short reaction time when landing is a great way to test your reflexes and get your whole lower body activated. The quick explosion of energy from the jump to the slow burning benefits of a squat gives your muscles a fully rounded challenge.
If you’ve mastered a little jump and landing then you can vary this exercise in a number of ways - jump from your feet being in the middle of the board to the outside, jump and switch which leg is in front of the other or jump and do a 180!
Expert – 1 LEGGED BALANCE
Stand on the board and get your balance. Move your feet to the centre of the board and slowly lift one leg off. Hold for as long as you’re comfortable. Repeat on the other leg.
For our expert level exercise, we’re looking to concentrate all the challenges of the board into one leg. Think of the exercise like the half moon yoga pose on the board. Taking the imbalances of the board when using two legs and amplifying it to work on just one will really put your leg muscles to the test!
We’d recommend facing the way of the board so your foot is going to be rocking back and forward, rather than risking an ankle injury going side to side.
This can be quite an intense workout for the muscles in your leg and ankle, so make sure to stretch before and after!
At first glance it looks like balance board exercises will all be aimed at mainly the legs, core, back etc. but what is often overlooked is the benefits it can bring to your upper body.
Beginner – STRAIGHT ARM ROLLS
With your hands flat on the board, get into a press up position (you can make I easier by having your knees on the floor). Slowly, and in a controlled manner roll the board to the left. Roll the board back to the right, then into the middle and continue alternating equally on both sides.
When you first stand on a balance board you can feel your whole lower body getting to work and trying to stabilise yourself. As it’s used to carrying our weight throughout the day anyway we (generally) know what we need to do to balance ourselves.
It’s much less common for our upper body to be faced with that same kind of constant weight baring/re-balancing challenge. That’s what we’re trying to simulate with our first exercise.
Intermediate – TRICEP DIPS
When you think arm workouts, most people think biceps, but your triceps are actually a bigger muscle group! Tricep dips as the name would suggest are a great exercise to put them to work in order to get a full arm workout.
One of the great challenges of this exercise is that you aren’t looking at the board, so it’s tougher to maintain your balance. It’s a test of mind and body!
Because you can’t see the board make sure to be careful when curling your fingers around the edge of it while doing this, they could get trapped between the board and the roller if you go too far one way!
Expert – OFF SET PRESS UPS
Get into the press up position with both hands on the board. Roll the board to one side so it’s resting against the fins on the bottom. Do a full press up. Once back up and stable, roll to the other side. Do a press up. Repeat.
We’re turning again to a press up based exercise for the expert portion of Upper Body. The beauty of this exercise is the variations of movement used in it. It has all the benefits of our beginner exercise but the added press up at each end really puts your arms to the test.
This one is a killer for sure, so make sure to take it easy on your first go, a couple of sets of lower reps is going to do you better than burning yourself out in one long push!
Another element of balance boarding that may surprise you is how good it can be for getting your cardio in. Rather than full on ‘going for a run’ type cardio you can work your balance board into a lot of exercises that you find when doing circuit training for example.
Adding the extra layer of balance to typical circuit movements helps knock your heart rate up that one step further to keep cardio interesting!
Beginner – UP AND DOWN
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Reach down and touch either end of the balance board with your hands. Stand back up and reach your hands to the sky
Our beginner exercise gets your full body moving while testing your general balance at the same time. It’s a good blend of getting every muscle group working together while also having to hold your concentration.
As you get more confident with the movements and start going faster you’ll be destabilizing yourself even more so the challenge will be keeping up with you!
Looking for a low impact alternative way to get active? Kick scooting might be for you! Learn more
Intermediate – MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS
Start in the press up position with your hands on the board and legs apart. Bring one leg up and into your chest, then back. Repeat with the other leg. Build up speed so you’re almost ‘running’ on the spot.
Mountain climbers are an effective exercise to get your heart rate up and burn some calories. You can easily vary the intensity of the exercise to fit your fitness level and how much you’re wanting to push yourself.
Your shoulders, arms, and chest will be put to work trying to stabilise yourself while your quads are constantly being worked at the same time. A full body workout that’s going to get you sweating!
Expert - BALANCE BOARD BURPEES
Holding your board stand with your feet shoulder width apart next facing your cork roller. Lower yourself into a squat and place the board on the roller. Shift your weight onto your hands and jump your feet back into a plank position. Jump your feet back towards your board, stand up holding the board and lift it over your head. Lower yourself back into a squat and repeat the motion.
Burpees are a mainstay in circuit training, and will be met with a few groans at every workout. Again this simple classic exercise can bring new life when the balance board is added to the equation.
Rather than jumping in the air at the end, you can raise the board up above your head, giving a new variant burpee that is sure to make you feel the burn!
Hopefully that gives you a few ideas and starting points to spice up your balance board exercises based on what part of your body you’re trying to work out. Remember to take it slowly, not push yourself beyond your limits and have fun!