Like many of the best fitness equipment inventions, balance boards are deceptively simple. Essentially, they comprise a board for you to put your feet and some kind of fulcrum, whether it’s one that shifts as you move your weight from side to side on the board, or is fixed in place.
Balance boards are strikingly simple, and yet they can help you train all kinds of muscle groups you ordinarily wouldn’t target. Sure, you could devise a sophisticated weights and circuits routine to hit minor muscle groups in your legs and core, but balance boards can do all that for you automatically and more at a fraction of the cost.
Balance Board Benefits
Benefit #1: Helps Develop Coordination
Balance boards are different to many exercises in the sense that they require not only strength and endurance, but coordination as well. Using all three of these body systems in unison helps to create what exercise scientists call proprioception – or the ability to regulate body position and movement unconsciously.
It’s a little bit like what drivers experience as they get comfortable behind the wheel: at first, they have to consciously think about every movement of the steering wheel, gear stick, and pedals, but over time they start doing it automatically and, eventually, do not need to think about it at all – their unconscious mind has taken over.
Benefit #2: Improves Posture
Some people report balance boards help them to improve their posture. Balance boards may have the ability to improve posture by strengthening core muscles in the abdomen and legs.
Benefit #3: Helps With Rehabilitation
When people get injured, they can lose their sense of proprioception. Experts recommend balance boards for the elderly and people who have recently been injured to help them regain their unconscious sense of body position.
Benefit #4: Makes You Less Injury-Prone
Researchers writing in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that people who trained using balance boards reduced their risk of ankle injury compared to a control group. Researchers believe this might be because balance boards strengthen the ankle joint in a way that regular exercise does not.
What Muscles Does A Balance Board Work?
As discussed, balance boards work many of the muscles in the torso, the legs, and muscles in the upper body that provide core stability. Balance boards are particularly useful in targeting muscles that aren’t often used in regular resistance exercises, including the deep abdominal muscles (some of which you’re probably not aware you even have), like the linea alba, the external obliques, the serratus anterior, and many more. Balance boards both actively and isometrically target the core muscles as well as body-wide stabilization muscles in the legs and buttocks.
Which Exercises Are Best?
Now that you have a good grasp of the benefits of using a balance board, which exercises should you try?
#1: Basic Stance Balance
As the name implies, this is one of the first exercises you’ll learn on a balance board. Begin by standing on the board with feet shoulder-width apart. Then put pressure on one side of the board until the edge touches the floor. Once the edge is in contact with the floor, put pressure on the other side of the board to tilt it the other way. Do this five times in twenty seconds while holding your balance.
#2: Single-Foot Balance
The single foot balance is quite an advanced exercise, but it is also exceptionally effective at building ankle strength. Start with one foot positioned in the middle of the board and lift the other off the ground. Try to hold your balance for as long as possible. You’ll notice that the balance board starts to shift around underneath you, forcing you to use your muscles in your torso and lower leg to stabilize it.
#3: Single-Foot Tilts
Building on the single-foot balance, the single foot tilt involves tilting your foot forward and backward while balancing on the board. Start with your foot in the middle of the board, as before, and then press down on the ball of your foot by contracting the calf muscle. Then push down on your heel, bringing the balance board back up level with the floor. Repeat the process for around 30 seconds, or as long as you can, then change legs.
#4: The Squat
The squat on a balance board is designed to hit the big muscles in your legs and buttocks, like the glutes and quads, but with the additional benefit of challenging your coordination and balance. Begin with feet on either side of the board with your spine in a neutral position. Then, bend your knees and hips, keeping your back straight, and lower yourself down. Use your arms to help you balance during the lowering phase of the movement. At the bottom, when your knees are parallel with your hips, push down through your heels to raise yourself back up again. Do this twenty times, avoiding hunching over if possible.
Check out this review of the Maxi Climber.
Top 5 Balance Boards
Revolution 101 Balance Board Trainer
The Revolution 101 is touted a durable, introductory balance board product. But is it?
On the durability front, the answer has to be a resounding “yes.” The Revolution 101, can handle all but the toughest abuse thanks to its layered hardwood construction. Customers say that the board is durable, attractive, and a lot of fun to use.
As for it being a beginner board, customers are divided. Rather than having a fixed roller or fulcrum, the Revolution 101 is a two-piece construction: the board and the roller are separate. When you lose your balance, the roller underneath can potentially go anywhere, including in the direction of other people.
- Durable construction
- Attractive appearance
- Value for money
- Not necessarily a beginner board
- Cork topper may not be as long-lasting as the rest of the board
Revolution Fit 3-In-1 Exercise Balance Board
The Revolution Fit 3-in-1 is targeted at fitness enthusiasts who want the most from their balance boards. The company claims that the four-piece set, including an extra-grip roller, 360 air cushion, and high-density rocker, provides exercisers with more options.
Like Revolution’s 101 board, customers love the quality of the construction. The Fit 3-in-1 board is made of layered hardwood coated in heavy-duty grip material. People who have bought the product say that they like the design and the company. The board feels similar to a skateboard and has a sticky enough surface to use without shoes.
Are there any cons? Some customers have had issues with the extra-grip roller. The diameter might not be sufficient to get enough movement in the board, making it difficult to perform some of the exercises above. Others say that they noticed significant flex in the board when being used by a heavy person, calling into question the innate strength of the material.
- Attractive build
- High-quality construction
- Plenty of balancing options and accessories
- Grippy surface – can be used without shoes
- May lack rigidity for heavier users
- Some accessories may be too small to perform effective movements
Indo Board Original
The Indo Board Original is designed to appeal to surfing enthusiasts. The board is by far the most colorful in this review, featuring an image of a wave cresting in front of the setting sun. But aesthetics aside, is Indo’s offering any good?
Let’s start with the positive aspects of the board: the sturdiness, applicability to board sports, and the challenge. Customers say that they are impressed by the rigidity of the board and the fact that it does not seem to flex under heavy load. Customers also like the fact that the board helps them practice their snowboarding and surfing techniques, thanks to the accompanying set of useful fulcrum accessories. Lastly, customers like the challenge: the board comes with an instruction manual showing users techniques from basic to advanced.
It’s not all good news though: the Indo Board Original is pricey thanks to the quality of the graphics and construction. What’s more, the paintwork on Indo Board Originals tends to chip and crack through sustained use, hurting the board’s otherwise exceptional good looks.
- High-quality construction
- Great for practicing surfing and snowboarding skills
- Presents a challenge for users
- Cracking for some users
Yes4All Wooden Wobble Balance Board
Unlike the other boards so far reviewed, the Yes4All Wooden Wobble board doesn’t take the shape of a skateboard but is instead circular in design. The board is supplied with a single, fixed fulcrum at the bottom, and is by far the cheapest offering in the current review, coming in at around a fifth of the price of the next-cheapest competitor.
The company behind the board claims that it provides users with 360-degree rotation and a 15-degree tilt for strengthening core, legs, and ankles.
Is simple better? Well, first thing’s first: the Yes4All wooden wobble board is not as versatile as many of the other offerings in this review. But it’s important to remember that the board still allows users to perform all the usual balance board exercises. It is, in that sense, fit for purpose.
Customers love the durable, grippy coating on the surface of the wood and the fact that it’s inexpensive. What they don’t like is the lack of attention to detail. For instance, Yes4All did not apply rubber to the bottom of the board, meaning that it can slide all over the place when used on hard floors. Other customers dislike the fact that the fulcrum at the bottom is made from slippery plastic, leading the board to slip out from underneath on occasion.
- Grippy surface
- Easily transported
- Slippery underside
- No accessories
- No moving fulcrum
URBNFit Balance Board Trainer
The URBNFit is a mid-range balance board trainer that comes with a single roller along with the board itself. The company says that its board is designed to help people train for sports like skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing, and skiing.
The nice thing about the URBNFit balance board is that you get exactly what you expect: a durable, sturdy board made from high-quality materials, that does the job. It’s a kind of no-fuss version of more expensive products with multiple accessories. Customers over 200 lbs say that the board doesn’t flex under load.
The only downside is the fact that the stoppers on either end of the board underneath are made of a hard material, rather than something soft. Customers say that the board can scratch floors and other surfaces.
- Sturdy construction
- High-quality materials
- No accessories
- Hard stoppers can cause damage to some floors
Why not wear the correct foot gear, check out our review of the best cross trainers for 2019.