Balance Boards

Brief Overview of Balance Boards

A balance board, also commonly referred to as a wobble board, is a simple instrument that consists of a flat top board and an unstable bottom (but not in a bad way). In order to use it, you must continuously adjust your balance by making swift movements rapidly. It is indeed simple, but used for many different purposes including sports training, rehabilitation or therapy, and fitness or exercise. Because of its simple design, a balance board is an affordable instrument.

It was originally intended for skiers, but then surfers also used the same instrument to practice their balance on land almost anywhere. After that many sports adopted the balance board as part of their training equipment. Martial arts, physical fitness exercise, and even non-athletic training can receive benefits from balance boards. Balance training is the main purpose, but there are many other benefits as well.

Better Coordination: when it comes to balance, all parts of your body must work together to stabilize your position. Using a balance board is a safe way to train better body coordination to prevent you from falling. While you could train balance using alternative means such as walking on a rope, a balance board is probably an easier way to train as it is simple to setup. For sports that use all parts of the body, the board assists to improve performance.

Restore Equilibrium: the center of balance (your equilibrium) plays an important role in every activity you do, even when walking and running or the more meticulous activities such as painting or threading a needle. Certain injuries can damage equilibrium, making it more difficult for you to stay steady for a considerable period. Balance boards are an affordable yet effective instrument to restore your equilibrium. Your brain needs to work very hard to keep the balance and therefore your body will respond accordingly by bringing your equilibrium back to normal.

Prevent Injury: in a scientific study published in a 2004 American Journal of Sports Science, women who suffered from ankle sprains while playing volley ball were able to reduce the risk to a great extent by training on a balance board. It turns out that the board also helps to strengthen the ankle in addition to training balance. The ankle takes frequent pressure during balance board training, in a good way to strengthen it.

Quicker Reaction Time: thanks to its unstable design, you must quickly correct every movement mistake you make to stay on the board and balanced. The problem is that over-correcting the mistake also leads to another wrong movement. Athletes who are required to respond quickly, such as when a sprinter reacts to a starting gun, can take benefit from a balance board to improve reaction time.

Modified Sports Training: balance boards can be used as additional instruments during any sport activity to increase difficulty level. Instead of trying to hit a baseball while you are standing on the ground, stand on the balance board. Exercises such as doing push-ups on the board can improve both strength and reaction time, too.

Improve Posture: as your strength and stability improves on the balance board, you will be able to maintain proper spine position during everyday activities. The board is also an easy therapeutic instrument for patients who have sensory or cognitive skills disorder.

Basic Types of Balance Boards

There are many different models. All of them can be easily classified based on two simple parameters: whether the board tilts in only two directions or 360 degrees and whether or not the fulcrum is attached to the board. There are three basic types of balance boards:

Rocker Board

It is the basic and least challenging type. The design is made of two simple parts: a fulcrum attached to the board. In certain models, the fulcrum is perpendicular to the board, while in some variations the fulcrum is parallel to the board. With one foot on each end of the board, you must tilt back and forth or from side to side to maintain stable balance point. Once you have found the perfect balance you can try to keep it steady for as long as you can, or keep on tilting and reacting.

Rocker-roller Board

While the above rocker board has the board and fulcrum attached, rocker-roller increases the difficulty by using a round fulcrum that is not attached to the board. The fulcrum moves relative to the board and ground. The principal is the same, but a rocker-roller board is much more challenging. Because there is no pivot, a rocker-roller typically has grooves on the underside of the board to keep the fulcrum aligned. At each end of the board, there is guard rail to prevent he fulcrum from rolling off the board.  This allows the board to move left and right over the fulcrum and further become out of balance.  While a rocker board can often be quickly mastered, the rocker-roller board tends to be the preferred balance board over time.

Wobble Board

The previous two models use boards which have a similar shape to that of a skateboard; each of them also tilts only in two directions (forward/backward or left/right depending on your position). With a wobble board, the fulcrum is spherical and the board is circular. It allows you to train your balance by making swift movements and correcting your mistakes in a 360 degree direction. Needless to say, trying to train your balance on a wobble board is more difficult than on the other models, but the exercise also targets more muscle areas.