Your Guide to the Benefits of Balance Boards in Sport
|With such a vast myriad of sporting and
fitness equipment now available, is it any wonder that so many of
us feel confused and overwhelmed? Few of us have unlimited space
at home or lots of free time to train, so most of us want just one
piece of equipment that will provide maximum all round benefit.
Ask any athlete and they will tell you that if there is one thing
that plays a major part in every sport, regardless of level, it
is core strength and stability. It not only directly affects skill
and stamina but also significantly reduces the likelihood of injury.
A well established method of achieving and developing
core strength and stability is through balance training.
Balance training consists of exercises using balance boards, wobble
boards or balance balls. Balance boards in particular are popular
as they are a lot of fun to use, which means training is no longer
a chore and perhaps explains why balance boarding is fast becoming
a sport in its own right!
|Basic balance board exercises focus on core strength
by aiding abdominal and trunk strengthening, along with increasing
tone in the quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles. Other exercises
can also be performed to work on upper body conditioning.
Increased stability comes from combining core strength with a
better sense of balance. We have nerves in our brain that tell
us where different parts of our body are in space at a given point
in time, these nerves are call proprioceptors. The proprioceptors
form part of how we balance. Use of a balance board will develop
our proprioception or sense of balance and this, combined with
core strength, will increase our stability as well as improving
our coordination and posture, quickening our reaction time and
raising our overall body awareness.
Balance training is not a new concept; many athletes incorporate
it into their overall training program for both performance enhancement
and injury prevention. The benefits of balance training are well
established and far reaching.
Whether it’s improving that golf swing, reaching for a
drop shot or mastering the moguls, balance is a key aspect of
any sport. There are basically two types of balance, static (stationary)
and dynamic (during movement). Whilst static balance is essential
for everyday functioning like standing up, it is dynamic balance
that really affects out sporting performance. For example in order
to be an effective football player the body must be able to change
direction quickly, therefore football players are trained to be
stable in their dynamic balance through balance training.
For board sports such as skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding
and wakeboarding, balance training also enables the practice of
balance, stance and tricks out of season and in the home.
Improving core strength is a key goal of fitness training. Incorporating
a balance trainer into a fitness regime creates an effective and
dynamic workout. For added complexity balance boards can be used
with exercises such as squats and pushups, making a simple exercise
far more challenging.
Balance training is often used to rehabilitate a variety of ankle,
knee, hip and spine injuries. After an injury, the proprioceptors
in the injured and swelled area cease to work. It is the body’s
attempt at trying to keep us from using the injured area.
Retraining proprioception after injury has been shown to prevent
further injury and ensure a speedy return to sport. For example
failure to retrain balance after ankle sprains can lead to chronic
weakness and recurrent sprains.
The use of a balance board not only helps with proprioceptive
re-education but also in posture improvement and abdominal and
trunk strengthening, along with increasing tone in the quadriceps,
hamstrings and calf muscles which all combine to reduce risk of
Rather than waiting until injury occurs using a balance board
as a proactive measure will help prevent an injury in the first
instance. In the same way balance training helps after injury
by developing balance, improving posture and strengthening muscles,
when used preemptively these factors will help reduce an injury
Recent studies have also linked balance to learning difficulties
amongst children. Using balance training exercises has been shown
to help with some of the difficulties seen in dyslexia, dyspraxia
and attention deficit disorder.