The Definitive Guide to Balance Boards

Everything you need to know about balance boards, how they are used, and which one is right for you

balance board

A balance board is a versatile tool used by many practitioners, from fitness enthusiasts, to snowboarders, to circus performers.

If you’ve ever been curious about what a balance board does and what it can do for you, this article will help break it down. It will go over how balance boards function and how they are used by a wide variety of people to improve their balancing and athletic skills.

The article also includes a breakdown of the five main types of balance boards, safety and purchasing tips, and suggested exercises for balance board users.



What is a balance board?


The five types of balance boards


What balance boards are used for?


The benefits of balance boards


Exercises to do with your balance board


Picking the right balance board


- What is the best balance board for snowboarders?


- What is the best balance board for surfers?


What should you look for in a balance board?


Safety and general tips for balance boards


Purchasing a balance board

 

What is a balance board?

A balance board is a lever device used to practice balance. Each balance board includes a flat surface for standing on and a base. Typically, users place their left foot and their right foot on opposite sides of the flat surface. The unsteady surface of the board makes it tough to stand on, and invites attention to balance. Users will need to make small adjustments to their movements and posture to stay on top of the board. Otherwise, they risk letting the board touch the ground, or falling off of it.balance board

 The types of balance boards vary depending on use case and skill level. These are five primary types, although some companies are now designing additional hybrids. Each of the five main types includes some kind of base and some kind of surface, but they vary in terms of how the base and surface are attached, and what shapes these two elements are in.

What are the different types of balance boards?

  1. The Rocker balance board

A rocker board is a simple, easy-to-use balance board made up of the board itself and an attached, fixed-pivot fulcrum base. Because of its design, this type of balance board only has one motion sequence: a left-right tilt. It is a great board for beginners, and is often found among gym equipment or in children’s physical education classes.

In a nutshell:

  • Flat, rectangular board
  • Stationary base
  • Difficulty: Easy
  1. The Rocker-roller balance board

Rocker-roller boards are more difficult to use, because rather than resting on a stable surface, the board rests on a wheel instead. This means there are two sources of instability instead of one. The wheeling motion, combined with the left-right tilting motion, provides a greater challenge. Rocker-roller boards most accurately mimic the type of movement you’d find when snowboarding or skateboarding. This makes them good choices if you want to practice tricks on your balance board or hone your skills during the off-season.

In a nutshell:
  • Flat, rectangular board
  • Rolling base with wheel
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  1. The Wobble balance board

 The top of a wobble board is a circle or semicircle. The bottom of the wobble board is usually semi-spherical, but remains stationary. These shape choices let the board tilt in all directions, rather than just left-right. This in turn provides a wide range of motion for the board.
Wobble boards are great for practicing floor exercises like squats and leg lifts while adding the challenge of balance. They are popular among many fitness practitioners because they offer a nice middle-ground between difficulty and range of motion. The majority of general fitness exercises are designed for these types of boards.

In a nutshell:

  • Flat, circular board
  • Stationary base
  • Difficulty: Moderate
    1. The Sphere-and-ring balance board

    A sphere-and-ring board combines elements of the rocker-roller and the wobble board. It includes a flat board resting on an inflatable (or solid plastic) ball that can move independently of the board. This type of board has the greatest range of movement, but it is also very difficult to balance on. Just tilting the board vertically requires an advanced sense of balance. However, mastering a sphere-and-ring board nets big rewards. It allows for all kinds of cool tricks, and works your body and sense of balance extensively.

    In a nutshell:

    • Flat, rectangular board
    • Spherical, movable base
    • Difficulty: Challenging
    1. The Spring balance board

    This type of board includes the board itself and a spring-loaded compression base that makes the board more difficult to stabilize. As the user tries to keep their balance and stop the board from moving, the board “bounces back” against their movements. The difficulty of a spring board varies greatly depending on the types of springs it is made with. Some spring boards with gentle springs can be used safely by children, while other, tightly wound boards should only be tackled by experienced athletes.

    In a nutshell:
    • Rectangular or spherical board
    • Spring-loaded, stationary base
    • Difficulty: Varies

    Special Note: Aquatic balance boards

    Although they are not a specific subtype of board, aquatic boards are gaining popularity. They are typically based off a rocker or wobble board model. They are most often used in physical therapy, since they offer a more gentle practice environment, with a lower risk from falls.

     Some aquatic boards are designed to be used on your knees first, making them easier to start out on for coordination-challenged individuals. However, since they are not as accessible or convenient as regular balance boards, they might not be as good of a choice for daily routines.

     Get 50% off our Premium Wooden Balance Board

    Summary: Types of balance boards

    • Rocker
    • Rocker-roller
    • Wobble
    • Sphere-and-ring
    • Spring

    What is a balance board used for?

    Balance boards are used to develop a range of skills, all of which involve balance in some way or another. Because of their versatility, many different types of people use balance boards, for both recreational purposes, and to sharpen skills related to their respective fields.

    The following list includes some of the people who use balance boards, and why they use them. After this list of balance board users, another list follows which dives deeper into the specific benefits a balance board can offer.

    Who uses balance boards?

    Athletes

    Balance boards first came into common practice when they were used by skiers. Skiing is a seasonal sport, so serious skiers need ways to train in the off-season. This can include diving courses, slacklining, weight training, skateboarding, and using balance boards.

     Eventually, balance boards were picked up by other athletes who could not always train on site, like surfers. Today, balance boards are used by all kinds of athletes, from yoga practitioners to football players. A sense of balance is an essential skill in any athletic endeavor, and balance boards also build functional strength that improves overall athletic performance.

    Dancers

    In many disciplines of dance, such as ballroom and ballet, the idea of staying “light on your feet” is important. It adds an element of grace and elegance to your dance, and makes it less likely that you’ll be stomping all over your partner. However, it’s not an easy skill to hone, so dancers sometimes train with balance boards before they ever set foot on the dance floor. This allows them to work on elements of their routine while simultaneously doubling down on balance.

    Musicians and singers

    Since balance boards develop the core muscles quickly, some singers and musicians use them so they can have better control over their breath and their diaphragm.

    Likewise, some musicians, particularly those who play string instruments, use balance boards to help them practice controlling their instruments as they stand and play.

    Physical therapists

    We will discuss a little more below how balance boards can help reduce the risk of injury. For this reason, physical therapists will prescribe balance boards to those who struggle with frequent ankle injuries or joint strain.

    Balance boards can also be used in accident recovery. Sometimes, after the body has experienced a traumatic event, it struggles more with its sense of balance and alignment. For example, someone suffering from the harmful effects of a spinal injury might use a balance board prescribed by their physical therapist.

    Psychologists

    Psychologists use balance boards with their patients as a way of improving cognitive skills and spacial awareness. Some studies have even shown that the regular use of a balance board can help people communicate with others more effectively and process language more quickly. A balance board can invite focus and attention to detail in a low-stakes environment.

    Children

    Balance boards are popular among children, and are often used in physical education classes in school. This is because they are appealing to kids, but they also offer developmental rewards. Balance boards are low to the ground, which makes them less intimidating to children than a balance beam or even a slackline. They remind children of skiing, surfing, and skateboarding, which helps adds to their appeal.

    A balance board can teach a child to develop motor skills they may be failing to practice, particularly if they are focused too much on technology. Balance boards are also used to help treat children with cerebral palsy, and other conditions that make coordination more challenging.

    Performers

    Balance boards are used for self-improvement, but they can also be used to show off. Some performers can do extraordinary things with balance boards: holds, spins, dramatic leaps and even flips. You might see a talented circus or dance performer use a balance board to add an extra element of drama and danger to an already mind-bending routine. The rocky surface of the board means that the performer needs to demonstrate precise control at all times.

    Hobbyists

    Some people use a balance board primarily for fun. It doesn’t need to be for a specific reason. Balance boards are often see-saw shaped and can create a sense of childhood nostalgia. The challenge of staying on the board can turn into an amusing competition with others, or a way of inviting excellence in yourself.

    Summary: What are balance board used for/Who uses balance boards?

    • Athletes
    • Dancers, musicians, and singers
    • Psychology patients and those in physical therapy
    • Performers
    • Anyone looking for a fun, fitness-friendly activity

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    What does a balance board do for you?

    balance board

    We typically think of balance boards solely as athletic tools. And it’s true that using a balance board will make you stronger and more coordinated. On a technical level, a balance board can develop hard-to-target muscle groups and make significant changes to proprioception. However, using a balance board has other benefits too. You might be surprised to find it can change your posture, protect you against serious injuries, and even make it easier to focus on mentally challenging tasks.

    Specifically, here are some of the key benefits of a balance board.

    1. A balance board reduces your chances of injury

    If you are prone to injuries while playing your favorite sports, a balance board can help strengthen key joints and muscle groups that will protect you. Balance boards are particularly helpful for strengthening the ankle joints. Do you have a tendency to turn your ankles whenever you play basketball, or even during a short hike? A balance board can help you with both strength and coordination in this area

    1. A balance board can improve your performance in sports

    As mentioned above, balance boards are often used by professional athletes to hone their game. However, you do not need to be Shaun White to enjoy the benefits of a balance board. No matter where you are in your progress, a balance board can be a great tool to improve it. That’s part of the reason there are so many types of balance boards, because some suit different levels and different sports better than others.

    1. A balance board can tighten your core muscles

    Having a strong core can reduce back pain and improve overall athletic ability. Not to mention it’s desirable for many people because they find it aesthetically appealing. Targeting the core muscles, however, is not always easy.
    A balance board helps isolate the core muscles by forcing them to constantly shift as you make adjustments to your stance to stay on the board. This actually goes beyond merely stabilizing yourself. Because the need for balance is constant, no matter what exercise you do, you will always be working your core muscles as well as the muscle groups you specifically target.
    Improving your abs will take pressure off your erector spinae, which will eventually reduce the pressure on your back. In fact, balance boards are often used in physical therapy for those who have frequent lower back pain.
    1. A balance board can you make you stronger in the most effective way

    There’s a reason why the term “functional strength” has become such a buzzword in fitness. The idea is that there is a kind of strength that is optimal for survival, for living out daily life, and for playing sports. This functional strength is much more than just having large muscles. It needs to be active and adaptable. When you build functional strength, you attempt to target as many areas in the body as possible, rather than just a few.

    On a balance board you can improve your functional strength by doing weight bearing exercises and weight lifting while you are balancing. This will make the exercises much more difficult, but it will also build stabilizing muscles around the rest of your muscles.
    1. A balance board can improve spacial awarenes

    Our sense of spacial awareness related to our own bodies and our own strength is known as proprioception. Having strong proprioception means you have more control over your own body. It is a useful skill to hone, both for athletic and every-day reasons. However, if you have a poor sense of balance, improving your proprioception is particularly tough. Regular practice with a balance board has been proven to build stronger proprioception and spatial skills.

    1. A balance board can fix posture problems

    The way most of our living our daily lives right now includes a lot of poor posture. Using your computer or phone often involves a great deal of slumping. Too many of us spend too much time hunched over desks, or lounging around on the couch. This is part of the reason good posture stands out so much, and has even been linked to better first impressions and greater financial success.
    A balance board doesn’t ask its users to stand perfectly erect. Instead, it builds the muscles that make it easier to stand up straight in the first place. With a stronger back and core, you’ll find it easier to tackle the daunting task of staying upright at your desk all day.
    1. A balance board can sharpen your cognitive skills

    Balance training can improve how your brain processes information. As you develop better balance, your body’s stronger sense of place helps your brain maintain focus. A strong balance can help eliminate other distractions and free up your mind to work harder at everything else.

    Dr. Jean Ayers is a researcher and psychologist who uses balance boards in her therapy sessions. In her research, she found that practicing with the boards helped her clients not only with general coordination and visual control, but also with language skills and mental concentration

    Summary: What are the benefits of a balance board?

    • Sharpening athletic skills and reducing your likelihood of getting hurt
    • Building your cognitive skills and spatial awareness
    • Improving your posture and sense of balance
    • Building your core muscles, and the stabilizing muscles all over your body

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    What kind of exercises can be done with a balance board?

    balance board

    This is a broad question. In reality, an infinite number of exercises can be done with a balance board. You should feel free to experiment with what feels good on your body. The exercises listed below are some of the most popular, common exercises among balance board enthusiasts. They vary in skill level, so make sure you begin with a basic stance and pace yourself.

    All of these exercises can be done on any balance board, although they are perhaps best suited to wobble boards and rocker boards.

    Basic stance

    The first exercise to try with a balance board is a basic stance. Your knees should be slightly bent, and your feet aligned with your shoulders. Your hands and arms can move to help you keep your balance. To add more difficulty, try keeping your hands and arms still.

    Staggered stance

    In this exercise, rather than staying in a basic stance, you move one leg behind you towards the back of the board. The other leg extends out towards the front of the board, making your stance require greater concentration to maintain.

    Board tilt

    Another simple exercise to try is to tilt the board to the left and right (or backwards and forwards) without letting it touch the ground. Although this is simple in practice, it can be challenging for beginners. On a wobble board you can move from this exercise to tilting all the way around in a circular motion.

    Squat

    Begin by placing your legs about a shoulder width apart, with your knees slightly bent. Then, gradually squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor. To add more difficulty, hold each squat longer, facing greater resistance from the board.

    Squat to extension

    Perform your squat, but when you lift out of it, straighten your knees and begin to lift your arms all the way over your head. To add more difficulty, come up onto your toes as you fully extend.

    Leg lift

    Gently raise one leg with the knee bent as you balance on the board. Try to keep the board stable, and use small movements to prevent any side from touching the ground. To add more difficulty, lift your leg higher or begin to straighten your knee.

    Elbow Plank

    Rest your elbows and your forearms on the balance board. Let your legs extend behind you with your feet on the ground. Try to keep the board in position as you maintain your plank. To add more difficulty, come up onto your hands in a full plank.

    Pushups

    To do a pushup on a balance board, place only your hands on the board and leave your legs fully extended with you feet on the ground. Come down into your pushup as you keep the board balanced, trying to keep any point from touching the ground. To add more difficulty, try using only one hand.

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    Summary: Popular balance board exercises

    • Basic Stance
    • Staggered Stance
    • Tilts and squats
    • Leg lifts
    • Planks and pushups

     

    Picking the right balance board

    balance board

    What is the best balance board for snowboarders?

    The best balance board for snowboarders is probably a rocker-roller. This is because a rocker-roller most accurately captures the feeling of being on a snowboard. The rectangular board is shaped similarly to a snowboard, and the roller underneath simulates the feeling of moving across the snow.

    However, depending on what skills you are trying to develop, you might also consider getting another type of board in addition to the rocker-roller. For example, a wobble board demands a level of balance and control that is great for park-loving snowboarders trying to throw more tricks and improve their precision.

    What is the best balance board for surfers?

    The best balance board for surfing is probably the sphere-and-ring board. The board can tilt left-right and forward-back, which more accurately captures the sensations you’ll feel on the waves. The natural instability of this board, provided by the spherical base, helps mimic the feeling of being on unstable waters.

    Like choosing the right board for snowboarding, however, which board you choose should depend on what area of your practice you’d most like to target. Is your primary focus balance? Precision control? Building target muscle groups? Or recreating the overall sense of playing your sport? How you answer these questions will help determine what type of balance board you should choose.

    What is the best balance board for exercise?

    This is a difficult question to answer, since it all depends on what type of exercise you would like to do, and what level you are at. Fortunately, there are some general principles guide you.

    A rocker board is a great place to start if you have never used a balance board before. They are simple to navigate and have only one range of motion. If you struggle with balance in everyday life, this is definitely where you should begin. It’s a great board for anyone who feels clumsy or uncoordinated.

    However, it may not provide the challenge necessary for a regular exercise routine. It might also be a bad choice if you tend to pick up new skills at a rapid pace—you might outgrow the rocker board too quickly for it to be a good investment. The wobble board is an excellent choice for practicing your stationary exercises on. It introduces instability, which in turn promotes the growth of stabilizing muscles.

    The spring board is another good exercise board, although there are not as many options out there when choosing one. The springboard offers more compression, whereas the wobble board has a greater range of movement.

    If you are training for a specific, balance promoting sport, rather than doing general exercises, the rocker-roller or sphere-and-ring boards are good choices. These boards have unstable bases, which means that they provide a more true-to-life experience of controlling skis, skateboards, snowboards, surfboards, etc.

    Summary:

    • The best balance board for snowboarders: rocker-roller board
    • The best balance board for surfers: sphere-and-ring board
    • The best balance board for general exercise: rocker board for struggling beginners, wobble board for everyone else 

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    What should you look for in a balance board?

    balance board

    In this guide, we’ve talked about different types of balance boards, and the different benefits they have. However, the balance board type is just one of the things you should look for when you are considering your purchase. Here are some other factors:

    Size

    Some balance boards are one-size-fits-all, whereas others only suit people of certain heights or weights. Make sure you check these specifications when you are reviewing your balance board, so that you can choose one that fits your body.

    Materials

    Balance boards can be made of many different materials, but the most common are plastic and wood. In general, wooden boards wear out a little less quickly, and tend to be of a higher quality. However, the types of wood and plastic vary greatly. If you plan to use your board regularly, be sure to choose something sturdy so that you will not have to make multiple purchases in a short time frame.

    Surface

    Some balance boards have a grippable surface, whereas others are smooth and slippery on the top. Your preferred surface will differ depending on where you are at and what you are training for. You might start with a grippable board, and then eventually move onto a more slippery one.

    Range of difficulty

    While we have assigned difficulty ratings to the types of boards above, this is also something that can vary depending on the brand. One thing to consider in particular is not just how difficult the board is, but what range it provides. Can the board be effective for both beginners and experts, depending on how it’s used? A board with a wide difficulty range means that you are less likely to need to purchase a new one as you improve.

    Summary: Things to look for in a balance board

    • Type
    • Size
    • Materials
    • Surface
    • Range of difficulty

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    Safety and general tips for balance boards

    Rather than inviting injury, regular practice with a balance board actually strengthens your joints, making you less likely to get hurt in the first place. However, as with any athletic exercise, you should practice caution. Exercising in a safe manner will let you progress faster and keep your body fit and happy.

    balance board

    1. Keep your space clear

    As you are starting out with your balance board, make sure you give yourself plenty of room. Don’t pile up objects around you. Instead, practice in an area where you would be comfortable stumbling and falling. Similarly, you should always use your balance board in a well-lit room.

    1. Don’t swing around to much

    With a balance board, there can be a temptation to jerk around or swing your arms wildly. This will make falling much more likely. Try to make every movement you do slow, purposeful, and fully conscious.

    1. Look at a point far away

    Keeping your eyes focused on a point far away will help you maintain your natural sense of balance. Resist the urge to look at your feet, and instead move your concentration to the far wall.

    1. Wear proper equipment

    If you are going to practice tricks on your balance board, you should always wear proper equipment. This includes elbow and knee pads, and a helmet. Complicated tricks makes falling on your head much more likely on a balance board.

    1. Choose a floor that’s right for you

    Practicing on a carpeted floor will make balancing easier, whereas using hard floors will present more a challenge. Regardless of which option you choose, make sure there are no spills or unexpected sources of slipperiness on the floor where you practice.

    1. Don’t push yourself too hard

    As with any athletic practice, make sure that you are going at a steady pace and not pushing yourself too fast, too soon. Choose a board that fits your skill level, and do exercises you are comfortable with. Once you have mastered those, you will be ready to move on to bigger challenges.

    Purchasing a balance board

    balance board

    Purchasing a balance board is a great investment. It is an inexpensive way to improve your fitness, sports performance, and overall quality of life. We hope this guide has helped answer your questions about what a balance board is and how it is used. Whether you are looking for a challenging board that will hone your snowboarding practice, or an easy board to strengthen your ankles, the right choice is out there.

    If you are unsure what board to purchase, we personally recommend an all-purpose wobble board. This is the best board for general fitness practitioners looking to improve balance and strengthen muscles. It has a wide variety of uses, and there are many different exercises that are suited to it.

    About our balance board

    The WODfitters balance board is a sturdy, flexible board that’s a great option for a range of users. It has a grippable surface and a sleek, smooth wooden design. It is an optimal board to be incorporated in a regular exercise routine, and is perfect for many types of bodies and skill levels.

    Get 50% off our Premium Wooden Balance Board