Balance Boards Can Be Great Fitness Tools\u2014If You Use Them Right
This is Your Quick Training Tip, a chance to learn how to work smarter in just a few moments so you can get right to your workout.
There was a time when instability training was nearly synonymous with doing heavy lifts on wobbly platforms. People would grab some dumbbells or load up a bar, step onto a balance board or Bosu ball, and start trying to bang out reps of squats, deadlifts, or even good mornings in an attempt to increase muscle recruitment, build stability, and become stronger faster. The practice was also a thrill for those who get a kick out of lifting dangerously—because that’s exactly what it was.
Science and hospital records have since shown that there’s no advantage to such precarious weightlifting. Indeed, performing loaded lifts on a balance board—the catch-all term for flat, rigid exercise platforms that sit atop a static or mobile fulcrum—only increases your risk of injury.
So should you abandon balance boards and stick to other forms of instability training, such as unilateral exercises? That depends.
If you plan to perform a move under load, always do so on an unmovable surface. You’re begging for injury if you don’t.
But you don’t need to ditch balance boards completely. Incorporated intelligently into your training plan, they can help you build the kind of dynamic stability that can unlock greater power, lower your risk of injury, and make you a more formidable athlete.
Your move: If you own or have access to a balance board, step on it unloaded (i.e., with just your bodyweight) a couple of times a week for as long as you can. Some research shows that doing so can help you enhance “postural control,” which is a fancy way of staying stability. The more stable you are, the better you’ll be able to express your strength and power.
Also, don’t limit yourself to lower body exercises. Performing moves such as the plank and the pushup with your hands on a balance board can help you reap the same muscle- and stability-boosting benefits for your upper body that standing on a board can reap for your lower body—especially if you up the ante by elevating your feet on a bench or stable surface.
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