Have you send friends standing on a wobble board at their desk? Or perhaps a squishy disk while doing a workout? What’s the deal with balance trainers and which ones are worth the cost?
A balance trainer is simply a wobbly surface that forces you to engage your core and muscles from the foot, ankle and leg to maintain balance.
They’ve been around in various forms for decades, in fact you’ve probably seen that half stability ball thing called a Bosu trainer at the gym.
Do balance trainers work?
Yes. The Bosu ball was introduced in physical therapy to help people working on balance issues, ankle strength, and leg stability.
It absolutely does those things.
It has also been shown to increase core activation compared to doing crunches on the ground. Great, but you’d get that by doing more intense dynamic core movements in general.
Additionally, they can add a new training stimulus. It’s an easy way to change up your routine, to challenge new muscles and maybe just make what you’ve been doing more fun.
Downsides to using a balance trainer
But are they entirely necessary to your training, not really.
In fact, many trainers are concerned they hold you back because it’s impossible to increase the weight you lift while being so focused on balance and not falling.
We need that weight increase to build muscle, which will help with weight loss and performance goals.
You can get great core engagement with little changes to your current training:
- Doing many of your current strength training movements unilaterally (one side at a time)
- Standing on one foot while lifting
- Increasing the amount of weight you are lifting (especially on deadlifts and chest press)
- Kneeling on one leg while doing shoulder presses or woodchops
Best Balance Trainers
If you’ve decided you want a balance trainer, there are different options depending on what you actually need. You wouldn’t want a massive system under your desk, nor do you want something too intense when using it for hours on end.
Cheapest Balance Trainer
A balance disk is one of the cheapest options and what I actually have in my running basket of tools.
At $15 the ProSource disk is small and easy to utilize for specific movements that will help to build ankle and foot strength. Key for any runners who consistently deal with injuries, do a lot of technical trail running or have had ankle sprains in the past.
Best Balance Board for Your Desk
We’re learning that standing all day isn’t the perfect solution to not sitting. It actually helps if you can change your foot position occasionally and some people like to do that by throwing in a balance board.
Remember that if go from 0 time with a balance trainer to using it for hours on end you could create tendonitis.
Ramp up to using it a little at a time each day. Or start out with something like the Plane from Fluid Stance.
- It’s not a super intense rocker
- It’s made from recycled materials which I like
- Claims that users feel happier and more productive when using it
- It’s more expensive, but you’ll be using it A TON and want something you can use and will last
Designed for Athletes
I was introduced to Mobo Board by ultra running coach Eric Orton who many know from the book Born to Run. It was in turn created by Jay Dicharry who many of us know and respect for his work around how to rewire our running brain for better form.
“Mobo is designed to mimic the axis of pronation …how your foot actually moves. Its pretty simple: Instead of just wobbling around in space on a BOSU or a wobble board, let’s train your foot and an ankle in the way they were designed to move. Its a better learning environment for your foot for better results.”
The belief is that will better foot control, we have more power to propel off the ground and thus run faster.
Full Body Workout System
The Terra Core fitness tool is designed to be like a combination of a larger more stable Bosu ball with attached resistance bands to completely a full workout.
Complete transparency they reached out to me awhile back to test and review their product. I think it’s super interesting, but just couldn’t imagine truly getting enough use out of it myself.
IF HOWEVER, I didn’t already have weights and a bench this might have been the perfect tool to get things started.
- Longer than a Bosu you can use it for more things
- At 28 lbs, you can make it a weight for some exercises
- Using it as a bench for other strength you will get added core engagement
- Utilize their app or YouTube channel for plenty of workouts
What about the simply fit board?
It will certainly give you a way to engage your core, but for free I’d rather you do dynamic planks and focused glute exercises, like what’s in the 30 Day Core Program.
BUT if something gets you excited to workout, then I think it’s absolutely worth the investment. Especially as this one is on the low end.
All right there you have it a break down on what a balance trainer does and where it could fit in to your routine. Now it’s up to you whether it’s worth the investment or not!
Like I said for my money the small disk was a great option and otherwise, I have fun with the Bosu when I hit the gym, but know that for my everyday training I’m not missing out by not having it.
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