A workout that incorporates stability training can improve overall performance and strength to a marked degree. The use of balance discs presents the body with an effective obstacle that challenges muscles even within familiar motions and encourages greater muscle development. Overall joint and muscle stability is another notable benefit.
Balance Disc Options
The basic balance disc measures approximately 14 inches in diameter and is fitted with one plain surface and one textured surface. The nubs on the textured surface usually provide traction on smooth floors. The level of inflation within a disc varies by type and can range from fairly flat to near pillow-shaped. More inflation equates to a greater challenge in balance. Choose a disc based on the level of difficulty desired but appropriate to skill level.
Additionally, choosing between a single-leg balance exercise on a disc or having a disc under each foot alters the level of difficulty. Single-leg exercises present a greater degree of difficulty. Options between the type of disc and single- or double-leg exercises present a multitude of variations to keep a workout interesting and challenging.
Standing on the discs alone in a squat position provides an intense challenge for the lower body. Squats can be performed for repetitions, or squats can be held isometrically for a set period of time either with body weight alone, with dumbbells or a barbell.
Lunges can also be done with either one foot on a disc, or with a disc under each foot for greater difficulty. Stationery lunges may be a more optimal starting choice to ensure consistent foot placement on the disc throughout the full set.
Standing cable hamstring curls, cable back kicks and cable abductions can be made more challenging by placing a balance disc under the standing leg. Even while holding onto a support for balance, the standing leg works extra hard to maintain stability through the range of motion.
Straight-leg deadlifts become extra challenging with balance discs as do bent-over-rows. The amount of muscles needed to maintain stability even in these familiar exercises increases exponentially with the introduction of instability. Similarly, “Superman” balances, in which you balance on one knee with the opposite arm and leg extended, increase in difficulty with a balance disc placed under the supporting knee.
Over-head presses and upright rows can be done with each foot on a disc, or these exercises can also be made more challenging by performing them single-leg on a balance disc. Likewise, front deltoid and side deltoid raises can be worked the same way with either two feet planted on discs or balanced with one leg on a disc.
Bicep and Tricep
The most familiar bicep and tricep exercises increase in difficulty if performed while standing on a balance disc. Bicep cable curls, tricep cable press downs, standing barbell curls, overhead tricep extensions and hammer curls can all be performed with either a disc under each foot, or while maintaining a single-leg balance on a disc.
- "National Academy of Sports Medicine Optimum Performance Training for the Fitness Professional"; Michael A. Clark
- "National Academy of Sports Medicine Essentials of Sports Performance Training"; Michael A. Clark
- "Strength Training Anatomy"; Frédéric Delavier
Jullie Chung writes regularly for various websites. She is a nationally certified fitness trainer and performance enhancement specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and trains regularly in yoga, flatwater kayaking, boxing and mixed martial arts. An avid outdoor fan, she regularly hikes, climbs and trail runs.