Boredom is the enemy of exercise motivation. When it strikes, you need to rock the boat. Wobble board workouts do just that. The circular boards with their disc-shaped fulcrums originated in physical therapy clinics, but gradually worked their way into mainstream fitness programs. When added to your workout, wobble boards improve balance, enhance athleticism and add a fun factor to your routine.
Wobble Board Research
A sprained ankle often triggers many unhappy returns -- usually on the same ankle. When this happens, loss of proprioception, a word that describes your body's awareness of its position in space, is a probable culprit. The classic trip over a banana peel illustrates a lack of proprioception. Injuries impair proprioception, but the results of numerous studies indicate that wobble board training restores proprioception and prevents future injuries. Then, the next time you step on a banana peel, you sense its presence and avoid tripping over it. Ankle sprains are not the only injury that benefits from wobble board exercise. One study -- of particular importance to active gals -- points to the efficiency of wobble board workouts for preventing ACL tears, a common problem among female athletes.
If you have injured an ankle or knee, ask your doctor before trying this workout. If you are lucky enough to be injury-free, this workout might help keep you that way. Stand upright and position your feet hip width apart at the center of the board. Straighten your legs and point your toes toward the floor. Shift your weight toward the little toe of one foot, toward your heels, and toward the little toe of the opposite foot to create a circular movement. Perform eight circles in each direction. As you gain confidence, perform the same exercise with your eyes closed. Progress to balancing on one leg, performing the circle on one leg, and performing the one-legged circle with your eyes closed.
The wobble board adds a whole new dimension to squat and lunge exercises. They will continue to target your hamstrings, quadriceps and butt muscles, but the imposed balance challenge wakes up your inner and outer thigh muscles and forces them to act as dynamic stabilizers for the medial and lateral sides of your knees. The board also provides an interesting spin on the hamstring bridge. Lie on your back and place your feet on the wobble board. Peel your spine away from the floor to create a bridge position, then shift your weight forward and back and side to side. The effect is subtle, but you'll feel it in different parts of your hamstrings.
The word "agility" describes an athlete’s ability to react to outside forces while maintaining balance and postural alignment. In 2010, researchers at the Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia, found that a six-week program combining wobble board and agility training exercises improved performance in elite basketball players. The weighted medicine ball adds an agility training element to wobble board training. When performing squats on the board, toss the ball in the air, then catch it as you bend your knees and lower your hips into the squat. For added entertainment, work with a partner. Begin with just one partner on the wobble board, one on the ground and toss the ball back and forth. As you gain skill, both of you will position yourselves on two wobble boards facing each other. Don't baby each other. Add some surprise directional changes.
Core and Upper Body
If you thought the plank was a challenging exercise, wait till you try it on the wobble board. Assume a prone position and rest your elbows and forearms on the board. Extend your legs behind you, draw your belly in and hold the position. As you gain skill, try lifting one leg at a time from the floor. Make it even more challenging by lifting one leg and bringing it out to the side while keeping the board in a stable position. Pushups with your hands on the wobble board engage your core chest and triceps muscles. The pushup also serves as a diagnostic exercise. If you continually rock the board to one side more than the other, you might have a muscle imbalance.
- Journal of Orthopaedic Sports Physical Therapy; Wobble Board training After Partial Sprains of the Lateral Ligaments of the Ankle: A Prospective Randomized Study;Wester JU, Jespersen SM, Nielsen KD, Neumann L.; 1996
- Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine; Prevention of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries in Female Team Handball Players: A Prospective Intervention Study Over Three Seasons;Myklebust G, Engebretsen L, Braekken IH, Skjølberg A, Olsen OE, Bahr R.; 2003
- Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness; The Effect of 6-week Combined Agility-Balance Training on Neuromuscular Performance in Basketball Players;Zemkova E, Hamar D.
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.