Working Out at Home Sucks. It Sucks a Lot Less With a Balance Board

Balance boards aren’t just for surfers anymore. They’re the best — and only — piece of home workout gear you need. 

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Before you scoff at the idea of a balance board as the foundation of a core workout, let me ask you this: Have you ever tried to do an acual workout in your living room? Like, a real workout? It’s a bit ridiculous. All the good moves are loud, sweaty, and flailing. Burpees, mountain climbers, bicycles — all solid ways to get in shape, wake the baby, and knock over lamps. These are not workouts a normal person does in their living room. If you want to do a HIIT workout, go to the gym, find a piece of grass in the park, or join CrossFit.

But as a parent who is too busy to hit the gym, but not so far gone that I just give in to a life of dad bod, I want to do something. So for cardio, I run home from work, one to three days a week. For stretching, I negotiated with my wife to do yoga once a week, at 7AM (I’ve been once so far in 2020). And for strength, I occasionally do push-ups and air squats. This last one is the most pathetic. To say it’s the bare minimum for body upkeep is generous. It’s no wonder that two years into my second kid, I’m starting to feel like a creeky old man.

Looking for another answer, I went through my closet to try and find some old gym equipment that might help me get out of the rut. Yes, I have old gym equipment. Yes, I used to be fit — really fit! — all but, what, three dozen months ago? And behind a jump rope to the left of the workout mats, the solution became evident. My old balance board — the answer to all my problems. Really.

Balance boards are fun as hell. And it’s not just because their usual purveyors are stoned, fit, hot, surfers with no attachment in life. Don’t get me wrong, this is an excellent spokes group for this piece of equipment. They know a good time when they see it, love being in tip-top shape, and try to mix the two whenever they can. Hence all that floating, swimming, and shredding hollow surf in the sun. Their go-to workout equipment — the balance board — is just as much fit-shredding fun.

The main way to use the board is to stand on it. That’s it. And while this isn’t a workout itself, if you have imbalances, it is tough. If you slouch on your office chair, favor a leg in soccer, have tight hamstrings on one side or even an achy back that skews to a side, you’ll have a lot of trouble here. And working on the balance puts the focus on your body — your long forgotten, neglected bod. It’s fun learning to balance. As you practice, you quickly make strides and remind your body of core dexterity. But again, this isn’t the workout that’s going to do it.

What you need to work your way up to is a squat. On the balance board. At first, for the imbalanced types, it will seem impossible. After a while it will become old hat — although even if you have the balance down, you need to fire up your entire core to do it. It’s a good workout.

Next up is the balance board push-up. For the newly initiated, this is seriously tough. Again the board outs imbalanced and so down-up becomes a wobbling, collapsing mess. This is a good thing. Shows you were cheating on your push-ups. Also, it’s a lot more fun than doing a slew of push-ups on your living room floor and calling it a day. Once you get it down, you can shoot the board out to the right and give it a go (make sure you follow this up always with push-ups on the other side, unless you are really hankering for a favored side).

Dips are your next challenge. For me, a man with some very wimpy triceps, these are the hardest. I collapsed so often my first few go-rounds my butt was sore. But practice makes perfect.

And finally, the plank. A plank on a balance board is the perfect core move. If you have time for nothing else, take a minute to do a plank (and repeat, times 3). Core strength is what it’s all about.

One Hardcore Balance Board Workout

Rest in between each:

5 Minutes Standing the Board (Warm Up)

3 sets of 10 squats

10 centered push-ups on the board

5 push-ups with the board slung out to the right

5 push-ups with the board slung out to the left

10 dips

60 second plank

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