To some, fitness is all about maintaining a healthy diet and exercise such as cardio training or weight lifting. Balance training seldom comes to mind; although, it can actually have substantial benefits to one’s overall health.
Balance and stability training are forms of mild to moderate exercises that help train the body to engage stabilizing muscles for the purpose of improving balance. A balance pad is one of many types of fitness tools designed to aid in balance training. These pads provide an excellent introduction for a beginner to balance training.
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What is a Balance Pad?
A balance pad is typically a thick, square piece of foam that is used in balance training due to the instability of the sponge-like material it is composed of. When you stand on the foam pad you instantly engage all of the muscles in your feet and your core to maintain balance. This improves your overall stability.
These pads are a great small investment in your health that can have long-lasting benefits and they are made highly durable. The foam pads are fairly lightweight and are typically pretty easy to carry as well as clean. It is ideal for barefoot training or with shoes on. For best results, it is recommended to train barefoot to preserve the integrity and quality of the pad.
A balance pad differs from wobble boards and balance boards because it engages more of your stabilizing muscles in the feet to stand on whereas the solid surface of a board engages primarily the muscles in the ankle. These pads are great fitness tools as a subtle transition into balance training for beginners, especially seniors.
Balance Pads Improve Stability
We rely on stability everyday whether you realize it or not. Your stabilizing muscles are responsible for keeping you balanced and maintaining equilibrium. Sometimes, an injury can affect your stability or your gait when you walk and this can throw off your balance completely. The natural aging process also affects our balance as we get older and the ability to maintain equilibrium becomes less effective.
Get More Out of Your Workout
Fitness enthusiasts and athletes will often times incorporate stability training as part of their workout regimen in order to enhance performance. Having sufficient balance can improve a workout and also aid in specific areas such as strengthening core muscles and giving better support for more fluid movements that reduce the risk of injury.
The balance pad can easily be added to many the exercises you already perform. Many fitness trainers find that using the balance pad in some of their exercises, such as push ups, actually makes the exercise easier to carry out while working out different muscle groups than performing them in the standard way.
Reduced Back Pain
You may not give much thought to the way you get up out of your easy chair or how you walk, but it can actually affect your health later on in life. Balance training offers many benefits and one of those is improving posture. Poor posture is one of the biggest contributors to lower back pain and is often the result of weak back muscles.
Improving your balance over time will help strengthen your core as well as those lower back muscles which can prove beneficial for those who work in certain professions. Many who suffer from lower back pain find sitting for long periods of time or standing adds more stress to those weakened muscles. Using a balance pad functions as a cushion that reduces stress on these muscles by shifting the impact to your abdominal muscles to strengthen your core. In addition to exercising on it, it can also serve as a functional seat cushion.
Improved Motor Skills
The versatility of the balance pad makes it ideal for use in all ages. It helps strengthen and fine tune motor skills we rely on everyday which can be helpful for young children as well as elderly. Building better stability will help to improve coordination, making many of the tasks you do on a regular basis easier while improving reaction time among older adults.
Conditioning and Rehabilitation
Physical therapists will sometimes implement the use of a balance pad in their course of treatment for a patient with weak joints. The soft composition and the non-slip surface make it a useful tool that provides better support during physical therapy exercises. This also makes it helpful in the rehabilitation for sports-related injuries or surgery recovery to condition the affected muscles and improve mobility. Some of the conditions that balance pads can help in the treatment of might include:
- Knee surgery
- ACL injuries
- Ankle sprains
- Hip replacement
- Pain management
These are just a few. Any time balance is hindered either from an environmental force or simply from the natural process of aging.
Why Choose a Balance Pad?
There are many aspects in fitness that balance pads can be used for. Many associate these fitness tools for strictly balance training, but they can actually add a challenging dynamic to your current workout for strength training and even toning. Balance pads have also been used to practice yoga in place of the traditional yoga mats to improve balance and stamina. This makes perfect sense considering that yoga and balance go hand in hand; therefore incorporating an element that further tests one’s balance will go a lot further in enhancing overall stability.
Warm ups are important for any type of workout as it helps in reducing the occurrence of injury from a stiff muscle. Some fitness trainers will actually use balance pads as a warm up tool to help in preparing their body prior to the workout. This can improve muscle readiness through gentle stretches and activate your body’s awareness in response to your surroundings for maintaining proper balance. Whether used before, during, or after working out, they can prove to be quite beneficial for users of all levels in fitness from beginners to advanced.
Among various types of balance aids some users find preference to the pads because there is a lesser risk of falling off. Here are some of the many ways that balance pads can be used to improve balance, coordination, and stability.
Step Ups: For this exercise you will need to add an extra dynamic to elevate the pad for stepping onto such as placing it on a fitness step or a box. Step up on the pad one foot at a time. Stabilize then reverse and repeat.
Step Downs: For this exercise you will be doing the opposite movement by standing on an elevated element, such as a step, with the pad placed on the floor right beneath you. Step off the platform placing one foot at a time on the pad. Reverse then repeat the movement.
One-Leg Stands: For some, simply standing flat on the ground with one foot elevated is challenging enough. Before trying this exercise, first be sure you feel comfortable enough to balance on one leg. Place the pad on the floor. Stand on the pad with both feet then slowly raise one leg until balance is achieved. Stand on the pad with one foot for 10 seconds. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Crawls: Begin this exercise in a push-up position with the balance pad placed either to the left or the right of your hand placement. Take the hand that is on the outside and cross over the one nearest to the pad and place the outer hand onto the pad.
Lunges: There are two variations to this exercise. You can choose to step off from the pad into the lung or place the pad in front of you to step up for the lunge. Place the balance pad on the floor. Stand with both feet flat on the floor with the pad placed in front of you for lunging up onto the pad. Lunge with one leg forward in front you placing your foot on the pad so that your knee and hip form a 90-degree angle while the leg that is behind you is parallel to the floor. Return to the starting position then repeat with the opposite leg.
You can incorporate the balance pad to amp up your current workout by combining it with some of these common exercises. This gets you more from your workout while saving you time from additional exercises. To add an even greater challenge throw in an extra pad to stack them up.
Push-ups – This is a great method for those who may have weak wrists. Place both hands on the pad and perform push ups just as you normally would. The balance pad adds that unstable dynamic which redistributes the movement in the wrists to the shoulder blades and shoulder girdle for stability. It also allows the person exercising to go deeper into the push-up for a more effective workout.
Squats – Using the balance pad to stand on during squats helps to take the pressure off of the hip-flexors and prevents bouncing off from your pelvic floor to properly carry out the exercise. It also improves posture with a straight back during squats. Stand on the pad with feet equally apart. For standard squats you can cross your arms in front of you placing your hands at the shoulders and keeping your elbows parallel as you lower your body into the squat then come back up. If you want to add a slight variation try doing the squats holding a medicine ball or dumbbells, extending them forward as you squat then bring back to your chest as you come up.
One-Leg Biceps Curl – This is a great full-body workout that targets multiple muscle groups simultaneously. For this exercise you will need a pair of dumbbells (5-10 pounds). Stand on the pad with feet placed equally apart while holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Slowly raise one leg up to form a 90-degree angle at the hip and knee. Maintain balance on the one leg as you proceed to do a classic biceps curl bringing the dumbbells up to your shoulders, bending your elbows out then slowly bring the dumbbells back down. Repeat the step with the opposite leg, carrying out 6 reps each.
Balance Pad Safety
There are some risks that should be taken into consideration before proceeding with any type of fitness or exercise regimen. Consult with your physician first to be sure balance training is right for you. Discuss your needs and any medical conditions you have as it may not be ideal to carry out some of the exercises performed on balance pads.
Always place the pad on a stable surface: The soft composition of the pad creates optimal instability for a beginner and intermediate user. Never place it on a surface that may not be sturdy or can wobble beneath the pad as this can lead to injury. The ideal placement is on the floor and near something sturdy, such as a counter or wall, to grab onto if you feel as though you are going to fall.
Stop at the sign of pain: Pain is one of the body’s first natural indicators that something may be wrong. If you are experiencing pain while you are workout out stop! Trying to ‘tough it out’ could lead to a serious injury and then you’ll end up needing balance training for a whole new problem! Speak with your physician or therapist about your needs for recommendations on what exercises will benefit you most.
You’ll be surprised by the difference it makes from making one small change as added in a balance tool. There are many different types of balance training fitness equipment out there and some are more tailored to suit individuals with specific needs or advanced levels of fitness. If you’re new to balance training and seeking the benefits of using a balance pad you may want to try just standing on it first. This will give you a better feel for it and allow you to get comfortable enough to proceed to your workout.
Our Fitaboo Balance Pad is perfectly suited for exercise, physical therapy, rehabilitation and various other activities like yoga and stretching. Seniors will love it for stability training because it’s comfortable and safe to use. Be creative and incorporate the use of a balance cushion into your life.
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