Balance Board Exercises for Healthy Ankles
Sprained Ankles can be tough! Sprained ankles generally occur when someone has a lack of strength, poor ankle mobility or both. Poor ankle mobility can be caused by a lack of flexibility of the muscles in the lower leg, prior injury, surgery, or frequent use of high heels.
When your ankles are immobile it can lead not only to injury of the ankle, but pain farther up the chain such as in the knee. Therefore, healthy ankles i.e., good ankle mobility and strength is crucial for avoiding injuries not only in the ankle but all throughout the body.
Our ankles are meant to move in all directions (forward back, side to side and in a circle). In our everyday lives we generally do a lot of movements such as walking or cycling which only takes the ankle through one plane of motion (from front to back). Over time this can lead to stiff ankles and even weakness. Making your ankles far more susceptible to injuries.
To prevent injury and keep your ankles happy it is important that you move your ankles through their full range of motion. Including side to side and rotational movements.
A balance board is a great tool allowing you to move your ankles through their complete range of motion, regular use can help to increase overall range of motion, strength and balance in the ankle joint. If you are rehabbing from an injury or starting an exercise program for the first time consult your doctor or physiotherapist prior to beginning any new exercise program.
Did you know that a balance board can help:
- Increase your ankle range of motion
- Improve proprioception
- Strengthen the ankles and surrounding muscles
- Rehab from ankle injuries
- Reduce your risk of injury/ reinjury
- Improve your balance
- Add variety to your workouts
Before we get started with the exercises a bit about balance boards:
There are many different types and styles of balance boards. They come in different sizes and shapes. Some are adjustable. Some are more challenging than others. Your goals and level of fitness are going to play a big roll in determining which one is best for you. In our office we use two main styles. They differ on the balance point.
This allows the board to pivot in only one plane of motion at a time. This makes it a better choice for beginners.
This allows the board to pivot in multiple planes of motion. Making it more difficult and a great choice for someone looking for more of a challenge or for doing rotational work.
Although we do not use them in clinic BOSU balls are also a popular alternative to a balance board and are more commonly found in gyms and recreation facilities than balance boards.
Position your balance board near a wall or counter for safety. Step onto balance board with feet hip width apart. Find your center on the board balancing so the board is even with no sides touching the ground. Hold this position. If using the wedge style board try this with the wedge positioned so you can go forward and back, as well as side to side as this will challenge your balance in different ways.
Side to side
Position your balance board near a wall or counter for safety. Step onto balance board with feet hip width apart. If using the wedge stye the pivot point or wedge should be positioned parallel to your feet. Holding on if needed slowly lower yourself to one side touching the board to the floor. Come back to center pausing, then slowly lowering yourself to the other side touching the board to the floor. Return to center pause and repeat. Having control over this movement is important.
This means that it is more important that you take your time and try to control the movement than moving quickly through the movement.
Back to front
Position your balance board near a wall or counter for safety. Step onto balance board with feet hip width apart. If using the wedge stye the pivot point or wedge should be positioned perpendicular to your feet. Holding on if needed slowly lower yourself to the front touching the board to the floor. Come back to center pausing, then slowly lowering yourself backwards touching the board to the floor. Return to center pause and repeat. Having control over this movement is important.
For this exercise you will need to use a balance board with a round pivot point. While performing this movement it is more important that you take your time and try to control the movement than moving quickly through the movement. Position your balance board near a wall or counter for safety. Step onto the balance board with feet hip width apart. Find your center in standing balance holding on to the wall or counter if necessary. Imagine that your balance board is a clock face and with control lower yourself towards 1 then rotating to 2, 3 etc. until you have made it to 12. Repeat in reverse 12, 11, 10 etc. Repeat from beginning.
Place the balance board on the floor in front of you. With feet hip width apart step one foot on to the middle of the board. The board should be even on both sides and not touching the floor except for the pivot point. Step the other leg back into a wide staggered stance. Begin to bend both knees. The back knee should move towards the floor while the front knee should stay over the ankle and bend to allow the back knee to move towards the floor. Once the knee is close to the floor but not touching return to the starting position. Try to keep the balance board steady throughout the movement.
Clinical Exercise Physiologist