By using a balance board to train your upper extremities, you can improve your balance, stability and proprioceptive awareness. The board also introduces instability to exercises such as pushups and tricep dips to boost their challenge. You should be able to perform such exercises with controlled movement and correct form before you do them on a balance board. If your pushups are uncontrolled on a stable surface, the risks of straining your shoulder joints or spine on the balance board are that much higher. Warm up for a few minutes before balance training.
Begin on All Fours
A fundamental balance board exercise for the upper extremities is the quadruped, which strengthens your finger flexors, wrists, triceps, lats, pecs, shoulders and traps. Begin by kneeling before the board and placing your hands shoulder-width apart with palms flat on the board. Your hands should be aligned with your shoulders and your hips should be positioned over your knees. Find your balance on the board, keeping the perimeter of the board from touching the floor. To boost the difficulty, move the board in a clockwise direction as if you're winding a large clock. Repeat the movement in a counterclockwise direction. If you find these movements too easy, use a bigger ball for the fulcrum of the board.
Pin Your Hopes on Pushups
The pushup, which is an effective body weight exercise for your arms, chest and back, becomes more challenging when performed on a balance board. Begin in the classic push-up position with hands shoulder-width apart on the board. Your legs should be fully extended behind you with your head, back and legs forming a straight line. Exhale and lower your trunk until your elbows are bent at 90-degree angles. Hold the bottom position for a second, inhale and then lift your body back up to the starting position. Perform six reps in each of four sets, increasing the number of reps incrementally by two as you improve your strength. To increase the difficulty, perform off-center pushups in which one hand is positioned further away from the fulcrum.
Dual Instability -- Hands and Feet
If you're looking for an advanced exercise, perform a reverse balance pushup using both a balance board and an exercise ball. Because you're introducing instability at both your hands and feet, your upper extremities and core musculature will take on a greater challenge. Begin by squatting behind the ball and positioning your abs on top of the ball. Roll your trunk forward until your hands reach the ground. Walk your hands forward, continuing to roll your body forward until only the tops of your feet rest on the ball. Keep your abs contracted and back straight in a plank position. Ask a spotter to place a balance board under your hands, which should be shoulder-width apart. Use the same form and method as you would when doing a standard balance board pushup, squeezing your abs to stabilize your upper body and lower body in a straight line.
Dip But Don't Rock
Instead of using the edge of a chair to perform dips for your triceps and shoulders, use a balance board to increase the level of difficulty. Begin by sitting in front of the balance board. Grab the sides of the board behind you with both hands or, alternatively, place your hands flat and shoulder-width apart on the board. Fully extend your arms, lifting your buttocks about a foot off the floor. Exhale and slowly lower your body, bending your elbows anywhere from 45 to 90 degrees. Inhale and return to the starting position. Perform eight to 12 reps in each of two sets. Avoid bending your elbows beyond 90 degrees and putting too much stress on your shoulder and elbow joints.
About the Author
Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.