Categories
Big Picture Movement Product Reviews

Balance

Balancing exercises are some of the most restorative movements you can make — for the mind and body.

This is the reason various mind-body disciplines — such as yoga — have always utilized balancing postures: they synchronize the mental and the physical better than most other activities we can engage in.

Here are some favorite tools to help encourage and take advantage of the benefits of balancing.

By improving your balance — in both lower and upper body — you can improve the health of your entire system.

1

BOSU Ball

(amazon)

BOSU NexGen

(Dick’s)

(amazon)

BOSU PRO

(Gaiam.com)

(amazon)

BOSU Original

(Walmart)

The BOSU Ball is a staple of the modern gym and training session.

Creating an unstable surface to stand on — by putting the round side face-down (feet standing on the flat side) — the body has to constantly adapt and improve its balance. This strengthen’s the body’s joints (including the ankles, knees, and hips), core muscles, tendons, and leg muscles, while also synchronizing the nervous system.

You can also use this for upper body work, by doing pushups and planks with either hands or feet on the ball. The BOSU Ball is known for being well-built and durable, and is the standard among gym equipment of this type.

  • The ORIGINAL model was the first of its kind, and still is absolutely perfect for home use.
  • The PRO model is designed for use in gyms, and is capable of withstanding even higher traffic and use.
  • The NEXGEN is a new offering, built with supremely high quality and improved grips for more extreme training.

PROs:

  • Well-designed, improves user’s balance
  • Durable — especially the PRO Model
  • Industry-leader
  • PRO Model is even more durable

CONs:

  • A bit pricey — but worth it

RATING:
8.9/10 (Original), 9.3/10 (PRO), 9.7/10 (NexGen)

2

Balance Disk

(amazon)

Simply inflate with air, and you’ve got an unstable surface to practice your balances.

This little balance disk is surprisingly helpful for being so cheap.

It’s not super tiny, but it is much more portable than a BOSU ball. It won’t give you nearly the range of possibilities a BOSU ball does, but it could be a quick “warm-up” before you head out the door — or an introduction to balancing.

I recommend the balance disk for beginners, or for experienced movers who want a portable option or variation from other, more challenging balancing tools.

PROs:

  • Pretty decent amount of stimulation to balance
  • Smaller, more portable
  • Well-made, durable

CONs:

  • Not as versatile or challenging as the BOSU ball
  • Very portable when deflated — (but re-inflating takes a few minutes)

RATING: 6.2/10

This is amazing as a quick, portable balancing tool. It’s absolutely better than nothing. However, if you can spend more on something more challenging (like a BOSU ball), you should. I enjoy owning both.


3

Lebert Parallettes

(amazon)

Parallete bars are incredible as a movement trainer.

They’re also excellent for building strength in the core and upper body. I consider them an essential component for building your core, shoulders, and entire upper body with balance between all parts.

PROs:

  • Super high quality
  • Two color options
  • Supports up to 400 lbs

CONs:

  • Smelly rubber feet/end caps.

RATING: 9.3/10.

These would be a 10/10 if the rubber end caps didn’t offgas so much. Remove them and let them offgas in the garage, or outside for a while.

At the time of this posting — the yellow set is quite a bit more affordable than the chrome. They must have had difficulty selling the yellow color.

4

Revolution Balance Board

(amazon)

This board allows you to mimic surfing, as you slide left-to-right, this really takes your balancing skills to the next level. The motion is limited to left-right motion (no forward-back), but nevertheless requires you to incorporate forward-back balancing to avoid falling either direction.

DIY — Make Your Own

You can make your own version of this for very, very cheap with two items from a hardware store: a $7-10 30 inch laminated wooden board (laminated is stronger) and a PVC pipe (they’ll often cut it for you — 16 inches should be about right). You might want to sand down the edges so they don’t scratch the floor.

PROs:

  • Convenient
  • Fun
  • Excellent trainer

CONs:

  • Pricey
  • You can make your own for under $20
  • Won’t last a lifetime

RATING: 8/10

I’d seriously consider making your own for much cheaper. You can always “upgrade” down the road if you really love the concept!

Categories
Movement Product Reviews

REVIEWS: Strength Products

There is no better way to build upper body strength than bodyweight exercises.

For core strength, synergy between muscle groups, and a re-synchronization of the nervous system, bodyweight wins the day.

It’s also a fantastic approach when recovering from chronic illness, or fending off aging. Even the simplest bodyweight movements can improve and restore your body’s upper body strength — in nearly any situation.

The following products can be used in modified ways to accommodate the extremely feeble and highly advanced in age.

1

Pull-Up Bar

(TitanFitness.com)

I’m extremely impressed with Titan Fitness products. (I’m not affiliated with the company, I’ve just purchased multiple products and love the quality and prices).

Among the most healing motions you can make is hanging — from something above you.

While branches and cliffs may have been nearby in times past, in the modern world — and as societies became more “civilized,” it’s become difficult to find something, anything, to hang from!

Enter the chin-up bar.

A solid, reliable bar to hang from is essential for the health of your spine, back, neck, and shoulders — even if you never attempt a pull-up.

In fact, many fitness-minded folks focus too much on the strength-building qualities of the pull-up/chin-up — and neglect the equally-restorative attributes of simple hanging.

TIP: Try to hang for at least 60 seconds a day.

PROS:

  • Improve your neck, back, spine, and shoulder musculoskeletal balance
  • Correct muscle imbalances that lead to pain
  • Elongate tissues in the entire upper body, leading to better blood flow, lymph drainage, and digestion
  • Strengthen nearly every muscle in the upper body, with the exception of the triceps

CONS:

  • None

RATING: 12/10

It’s hard to overstate how important it is to hang — and to be able to, because you’ve got the right equipment.

2

Lebert Parallettes

(amazon)

Parallete bars are incredible for movement and building strength in the core and upper body.

Parallete bars are a small, portable, home-size replacement for real parrallel bars (which are 4 feet tall and 10+ feet long).

Always be careful, especially if trying to do inversions (feet up in the air).

PROs:

  • Super high quality
  • Two color options
  • Supports up to 400 lbs

CONs:

  • The feet/pads have a China-rubber smell that takes a while to off-gas

RATING: 8.5/10

The only reason this product is not a 10/10 is that the rubber feet took a while to offgas.

3

Olympic Rings

(amazon)
(TitanFitness.com)

Don’t let the word “olympic” fool you. Everybody can benefit from a few minutes a day with the rings.

There’s no better way to build upper body strength than with the rings. They are absolutely at the top of the list for developing upper body muscle, fitness, tone, and overall balance.

Even if you’re saying “no way, not me” — trust me, you can benefit from rings. Even a few minutes a day, even with extremely simple, easy motions.

You don’t even have to know how to use them. Just pulling and leaning into the rings synchronizes your nervous system, improves your core strength, and puts you in the mode of “play.” As you become stronger, you’ll find yourself making natural motions that build your strength.

PROs:

  • Durable, high quality
  • Affordable
  • Extremely secure

CONs:

  • Wooden rings are easier on hands

RATING: 10/10

There is no better avenue to increase upper body strength than the Olympic rings.