In a world of high-tech electronics and frequently costly, oversized fitness equipment, it is sometimes the simplest, smallest and most basic inventions that have the power to unlock so much potential in our everyday lives.
Meet the slant board – a game-changer for pairing simplicity with high impact when it comes our bodies ability to cope with the demands of everyday movements and so much more.
It has gained a huge amount of popularity in recent years amongst fitness coaches, sports professionals and physiotherapists alike, thanks to an ever-growing body of research that has increased our understanding of the variety benefits it can bring. From improved balance, to injury rehabilitation to strengthening the muscles used in almost any footwork movement – be it walking, dancing, running or simply standing still.
So, what actually is a decline slant board?
The slant board is a flat, non-slip platform, usually made from strong wood or lightweight plastic, which, as the name suggests, can be set to different levels of incline to achieve a desired ‘slant’. Usually this will involve three levels; low, medium and high; each of which is suited to various individual needs and the type of stretch or exercise we are using the board for.
The board can be used for a variety of stretches that work by targeting the muscles and tendons in our feet, legs and glutes, which help to maintain our overall fitness. It is super-easy to use – in fact, some stretches involve little more than standing still on the board! – and most boards are lightweight enough to make them portable – that means no excuses for skipping the exercises on your holidays! With so much to gain (and the added bonus of no technology to go wrong!) let’s delve a little deeper into the benefits, followed by an introduction to some of the most popular stretches, so that you can be ready to get started with this fantastic fitness tool today.
Benefits of a Decline Slant Board
The slant board is an interesting tool when it comes to exercise as it usually requires a static position in contrast to high-energy, motion exercises. Whilst movement functionality is vital to everyday functioning, so is our ability to hold a position without losing our balance.
The slant board forces you to maintain a proper posture during a stretch and it is thought that this can assist in the strengthening of hip-joint muscles and improve balance control. In our everyday lives this may have the added benefit of reducing our risk of falling.
Stretching out muscles that are commonly used during exercise and everyday activities helps to reduce inflammation and pain by encouraging the circulation of blood to the legs. Even the simple notion of standing or sitting still can cause certain muscles, particularly our calves, to tighten and cause unwanted pains. As such, the slant board is often used for the treatment of the inflammation of particular muscles in the foot and leg e.g. achilles tendonitis, patellar tendonitis and more. ‘Itus’ refers to the inflammation of these muscles and in real terms, not only can this be painful, it can impact our ability to walk. The patellar ligament for example, connects the knee cap and keeps it in position whilst assisting with the bending of the leg and helping us to stand.
Following from the above point regarding the vital functioning of the patellar ligament, the slant board has been linked with improved walking ability. The Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 2016, conducted an interesting study based on previous research on the use of the slant board for walking rehabilitation but this time on stroke patients where walking debilitation is a frequent side effect. Their findings suggested improved walking function from a 30 day, thrice daily, slant board exercise including standing on the board for 3 minutes and suggested this could be due to forward shift of centre of gravity.
Reduce aches and pains
Using the slant board for multiple stretches allows you to focus on a whole host of muscles from your feet to your your hips. This makes it a particularly useful tool during a warm-up or cool-down following exercises to help prevent aches and pains that often result from lack of appropriate stretching.
Even the simple act of standing requires a host of muscles, tendons and ligaments in our legs, feet and even hips tendon to work in harmony. If one becomes weak, it can put unnecessary pressure on another and lead to certain injuries including calf muscle strains, shin splints, plantar fasciitis (inflammation of heels – pain when walking). Maintaining strength in each of these muscles can help to reduce the risk of these such injuries.
Decline Slant Board Exercises and Stretches
It’s handy to have a support ready for many stretches done using a slant board and this is one of them.
You start by placing either one or both legs on the slant board, toes pointing up the slope with the support in front of you to hold. The simple slant of the board may be enough to feel the stretch in your calf but for a deeper stretch gradually lean forward, keeping your leg(s) straight until you feel the increased tension in your calf. Use the support to maintain your balance. Alternate between legs or do both at once – the choice is yours!
Did you know, the achilles tendon is the strongest tendon in the body? It pulls on our heel every time we flex our calf muscle like when we run, jump or simply maintain our balance when standing still. It’s constant use means it can be prone to injury so stretching and strengthening can help to reduce this risk.
The stretch is usually best with a light to medium incline. Place both feet on the board. Begin to slowly lean forward and bend at the knee on board. You will feel the stretch in your heel (i.e. achilles tendon). Hold the position for 30seconds or more before swapping to the other foot.
The incline is best on the second or ‘middle’ angle for this stretch. Stand with both feet firmly on the board with straight legs. Slowly tip forward to touch your toes. You will feel the stretch on your calves and down through your hamstring muscles. Again, hold the pose for somewhere between 30secs to a minute (the tighter the muscles, the longer the hold needed to loosen them).
Plantar Fascia Stretch
This ligament connects your heel bone to your toes. It helps you to walk by acting as a shock absorber, supporting the arch of your foot and providing stability to the leg.
The stretch is the simplest way to use your board to strengthen the plantar fascia. Simply stand on the board at any angle (the higher the incline, the harder it gets) and hold you balance for any length of time. The slant of the board will help to stretch and strengthen the plantar fascia. It sounds almost too easy, but be careful not to overdo it. If you feel pain, hold for short lengths of time and repeat reps.
Stand upright with both feet on the board, hip-width apart, toes pointing down the board. Slowly bend the knees into squat position to feel the stretch behind the back of your lower legs. You may benefit from using support on either side of the slant board such as a couple of chairs particularly to push yourself back into starting position. If you are wanting to progress the stretch, try one-legged squats.
Side Lunge Squat
Begin by standing with you feet shoulder width apart then place one foot on slant board sideways with both legs straight. Slowly bend the leg on the board at the knee whilst keeping the other leg straight until you feel the stretch behind the back of your leg . Return slowly to the starting position and repeat, remembering to swap sides so that each leg is stretched.
As with any form of exercise and stretching, slow and steady is the most effective way to gradually improve fitness whilst reducing the risk of injury. Key to using the slant board effectively will be maintaining a good posture throughout a stretch and make sure you don’t push yourself too far, particularly if you are using the slant board for injury rehabilitation. If you’re unsure whether your posture or body position is right for the stretch, check out the video links above or a quick google search will find you a lots more video demonstrations to help. And remember, if there’s anything you are unsure about on your journey to a healthier, fitter, happier you, there’s always the Fitness Drum community here to support you every-step of the way.