If you have ever been to an indoor climbing gym, you’re likely to see what looks like a tightrope set up about two feet off the ground. That is a slackline, and it's one heck of a challenging exercise. Those who are not familiar with the training mechanism, slacklining is a new methodology that bears similarity to tightrope walking, where one is balancing on a tightrope (the rope is usually about two inches in width) with the sole purpose of remaining on said rope. The beauty of a slackline is that it has give under weight (it’s also very close to the ground) and isn’t pulled extremely tight, which requires a user to be very dynamic and constantly balancing. Because it demands a combination of balance, concentration and coordination, it's a great exercise for sports that involve exceptional body control, such as climbing, skiing and martial arts.
The real beauty of slacklining is that it focuses on proprioception training, which ,regardless of your choice of sport, can help develop your positional sense. Proprioception is literally defined as a sense of how our bodies are positioned. Think of it as the unconscious nervous system working behind the scenes that allows you do certain activities without being actively aware of them. For example, close your eyes and squat; or if you have ever driven a car and tuned the radio or eaten something while still keeping an eye on the road, that’s your body’s awareness of where you are positioned. Slacklining sparks this secondary system and builds up muscle to support the rest of the body. The result? You are less prone to common injuries, you strengthen your spine and back, in addition to activating your core and even support for your ankles.
Given the versatility of the training style you are not limited to just walking the length of the line – there are full training programs available. Below are some of the most basic exercises you can do on a slackline to begin to acclimatize yourself to the movement.
Stand next to the slackline and step on the line with one foot until you are entirely upright on the line. The movement should be fluid, like stepping on and off a bench.
Get into push-up position with your hands on the slackline and feet on the ground. Gradually bend at the elbows until you are in a plank position and hold. Make sure to engage your abs right from the start and control the movement of the line so it’s not shifting under your weight.
Hop on the slackline and remain stationary to get accustomed to the maneuverability of the line. Try to remain on the line as long as possible.
While stationary on the slackline, raise one knee and remain stationary. Repeat with the other leg.
Once your base level has been established, attempt to walk the length without falling off.