I recently started slacklining and now I'm hooked. When I talk to people about slacklining, the most common respond is along the lines of "WTF is that". So, I reached out to Sam at Maverick Slacklines to give you a real insight into slacklining and the benefits it can have.
What is slacklining?
Slacklining is a dynamic balance sport, which involves walking, balancing, bouncing and even flipping on a stretchy line tensioned between two trees or anchor points. The sport was born in California in the late 1970s, when climbers practiced balancing on chains around car parks and later rigged up webbing to walk across.
The basic principles are to balance on the line and walk to the other end without falling off. Once this is mastered, slackers can tackle freestyle moves such as jumps, flips and yoga positions.
What are the health benefits of slacklining?
Let's talk balance.
Balance is an integral part of every sport. From skiing and snowboarding to gymnastics and dance, athletes all over the sporting world are taking up slacklining to improve their balance, strength, coordination, flexibility and focus.
Humans balance by concurrently processing information gathered by different senses, creating a ‘sense’ of balance, and simultaneously controlling muscle action to maintain the centre of gravity with minimal movement. While you are slacklining, maintaining your centre of gravity involves continuously perceiving, processing and acting upon information gathered by your eyes, ears and spatial awareness.
It is this necessity for an intensive continuous sense of balance and physical correction that makes slacklining such an efficient training device. People who suffer from inner ear or sight difficulties may find that these problems can affect their balance, causing dizziness, disorientation and nausea. So a good sense of balance isn’t just for the athletes of this world. Training your sense of balance can have a positive effect on your general sense of physical well-being too.
The act of balancing on a slackline throws your motor system into overdrive, making it work hard to keep all your muscles functioning together in order to maintain your centre of gravity. Co-ordination is a mysterious skill and is best learnt subconsciously while doing other tasks.
Exercises along the lines of patting your head and rubbing your tummy can mistakenly be thought to improve co-ordination when actually it is just training your muscles to carry out that task, a simple muscle memory exercise. Whereas activities like slacklining, which have endless and continuously changing variables, teach your muscles to be able to react and work together in any ‘situation’ the activity presents you. This is a skill that can not only be transferred to any task or sport that we do, but can be done without a conscious decision to do so.
Because slacklining is a continuous balance discipline, your body is getting a continuous workout while your muscles are constantly acting to correct your balance. The more comfortable you become being on a line, the more you realise it is about using core muscles to hold your centre of balance and using your limbs and extremities to keep you within the narrow width of your balance ‘window’. The stronger you become in your core, the less you need to do with your arms. Although, once you can stay up for a while, just holding your arms up in the air with constant minor adjustments will get your shoulders burning!
Walking across a line over and over again sounds a little tedious.
There are many different genres of slacklining, but a key variable is line length. While short lines are used for tricks similar to those in trampolining, breakdancing and yoga, long lines are more of an endurance sport. Many tricks on shorter lines are similar to trampolining moves, such as seat-drops, front-drops and even somersaults. But often, a way of training on a slackline that is less painful and more beneficial to general fitness involves stillness, for example holding yoga positions on the line. The more you learn on a slackline, the more of a multi-tasking activity it becomes. Doing seemingly simple stretches suddenly becomes an intense training exercise in strength and flexibility.
If slacklining sounds like your kind of sport, Maverick Slacklines retail from £55 and are available to buy online here. Thanks to Sam for all the information in this post!
Tophat London has not been compensated financially nor received any free products from Maverick Slacklines.