Strength-Building Balance Exercises to Try on a Slackline

Develop Strength and Stability With Bodyweight Exercises on a Slackline

Slacklining is an activity that involves balancing or moving on a flat web strap that is suspended a few feet above the ground between two anchors—usually trees. The strap is just a few inches wide and it is not completely taut (like a tightrope), so walking, running, or balancing on it is very challenging.

Slacklining requires you to maintain your balance on an unstable surface while continuously shifting your weight and center of gravity based on the line's movement, your body's position, and environmental factors like the wind. It's not easy to develop the motor and core control necessary to make these constant minute adjustments.

Slacklining is novel and fun, but almost everyone is bad at it the first several times that they give it a try. But with practice, there is a reasonably quick learning curve. Once you've gotten the hang of walking on the line, there are endless opportunities to try creative exercises, including strength-building moves.

Slacklining provides important benefits. The balance and coordination you develop translate to everyday experiences. It helps improve proprioception, it develops the small stabilizing muscles in your feet, ankles, and hips, and it teaches you to actively engage your core to help you maintain balance.

Consider adding slacklining to your cross-training routine. This workout includes exercises that help develop total-body strength and coordination. 

Precautions

If you have not been exercising regularly or if you have an illness or injury, you should seek guidance from your healthcare provider about modifications or possibly an alternate workout. When you first start slacklining, you can expect to fall off the line repeatedly. For some people, this may not be safe or comfortable.

Equipment Needed

You will need a slackline and two secure anchors. If you are new to slacklining, you can purchase a beginner's kit. The line will be shorter in length (about 30—100 feet) than lines for intermediate and advanced slackliners. Beginner slacklines are also designed to be secured relatively low to the ground.

Slacklining kits come with different tensioning systems. This is the method used to secure the line to the anchor. Be sure to follow instructions carefully and test the line before stepping onto it with your full weight.

Getting Started

  • Before starting the strength training workout, begin by warming up with a few minutes of light-moderate cardio, such as walking or jogging.
  • Complete the suggested number of repetitions for each exercise, but make modifications as needed.
  • Skip or modify any exercises that cause pain or discomfort.

Pushups

balance exercises on a slackline pushups
Laura Williams

Pushups on the ground are hard enough, but pushups on a slackline require a lot more coordination and control, particularly through the shoulder girdle. This is because the slackline moves and shakes under your weight, forcing all of the muscles of your shoulder, chest, arms, and core to engage to maintain stability.

Targets: Chest, shoulders, triceps, and core

How to do it right: Set up just as you would perform a basic pushup, but place your hands on the slackline, slightly wider than shoulder-distance apart. With your legs extended, tighten your core and make sure your body's forming a straight line from heels to head. You can gain more stability by separating your feet for a wider base of support.

  1. Bend your elbows and begin lowering your chest toward the slackline.
  2. When your elbows form a 90-degree angle, reverse the movement and extend your elbows, returning to the starting position. Move in a slow, controlled fashion. 

Sets/Reps: Perform two sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. You can also modify the exercise by performing the pushup on your knees.

Bulgarian Split Squat

balance exercises on a slackline bulgarian split squat 2
Laura Williams

Using a slackline to perform a Bulgarian split squat isn't all that different than using a bench or step to execute the move, but because the slackline sways more than a sturdy object, it requires greater core and hip engagement.

Targets: Quads, glutes, hips, hamstrings, and core

How to do it right: Stand about two feet from the slackline, facing away from it. Reach one foot behind you, hooking your ankle over the line, so your front foot is flat on the ground and the other is elevated.

  1. Keeping your torso upright and your core engaged, bend both knees and lower your hips toward the ground. Be sure to keep your front heel on the ground and avoid shifting your weight too far forward over your front knee. Also, make sure your front knee remains aligned with your toes throughout the movement—it shouldn't shift or cave in toward your midline.
  2. When your front knee is bent at roughly 90-degrees, press through your front foot and extend your legs to return to the starting position.

Sets/Reps: Perform 8 to 12 repetitions on one side before switching legs. Complete two to three sets per leg.

Triceps Dips

balance exercises on a slackline dips
Laura Williams

Triceps dips are another common bodyweight strength training exercise that can easily be performed on a slackline. The movement is largely the same as a traditional triceps dip using a bench. But as with pushups and Bulgarian split squats, the slackline adds an element of instability that requires greater core engagement and stability.

Targets: Quads, glutes, hips, hamstrings, and core

How to do it right: Sit sideways on the slackline and grasp the line with both hands directly under your hips. Extend your legs, placing your heels firmly on the ground.

  1. Press down through your hands, engaging your triceps and shoulders to lift your hips from the slackline so that you're supported only by your hands and feet.
  2. Shift your torso slightly forward so your hips are in front of the line. Bend your elbows so they point straight behind you and lower your hips toward the ground in a slow, controlled fashion.
  3. When your elbows are bent at 90-degrees, reverse the movement and press through the slackline to extend your elbows and return to the starting position.

Sets/Reps: Perform two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.

Step Ups

balance exercises on a slackline step ups
Laura Williams

Step ups on a slackline are beneficial for beginners because stepping up onto the line and maintaining balance is a critical skill for slacklining in general. For this reason, step ups can be incorporated into a workout before you become adept at walking on the line, helping you develop the neuromotor control necessary for future skills.

Targets: Quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and core

How to do it right: Stand to the left of the slackline so your right leg is next to the line.

  1. Place your right foot lightly on the line without applying too much pressure. Make sure your right foot is pointing straight down the line.
  2. Engage your core, shift your weight to your right foot, and step up on the line, extending your right leg as you lift your left foot from the ground.
  3. Gain your balance for a second before carefully bending your right knee and lowering your left foot back to the ground.

Sets/Reps: Perform 10 to 15 repetitions on one leg before switching to the opposite leg. Complete two to three sets.

Balance High Knee Lifts

balance exercises on a slackline high knee marching
Laura Williams

One way to develop slacklining control without actually walking on the line is to perform stationary balance exercises like high knee lifts. To be clear, this exercise is a little different than other slacklining strength exercises because you're working on two skills, a stationary balance hold, and a simultaneous knee lift.

Targets: Glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, hip flexors, and core

How to do it right: Start the exercise just as you would a step up. Stand to the left of the slackline and place your right foot on the line.

  1. Step onto the line and gain your balance on your right foot without placing your left foot on the line.
  2. When you feel in control, slowly and steadily lift your left knee, bringing it to hip-height.
  3. Lower it back to the starting position and repeat.

Sets/Reps: Aim to perform a total of 8 to 10 knee lifts per side, breaking them into smaller blocks as needed. For instance, try to perform one or two reps before stepping off the line, then try a few more.

Bridges

balance exercises on a slackline hip bridge
Laura Williams

The basic bridge exercise is great for targeting the glutes and hips, and the slackline version does the same, with the added benefit of requiring greater hamstring and core engagement to keep the line steady.

Targets: Glutes, hips, core, hamstrings, calves, quads

How to do it right: Lie on your back, perpendicular to the slackline, with your feet closest to the line and your arms pressing down into the ground on either side of your hips. Place the balls of your feet firmly on the slackline about hip-distance apart. Your knees should be bent at about 90-degrees.

  1. Engage your glutes and core and press your feet down into the line, lifting your hips from the ground until your body forms a straight line from knees to shoulders.
  2. Keeping your core engaged and your feet steady, lower your hips back toward the ground, stopping just before they touch down.
  3. Continue the exercise by pressing your hips back into the air.

Sets/Reps: Complete two to three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.

Lateral Plank Walks

balance exercises on a slackline plank walks
Laura Williams

Lateral plank walks are a good way to develop core strength while also improving shoulder girdle stability. The move involves getting into a basic plank and them moving laterally from side to side.

Targets: Core, chest, shoulders, triceps, quads, and hips

How to do it right: Start on one side of the slackline and set up as you would perform a standard slackline pushup—your hands should be on the slackline about shoulder-distance apart, your legs extended. Engage your core and make sure your body forms a straight line from heels to head.

  1. Step one hand and one foot to the side, keeping your torso straight, and your arms and legs relatively straight as well.
  2. Bring the other hand and foot close to the hand and foot that started the movement.
  3. Continue moving laterally across the line.

Sets/Reps: Walk all the way down the line for a single set, then walk all the way back to the starting position for a second set.

Balance V-Sit

balance exercises on a slackline v-sit extension
Laura Williams

The V-sit exercise performed on the ground is already considered a balance exercise. To do it correctly, you have to engage your core and find your center of gravity while balanced on nothing but your glutes.

When you perform the same exercise on a slackline, the balance and core strength required is magnified substantially. Not only do you have the added instability of the slackline itself, but you're trying to find and maintain your balance on nothing but a two-inch strip of nylon webbing.

Targets: Core, hips, quads

How to do it right: Sit on the slackline, with knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on the line just outside your hips, your elbows slightly bent.

  1. Engage your core, keeping your torso upright, and lean back very slightly as you lift one foot, then the other from the ground.
  2. Draw your knees up in front of your chest to form a "V" with your torso.
  3. When you've gained your balance, try to extend your legs and hold the position as long as possible. 

You shouldn't expect to hold the v-sit for very long, especially when you're just starting out. You may even fall off the line a few times, so be sure to set it up close to the ground. If you can't hold the v-sit, simply practice drawing your knees up, holding the position for a second, then lowering your feet back to the ground.

Sets/Reps: Do as many sets and reps as you comfortably can.

Tree Pose

balance exercises on a slackline tree pose
Laura Williams

The tree pose on the slackline is deceptively challenging. The move requires you to abduct your lifted hip (bringing your foot to the inside of your opposite leg) while keeping your hands at your midline. When you do so, your center of gravity shifts to one side, throwing you off balance.

You will need to actively engage your core and work to keep your standing hip from shifting outward. If you don't, you'll almost immediately have to release the pose or step off the line.

Targets: Core, hips, quads, hamstrings, calves

How to do it right: To prepare, step up onto the line with your right foot and gain your balance.

  1. Engage your core, and when you're ready, lift your left knee up, placing the bottom of your left foot on the inside of your right leg. You can place your foot on your calf or thigh, depending on your flexibility.
  2. Keeping your core engaged, slowly abduct your left hip, opening your knee outward.
  3. Bring your palms together at your chest, or reach them overhead.

Sets/Reps: Hold as long as you can, aiming for at least a count of three. Repeat to the opposite side and perform two or three attempts to each side. 

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