The Health and Fitness Benefits of Slacklining

Laura Williams

Slacklining is a growing sport that's very much like walking a tightrope. But instead of a taut cord or rope, you're balancing atop a 1- to 2-inch wide strip of webbing that offers extra bounce, a bit like a trampoline.

Expert slackliners don't just try to walk across the line. They also perform tricks: jumping, twisting and flipping themselves in the air, then landing on top of the line. The resulting sport ends up looking like a mash-up of tightrope walking, trampolining, and a balance beam routine, all rolled into one. 

In other words, it's pretty incredible to watch and even more fun to try. Not to mention, slacklining is a great way to cross-train when you need a break from the gym. 

Benefits of Slacklining

It should come as no surprise that standing on a 2-inch line of webbing suspended off the ground requires balance. What you may not realize is that balance is one of the most important health-related components of fitness, particularly as you age.

The ability to right yourself after getting bumped or being thrown off-balance after picking up something heavy off the floor can reduce your risk of falls and fall-related injuries.

Slacklining is excellent at helping improve balance and proprioception (your inherent understanding of where your body is in space and how it relates to other bodies and forces), but it has other benefits, too. 

Enhanced Quadriceps Activation

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that the use of slacklining in rehabilitation provided significant increases in the activation and recruitment of the quadriceps muscles, but it had a low level of perceived exertion.

This could pay off during lower extremity rehabilitation. It would be a boon for people who need to engage their legs to enhance recovery but who struggle with programs that feel difficult or painful. 

Better Balance and Coordination

Just in case you need proof, there's scientific evidence to support the balance-related benefits of slacklining. A 2011 study found that when participants performed repeated training sessions on a slackline, they were able to significantly reduce the uncontrollable side-to-side sway of the line often seen in newbies.

The study shows that slacklining suppressed spinal reflex circuitry, which may have reduced the uncontrollable joint oscillations that cause the line's shaking. In other words, the brain learned to help prevent reflexes from taking place in the ankles, knees, and hips.

Study results showed that trained subjects could stand on the line for 20 seconds or more, while untrained subjects saw no improvement in balance. 

Improved Lower-Limb Cross-Training

A 2016 study found that female basketball players who trained on a slackline saw improvement in a vertical jump test for power and a center of pressure test (that helps measures balance). Together, these indicate slacklining can be a good option for cross-training, particularly in sports where power and agility are required. 

Social Interaction

Slacklining is an inherently social activity. It can certainly be done alone, and athletes compete as individuals. But wherever a slackline is set up, you're almost guaranteed to see people gatherine. This is in part due to its novel nature, but it's also due to the activity's accessibility to people of all ages and ability levels.

Everyone who tries slacklining for the first time will be terrible at it. This starts everyone on a level playing field and opens up opportunities for laughter and fun. 

How to Start Slacklining

The best way to get started is to get started! Find a facility that has a slackline (many rock climbing gyms and obstacle course gyms have them), or buy your own. As long as you have the line and access to a couple trees, you can get set up and started in just a few minutes. 

  • Fight the fall. You will fall off the line. This is normal. And don't worry, you probably won't actually fall hard on the ground—you'll end up stepping off and catching yourself on your feet. But when you start to fall, try to fight it—try your hardest to regain your balance. This helps teach your body to make adjustments on the fly so that you'll get better, faster. 
  • Go barefoot or use minimalist shoes. When you feel close contact with the line, you'll be in better control of your movements and changes in the position of the line. 
  • Keep breathing and loosen up your upper body. Take a few breaths before you step onto the line and do your best to keep breathing slow, meditative breaths. By loosening up your upper body—holding your arms up in the air, your elbows bent and your shoulders low—your torso can move more freely as you try to maintain your center of balance.
  • Keep your knees bent. By bending your knees, you're lowering your center of gravity, getting it closer to the line. This will help you maintain your balance, and it places you in a more athletic stance to move with the sway of the line. 
  • Look forward. As tempting as it is to look down at the slackline, resist the temptation. Instead, look straight ahead, or at least 15 feet in front of you on the line. 
  • Stand before you walk. Before you ever even try to take a step, practice gaining your balance on one leg, then the other. When you stand up on the line, you always start with one leg, and you'll be immediately tempted to place your other foot on the line as well. Resist the temptation! Instead, simply step up on the supporting foot and focus on balancing in place. 
  • Take small steps with your feet pointed straight ahead. When you're ready to start stepping, keep your feet aligned and straight on the line as you take small, heel-to-toe steps. You'll probably try turning your toes out, but this actually makes walking more difficult. Slow and steady wins the race, so be patient and keep at it. If you need help, ask a friend to walk alongside you and lightly hold your hand. 
4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Shubert TE. Evidence-based exercise prescription for balance and falls prevention: A current review of the literature. J Geriatr Phys Ther. 2011;34(3):100-108. doi:10.1519/JPT.0b013e31822938ac

  2. Gabel CP, Osborne J, Burkett B. The influence of ‘slacklining’ on quadriceps rehabilitation, activation and intensityJ Sci Med Sport. 2015;18(1):62-66. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2013.11.007

  3. Keller M, Pfusterschmied J, Buchecker M, Müller E, Taube W. Improved postural control after slackline training is accompanied by reduced H‐reflexesScand J Med Sci Sports. 2011;22(4):471-477. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0838.2010.01268.x

  4. Santos L, Fernández-Río J, Fernández-García B, Jakobsen MD, González-Gómez L, Suman OE. Effects of slackline training on postural control, jump performance, and myoelectrical activity in female basketball players. ​J Strength Cond Res. 2016;30(3):653-664. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001168

By Laura Williams, MSEd, ASCM-CEP
Laura Williams is a fitness expert and advocate with certifications from the American Council on Exercise and the American College of Sports Medicine.