Miracle ball for the fitness world
© BALLance Concepts GmbH 90 percent of all back pain originates in the vicinity of the thoracic spine – and this is the focus of the BALLance method.
At the last FIBO trade show, five companies were presented with the ‘FIBO Innovation & Trend Award’. In our new series, we introduce you to the people behind these award winners. BALLance Concepts GmbH is a member of this select group. Their calling card: Two balls linked by a spring that are designed to roll away back pain.
If your customers are suffering from severe back pain or poor posture, just tell them to lie down. Seriously – on BALLance Balls from Dr. Tanja Kühne. These linked balls can relax anyone while making them one to three centimetres taller, helping to straighten out bad habits, such as sitting too long while leaning forward.
The idea: Rolling away back pain.
Dr. Tanja Kühne, an accredited sports scientist, remembers her childhood: “I was born with scoliosis, and in my youth this not only caused problems with my breathing, but also severe back pain.” In fact, Dr. Kühne, formerly a member of Ukraine’s national athletics team, was forced to end her sports career for this reason. And she was not alone with this pain: “While at university, I was also working in sports therapy, and almost every day one of my clients would ask me if I could recommend an exercise to help combat back pain,” says Tanja. She began experimenting with two tennis balls, but it was her doctoral supervisor, Prof. Dr. Dr. Viktor Mishchenko, who told her that what she was doing already constituted a method. As the therapist put it: “I did research for four years, and it became clear to me that 90 percent of the pain in the neck and shoulder area, as well as in the lower back, had its roots in the centre of the spine.” Yet it was a Shiatsu seminar that first allowed her to transform this knowledge into concrete practice. “The simultaneous application of pressure to the right and left trapezius muscles in combination with targeted breathing was an inspiration to me.”
Implementation: Uncompromising experimentation.
The goal now was to achieve this effect without the Shiatsu therapists. “To simulate the pressure, I laid down on my back, on top of my two tennis balls. Unfortunately, however, the balls were too small, and I couldn’t achieve an angle sufficient to reach a slight hyperextension. Furthermore, the balls kept rolling away, or they ended up too close together,” says Tanja (43). It was essential to find a way to attach the balls to each other flexibly, so Tanja stuck two of them into a woman’s stocking and then sewed them shut. A curtain bead was placed in the middle, at a distance of two centimetres. “I need this distance here to keep the spinous processes of vertebrae free,” explains the expert. This marked the birth of the ancestor of today’s BALLance Balls, and it was actually sold. “I shot instructional videos in my living room and then I posted them on a closed YouTube channel, which allowed my clients to train in real time.” It all sounds good, but the device still had two problems: the materials were not very durable, and it was ugly. Tanja decided to contact a designer and tell them what she needed: the balls had to change their form when moving, just like muscles, and return to their starting point when movement was finished. In addition, the connection had to be stable and could not move too much, like ligaments and tendons. The designer decided to use a spring to connect the balls. “To satisfy my requirements for this device, these had to be screwed together. It was not easy to find a spring with threading at the ends, however,” says Tanja. Luckily, however, she was able to find a manufacturer in Sauerland who loved to experiment, and it was but a short time later that she discovered a South German company with special processes for coating the balls in foam and mounting them.” The lecturer says that: “Nobody demanded any money up front, because everyone believed in my idea.”
The details: It took but a few months to get rolling.
Tanja, who applied for a patent on these balls, encountered Paul Underberg with the prototype. She remembers: “Underberg, who was then the owner of the INLINE corporate consultancy, was having problems with back pain. My contraption allowed him to reduce his symptoms markedly.” She told him about her idea of launching her own method and course concept for studios, and in collaboration with the director of the INLINE Akademie, the three of them established BALLance Concepts GmbH in mid-June 2013. There was still no finished product at this point, but in November 2013 they launched the black BALLance Ball on the market. “I have no idea how I managed to do it,” says the sports scientist. Following the Migros acquisition, in 2017 Tanja purchased all of the shares and has been running the company with her husband since 2018. He was the one who insisted on developing a softer version of the device. Tanja explains: “I really underestimated how tense people are, and who really wants to experience even more pain than normal in therapy, even if they will feel better afterwards?” The new version is 20 percent softer than its predecessor, and it is currently the most popular choice amongst customers.
More locations in Germany than Burger King
Dr. Tanja Kühne’s BALLance Ball method is already available in 1,200 German companies. This device is used not only by physiotherapists and fitness trainers, but also by homoeopathic practitioners, osteopaths and psychologists. According to the Managing Director: “In the beginning, I conducted every training and every presentation myself. Now I have a team of 20 experts.” After all, there are already 5,000 trainers and therapists, including 1,200 in Korea. The rest can be found here in Germany, in Switzerland, in Austria and in Paris. Additional locations are already planned for Europe and Asia.
Costs: These are not for sale to the general public.
An eight-hour training course (cost: 179 euros, course dates available online at www.ballance-concepts.de authorises the participant to purchase the device in black or in white for 139 euros. Tanja explains: “The purchaser receives two devices, a large version and a small version, and these can sometimes be used at the same time.” While the price may be higher than that charged by Blackroll and others, her device is not designed for fascia massage, but rather for alleviating kyphosis. It is a difference that will be felt by anyone who lies on the device. Consumers can purchase the ball through their fitness studio by taking part in a BALLance course. “After completing a BALLance course, participants are one to three centimetres taller. The spine is straightened and there is less pressure on the intervertebral discs, resulting in less pain. Tanja emphasises this aspect in particular for personal coaches who train their clients in the evening. “They come to the courses with poor back posture from their offices, and unfortunately this poor positioning can be very easily reinforced through the use of exercise equipment for strength training.”
The future: Investing energy in the next genration.
“Even children have poor posture today. That is why we want to offer a concept for 2020 that is targeted at adolescents,” says Dr. Kühne, who is herself the mother of a daughter. She is currently working on expanding the basic training courses. The seminar programme also includes an advanced course, as well as combinations with yoga and pilates, and a professional development concept especially for therapists. Tanja’s vision: to make exercising with BALLance Balls as straightforward for everyone as brushing their teeth. Because the mouth is not the only thing that smiles – the spine can, too, when it assumes its natural position and supports a pain-free life.