Training with a BOSU balance trainer

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Balance Training Equipment: The BOSU Balance Trainer

Large, resilient stability balls (also known as Swiss balls) have been used for years by physical therapists for both strength and flexibility training. The BOSU balance trainer, on the other hand, is a relatively new device for muscle train­ing. Because it offered unique ways to enhance balance and proprioception on a sport specific level, it received quick acceptance by the strength and conditioning community. In many ways, the addition of the BOSU to the fitness community initiated the functional training movement.

What is a BOSU ball?

A BOSU Balance Trainer (or BOSU ball) is a fitness training device approximately 25 inches wide and looks like a big exercise ball that’s been cut in half. That is, it is an inflated hemisphere.

One side is dome-shaped; the other is flat. The dome side is inflatable and should be filled with air using a pump until it is fairly firm and about eight to ten inches high.

The ball can be placed with either the flat or the inflated side down. Its pro­ponents say it enhances balance. The BOSU ball can even be used for other exercises (for example, abdominal crunches).

What does BOSU ball stand for?

Short for “both sides utilized,” the BOSU Balance Trainer, or BOSU (pronounced “Bo” like the boy’s name, and “Sue” like the girls name), was invented by Californian David Weck in 1999 and launched in 2000. Since then it has become one of the most popular fitness tools in the industry.

What are the benefits of using a BOSU balance trainer?

Using the BOSU ball can help to improve balance because you’re constantly engaging the small stabiliser muscles in the upper and lower body to keep you in place. When you stand on, or perform exercises with, a BOSU ball, all of your muscles are forced to contract to keep your joints in proper position as you try to maintain your centre of gravity over an unstable surface.

It also helps improve kines­thetic awareness (your sense of how the body is positioned at any given moment) and propri­oception (how your body responds to external forces to keep your joints in the right position).

Working on an uneven surface tests your bal­ance and forces you to use and strengthen deep core and stabilizing muscles—muscles that conventional exercise pro­grams often miss.

It is suitable for all ages and fit­ness levels. Also, you can use it at home or in studio or gym classes. Trainers, athletes, dancers, and general fitness buffs alike use the BOSU to build strength and agility, tone and sculpt muscles, improve aerobic conditioning, burn fat, and improve posture and alignment.

How to use a BOSU balance trainer?

Looking for that long, lean look? The BOSU can help you trim down your waistline. You can also use the BOSU to combine aerobic and cardiovascular exercises with strength training, balance challenges, and flexibility— all the components of a well-rounded exercise regimen.

You can use it dome side-up for cardio, lower hotly strength, or core moves. Or, you can turn it over and use the platform side for upper body exercises, like push-ups, or more core moves, like planks.

  • Cardio. Use the BOSU ball for short bursts of cardio such as hops, jumps, step-ups, leaps, and lunges.
  • Strength training. Add a new challenge to your squats, lunges, deadlifts, and push-ups. You can even use the BOSU ball as a weight bench to add a balance challenge during traditional weight work.
  • Flexibility. Stand or kneel on the dome while doing traditional stretches to add more range of motion.
  • Sports conditioning. Use it to perform sports drills, like jumping or plyometric moves to increase performance and agility.
  • Core training. Use it for abdominal and lower back exercises to target the core muscles.

Benefits of flexibility training

In real life, your body needs a variety of muscles to keep you steady on your feet and to help move you as well. For that purpose you will use different balance training equipment such as: BOSU, balance board, balance cushion, stability ball, foam roller, and TRX Suspension Trainer.

  • Enhanced performance of daily activities.
  • Decreased risk of low-back pain.
  • Increased motor performance.
  • Decreased risk of injury.
  • Reduced muscle tension.
  • Increased relaxation.
  • Increased range of motion (ROM).
  • Decreased stress and tension.
  • Increased mind-body connection.
  • Improved posture.

BOSU ball training tips

Before using the BOSU you should review the training tips. The following tips will help make your BOSU experience safer and more rewarding.

  • Make sure the BOSU it is not wet or slippery. Keep it completely dry.
  • Inflate your BOSU correctly.
  • Place your BOSU on a level surface like a wood floor or carpet.
  • Before trying any dynamic exercises (those with movement) or single leg exercises, practice balancing on two feet. You can add simple head movements to a two-foot balance to warm up and prepare for more of a challenge.
  • Avoid falling off the BOSU. If you are losing your balance in the middle of an exercise, it is better to stop and take a controlled step off the BOSU.
  • Every exercise you do from a standing position on the BOSU requires your entire core to be engaged and knees slightly bent.
  • It is ideal to add visual tracking exercises to your warm up. When standing on the BOSU, try following your fingertips as you move them in a control manner over your head, below your head and from side to side.
  • Wear shoes when you work out on the BOSU. Shoes protect your feet and add support, particularly when you step onto and off of the dome. A good athletic shoe like a cross-trainer is recommended.
  • Use props. If you feel unstable at any time, use a body bar, broomstick, or the wall for additional support.

Making the right connections

Most trainers and sports practitioners agree that a successful core-strengthening program targets groups of muscles in a coordinated way. Some people refer to this approach as functional or integrative training—training the whole body based on the idea that this is how we move in our daily activities.

Integrative training exercises requite the spinal joints plus varying combinations of ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints, and all the muscles which function at these joints, to work together to perform a given exercise.

Even something as simple as standing on the BOSU is an example of working the body in an integrated way. As soon as you step on the dome, you feel all the muscles in your body come alive. That feeling is even stronger as you start to move and change positions.

For example, when we lift one leg or one arm, our weight shifts and our body has to quickly adjust to this change. When we expand our repertoire to move the upper and lower torso or to work one side of the body and then the other, we need the simultaneous participation of the entire body and quick and flexible motor control. These are all examples of integrated training.

It seems clear that by its very nature the BOSU is designed to help people strengthen their core and exercise in an integrated way. This is, indeed, the power and beauty of the BOSU.

Closing thoughts about a BOSU balance trainer

Although there are several pieces of balance training equipment on the market, a BOSU balance trainer provides the safe combination of balance training with the capabilities of performing dynamic movement.

The squishy dome side on top and flat platform on the bottom allow you to use the ball in many ways, which will add variety to your workouts. Using a BOSU balance trainer as part of your workout will also enhance the strength of your core and your joints.

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