By: Lucy Waite, MS
Yesterday I was talking to one of my friends, who happens to be a well-educated trainer about a class I teach on a weekly basis. I mentioned how much I love using the BOSU® Balance Trainer and my friend immediately responded with, “I only use the Balance Trainer with my most advanced clients.” WHAT!? Seriously!? The comment was initially shocking to me. But, the more I think about it, the more I believe that my friend’s approach is probably the norm. After all, how many times have we heard people say, “Oh, I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible enough.” Ugh! That’s EXACTLY why they SHOULD be doing yoga! It will help improve their range of motion, and increase their flexibility! And the same holds true for training balance – our clients who are the most “afraid” of BOSU® training, are probably the people who need it most.
It is our job as fitness professionals to incorporate functional balance challenges into our clients’ programs and group exercise classes in a user-friendly fashion. If you’ve ever found yourself reserving the Balance Trainer for only your most “advanced” participants, I’d have to ask you (as I did my friend), “Have you ever taken a BOSU® Certification course?” The BOSU® Complete Workout System Certification provides the “secret sauce” for integrated balance training. At the end of a workout, participants need to feel successful. And, in order to help them feel successful, instructors need to be able to progress, regress, and change exercises on the spot! We need to have a plan of attack, a systematic approach, to teaching each exercise in a way that will allow all participants, old, young, novice, and pro, to maximize their potential during integrated balance training.
The BOSU® system works! Every time. For everyone. If you’ve ever attended a BOSU® workshop at a conference, you’ve actually probably already experienced the magic, you just didn’t know at the time because it was so effortless. The system teaches instructors and personal trainers how to utilize the BOSU® Balance Challenge Variables to offer exercise progressions, regressions, and variations in the moment! While I cannot give you all of the practical experience and juicy details provided in the BOSU® Certification course via blog post, I do want to at least introduce you to the balance challenge variables:
1. Contact Points
- Refers to anything supporting the body while working on the Balance Trainer such as body parts that remain in contact with the BOSU® dome or the floor, or other objects (wall, weighted bar, another person) that assist with balance.
- Typically, more contact points allow for more stability, and less contact points create a higher level of balance challenge.
For example, you can progress to a Superman Balance by lying on the dome with forearms and toes on the floor (5 contact points). Lift one leg (4 contact points) then both legs (3 contact points). Keep both legs up and lift one arm (2 contact points) and finally the other arm (1 contact point).
2. Visual Affect
- Refers to manipulating the type of feedback received from the eyes such as changing focal points, closing the eyes or using a mirror.
- Typically, enhanced visual affect allows for more stability and decreasing visual stimulus creates more balance challenge.
For example, standing in a Squat position with the eyes closed adds significant balance challenge. Keeping the eyes open, but turning the head from side to side is more challenging than looking straight ahead, but less challenging than closing the eyes.
- Refers to the amount of movement or range of motion that is introduced into an exercise such as adding locomotor skills or varying the degree of movement around a joint.
- Typically, compound movement skills and greater range of motion add balance challenge and decreasing amount of movement or range of motion allow for more stability.
For example, you can progress a Push-Up from small range of motion with bent knees, to greater range of motion with extended legs, to adding side to side movement.
4. External Stimulus
- Refers to any object or outside force exerted or used during an exercise such as a med ball or dumbbells, or another person’s pressure on the dome or directly on the client.
- Typically, adding external objects or forces increases balance challenge and decreasing outside forces or objects allows for more stability.
For example, a seated V-Sit Balance with arms extended side is less challenging than tossing a weighted fitness ball from hand to hand while balancing.
And then by combining variables, you have endless possibilities to vary an exercise. Simultaneously using one variable to challenge balance, and another to make it easier, may ultimately have no impact on the overall “difficulty” of the move, but instead, simply changes it – creating variety and fun.
Master the utilization of these Balance Challenge Variables and you will have the secret sauce! It’s the same recipe used by all of the BOSU® Master Trainers -- that when you watch them teach causes you to wonder why that class was so good, or allows you to leave feeling like it was your best “BOSU® performance” yet!
Try out the system this week! Use a couple of different variables to change up the exercises that your people already know and love! And then, challenge yourself a little more by using the variables to introduce a few new exercises. With a little practice, you’ll find the combination of BOSU® Balance Challenge Variables that allows you to teach each exercise in a way that is safe, effective and fun for everyone. And the coolest part is, at the end of the day not only are your participants happy, but you too feel a sense of satisfaction, knowing that it was YOU that helped them get there!
For more information on BOSU® Certifications in your region, click here.
Lucy Waite, MS, is a BOSU® National Master Trainer and an assistant instructional professor of health and kinesiology at Texas A & M University.