By: Helen Vanderburg
The BOSU® Balance Trainer has become a staple piece of equipment in clubs and homes around the world, but are you using your Balance Trainer to its fullest potential? At first glance, the most obvious usage is for balance training. In fact, this is what we see most people doing with the product. However, the diversity of the product is far more expansive.
The BOSU® Balance Trainer is a highly effective tool for training cardiovascular fitness, strength, core conditioning and stretching while integrating balance training.
The versatility of BOSU® products provides a wide variety of opportunities to train depending on your fitness level, goals and ability. By utilizing the BOSU® Balance Trainer to its fullest potential you will discover multiple ways to perform BOSU® exercises to give you variety in your training. For example, a plank exercise can be done with the hands on the dome which contributes to higher activation of the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder girdle linking into the core. Or the feet can be placed on the dome with the hands on the floor requiring the legs and pelvic stabilizer muscles to work hard. By performing the same two plank exercise options using the platform side of the BOSU® Balance Trainer, the shoulder, pelvic and core stabilizing muscles work in completely different ways to maintain equilibrium in the plank position. By simply using a variety of positions on the Balance Trainer you have multiplied the benefits of one exercise. You can see how effective the BOSU® Balance Trainer is in giving you exercise selection, diversity and challenge.
Whatever your goals, there are BOSU® exercises to fit. With every training focus, whether it is cardio, strength, core or stretch, you will have an elevated level of adaptation. During exercises performed on the BOSU® Balance Trainer there is continuous flooding of feedback through the nervous system as the body corrects itself to maintain balance. This integrated balance occurs whether standing, kneeling, seated or lying on the Balance Trainer as your neuromuscular system is continually adjusting to the unstable surface of the dome.
The BOSU® Balance Trainer is an effective training tool for cardiovascular fitness. Stepping on and off the dome requires a constant adjustment to the unstable surface, increasing the challenge and intensity of the exercise. The perceived level of exertion when performing cardiovascular exercises on the Balance Trainer is frequently much higher then performing the exercise on the floor. This allows for a decrease in time spent for a similar result. Plyometric exercises such as box jumps can be done on the BOSU® dome, creating a softer landing for the joints. Utilizing the BOSU® POWERSTAX accessory allows you to elevate the height of the Balance Trainer to meet the needs of a more advanced level of intensity or athletic training.
The BOSU® Balance Trainer allows for core conditioning exercises to be performed in a wide variety of body positions and enables multi-planar movement. The core can be trained in all body positions while exercising on the Balance Trainer. When standing on the dome, the core muscles work to maintain balance. The constant adjustment of subtle movement on this unstable surface fires the core muscle to stabilize against gravity. The dome shape provides for a larger surface area to support the body in a variety of positions whether prone, supine or side lying. As well, it enables a larger range of motion in many of the traditional core conditioning exercises allowing for increased strength gains through a fuller range. Take a side lying lateral flexion exercise as an example. When performed on the floor the range of motion of this exercise is limited by the structure of the hip in relationship to the shoulders. For many people the discomfort on the side of the hip makes this exercise impossible to perform. However, by placing the body on the soft surface of the BOSU® dome, the bottom hip is comfortably supported and the lateral range of motion is increased, permitting for a better training effect and more options in the exercise design.
The BOSU® Balance Trainer is an effective training tool for strength and conditioning. The weight of the Balance Trainer itself can be used as resistance in performing an overhead press or bent over row. The elastic principles of the dome provide an ideal surface for plyometric training with a decrease in impact forces on the joints in exercises such as plyometric push-ups. Performing traditional strength exercises such as squats and lunges will have a higher level of core and balance integration as the body is working on an unstable surface. In contrast the dome can assist in making an exercise easier to perform than on the floor. For example, during a push-up the torso is in an elevated position as the dome is 8 to 10 inches off the floor. The angle decreases the intensity of the exercise, making the push-up easier. In contrast if the feet are on the dome or platform with the hands on the floor there is an increased upper body strength challenge.
The BOSU® Balance Trainer enables you to perform complex functional training exercises such as a squat to seated on the dome with a roll back and crunch, then coming back to standing. The ability to move from a stable surface, the floor, to an unstable surface on the dome enhances the training affect by recruiting more neuromuscular activity through a full body movement pattern.
Probably the most under utilized benefit of the BOSU® Balance Trainer is for flexibility training. The BOSU® dome can add comfort to stretches by supporting the body or body parts with a softer surface than when performing the exercises on the floor. When the body is uncomfortable, the muscles tense to protect the body against pain or injury. When supporting a body part on the dome, the body can relax more deeply into a stretch. For example, performing a kneeling quadriceps stretch with the back knee against the hardness of the floor is uncomfortable and difficult to perform. With the softer surface of the BOSU® dome, the back knee is cushioned making this stretch more comfortable and achievable. As well, the dome shape can provide a deeper stretch by changing the angle of the body in relation to the floor, as in a side lying lateral stretch. By supporting the side of the body over the dome and reaching laterally it creates a greater arch in the stretch while allowing the body to relax into a bigger range of motion.
No matter your training goals, the BOSU® Balance Trainer can provide you with versatility and progression in your fitness program. Whether you want to achieve greater strength, endurance, cardiovascular fitness or flexibility the BOSU® has the right Fit for you!
BOSU® Master Trainer and Educational Development Team
President of Heavens Elevated Fitness and Yoga in Calgary, Canada
CanFitPro and IDEA Fitness Presenter of the Year
Past World Champion Synchronized Swimmer