Fitness Fundamentals: BOSU® Balance Trainer

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What is BOSU®?

Let’s start with how to pronounce it… “Bo,” like boy, and “Sue,” like the girl’s name. The technical name of the product is the BOSU® Balance Trainer but it’s often shortened to BOSU in conversation and when looking for workout ideas. The product was invented by David Weck in 2000 and quickly became one of the most successful fitness training products in the world.

BOSU® is an acronym that stands for Both Sides Utilized. The product looks a lot like a stability ball that has been cut in half with a stable platform underneath. It may look intimidating at first, but after a few minutes on top of the dome, your body starts to figure out how to make it all work, which is the beauty and benefit of the product!

All exercises and programs created by the BOSU® team are designed to provide a mindful approach to functional exercise. But, don’t let that fool you; mindful is not a code word for easy. The BOSU® can be a stand alone balance training tool (think standing on one leg and seeing how long you can last) and can also easily be integrated into cardio, strength, core, and flexibility workouts.

Why should you BOSU®?

Did you know that one in every three adults ages 65 or older falls each year and 2 million are treated in emergency departments for fall-related injuries? The risk of falling continues to increase with each decade of life and, more importantly, the long-term consequences of falls (e.g. hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries), can impact the health and independence of older adults. source: CDC.gov

It’s easy to see why everyone needs to pay a bit more attention to his or her balance to prevent falls in the future! But, if thinking long term doesn’t lead you to act now, know that it’s more than that. Balance training is essential to enhancing your overall quality of movement. Better movement leads to decreased injuries in whatever you’re up to, improved performance and better function! If you can find a way to sneak in unstable surfaces (like the BOSU®) to your workout routine, you’re well on your way to improving your balance.

MORE: Beginner Workout: Full-Body Weekend Warrior Circuit

How do you BOSU®?

Training with a BOSU® is simple. Before you get started with the ‘essential’ BOSU® exercises, let’s discuss a few housekeeping tips:

  1. Inflation – make sure the BOSU® is inflated properly. The preferred density is 8-10”. If you flip the BOSU® platform side up (dome down) and place a piece of regular size paper next to it, the BOSU® should be around the same height.
  2. Shoes – you can certainly workout on the BOSU® without shoes, but you’ll want to be careful of slipping and stepping on the rim. Shoes are best for most cardio and strength exercises. You’ll want to select a shoe that’s comfortable and free of debris. It’s always a good idea to double knot and tuck in the laces!
  3. Sweat – the BOSU® can get SWEATY! Have a towel nearby to keep the surface dry.

Here are 5 great exercises to get you started:

  • Crunch
    Take your traditional crunch from the mat to the BOSU® and your life will be forever changed! You can place the small of your back on the edge of the dome or the bullseye (the top). The higher up you go, the harder the crunch. With feet about hip distance apart and hands clasped lightly behind your head, curl your torso up towards the ceiling. Experiment with moving the feet closer together or lifting a foot off the floor as your curl.
  • Push Up
    The BOSU® can help you figure out if you’re doing a push – up correctly. Flip the dome over and place your hands on the outer rim with thumbs in the grooves (of course, if this doesn’t feel comfortable, adjust your grip). Assume the plank position (this is a great exercise with the BOSU®, too!) Feel free to be on your toes with feet together or apart, or on your knees. Try to keep the BOSU® level as you lower your chest towards the plug. Then, push back up.
  • Squat
    Whether you use extra weight or not, squats on a BOSU® are a great lower body exercise. Stand on top of the dome with your arches on either side of the bullseye. Bend your knees and lower back into a squat while trying to keep the feet level. The lower you go, the harder the squat! You can also try holding the squat at your lowest point and closing your eyes; you’ll notice the intensity increase straight away. Adding a jump to the squat is a fun way to get the heart rate up, as well. Landing on the soft BOSU not only cushions the joints, but acts as a dynamic balance challenge.
  • Burpee
    Everyone loves a burpee, but not everyone likes going all the way down to the ground and some folks hate the way it feels on the wrist. Try the BOSU® burpee and you’ll learn to love them! With legs wide, squat down and place the hands on either side of the dome with fingers pointing ‘down hill’. Jump or walk the feet back to a plank, then jump or walk the feet back in and stand up. You can experiment with jumping onto the dome at the end for an added balance challenge. And, don’t forget, you can always add a push-up in the middle!
  • Jog
    Spice up jogging in place by doing it on the BOSU®. Start on top of the dome and begin to march in place. Experiment with changing the march to a jog. As you’re comfortable, lift the knees higher or even travel in circles to challenge your balance. You can also experiment with fast feet on top of the dome or jog on and off the dome for variety. Make sure to keep you core tight to help maintain balance.

For more ideas on how to utilize the BOSU® Balance Trainer, visit the official BOSU® YouTube channel.

What is your favorite BOSU exercise?

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Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is the founder of SFR, a consulting firm for aspiring fitness educators, manufacturers and managers, as well as the owner of Balletone® and GroupEx Pro®. Shannon is a 17 year fitness veteran, freelance writer, as well as an international presenter for Schwinn®, BOSU and ACE. She is a member of the ACE Board of Directors, has helped author portions of the ACE and ACSM Group Fitness manuals, and has starred in over 25 fitness videos. Shannon is a certified Book Yourself Solid® Business Coach interested in helping fitness professionals navigate the industry and find their place. She's busy improving the self-esteem of the world as the Director of Exercise Programming for the Anytime Fitness Franchise.

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