The BOSU® Balance Trainer debuted in 2000 and quickly became one of the most successful fitness training products in the world. BOSU® Basics focuses on how to maximize the utility of this functional training balance product, apply relevant science, and progress and regress movement skills.
- Provide a brief overview of BOSU® Balance Trainer history
- Understand the benefits and utility of balance training and the BOSU® Balance Trainer
- Understand how to use four balance challenge variables to create exercise progression, regression and optimize exercise variety
- Identify and apply the scientific foundation behind labile (unstable) surface and balance training.
- Learn how to use the BOSU Complete System to bridge programming theory into practical application and session/class design.
BOSU®--pronounced “Bo” like the boy’s name and “Sue” like the girl’s name--is commonly referred to as the BOSU® Balance Trainer or the BOSU® Ball.
Invented by David Weck, the BOSU® Balance Trainer debuted in 2000 and quickly became one of the most successful fitness training products in the world. Originally, the name “BOSU” was an acronym for “Both Sides Up.” It meant that the BOSU® Balance Trainer could be used either dome side up (DSU) in standing, kneeling, prone, supine and sidelying positions, or platform side up (PSU).
Note: The manufacturer does not recommend standing on the platform side.
Today, the term “BOSU” has evolved beyond the product name to now mean “Both Sides Utilized,” a mindful, whole body, integrated approach to exercise that is a step beyond traditional, isolated and less functional training alternatives.
The BOSU® Balance Trainer is a “feel me product.” Talking about balance training is one thing. However, to understand and learn what the Balance Trainer can teach, it must be felt and experienced by getting on the product. Instant feedback with regard to positioning, balance, strength, power, mobility and stability are but a few of the feedback loops that will be developed and tie to the concept of invisible learning.
Invisible learning occurs via proprioceptive feedback that is provided instantly with regard to positioning, mobility, stability, body control and force/power output. Even without coaching and cuing, the body can solve the movement puzzle as it relates to quality movement, or improving upon movement faults, when presented with the right stimulus and progression. The body can “figure out” how to correct poor movement patterning and movement faults as it relates to positioning and stability because of a constant barrage of nonverbal proprioceptive feedback provided to the user when exercising on the BOSU® Balance Trainer.
Learning can be enhanced by good cuing, hands on spotting, studying video, breaking skills down, and by providing a proprioceptive rich training environment. Proprioceptive feedback via the unstable dome surface provides instant feedback via the neuromuscular system about how well one is doing in terms of quality of movement, and overall body control.
Anything But Basic
Foundational movement progressions are anything but basic when utilizing the Balance Trainer, but certainly necessary and foundational. Many people confuse “basic,” with easy, simple or mundane. However, by laying a movement foundation from a variety of positions, and layering progression complexity, it is possible to create a safe, effective and skill-based experience.
Stable and Unstable Training Surfaces?
Training with labile (unstable) surfaces has been met with both acceptance and resistance, depending on how one trains with the product. It is important to understand what unstable surface training can, and cannot accomplish. For example, maximal strength development on an unstable surface is not possible, when compared to stable surface training, but injury prevention or challenging proprioception and stabilizing musculature is well suited to unstable surfaces. Reactive balance training transfers well to life and sport. This is in contrast to predictable movement patterning in training environments that do not encourage critical thinking and reflexive response. Remember, if balance is not being challenged, you are not training balance.
The Science Behind Balance Training
Balance can be defined as the ability to stabilize and maintain a desired body position whether in place, or transitioning from position A to position B. Balance is the sum of correct and efficient positioning of a body part, or the entire body. Balance requires the harmonious working of the joints to be united by a trained and responsive neuromuscular system.
Training must incorporate and stimulate conscious and unconscious interaction. Being mindful when training is critical. But, equally important, is to present stimuli to the body that requires reflexive response where conscious thought is eliminated from action. Skilled movement depends on the body’s ability to respond to stimuli with unconscious or automatic movement reactions, in an environment where unpredictable training stimulus is presented.
It is important to manipulate the training effect by targeting the sensory feedback systems which include the:
- Visual receptors, which are located in the eyes and provide feedback about external stimuli.
- Vestibular receptors, which are located in the inner ear and provide feedback regarding equilibrium and head movement.
- Somatic receptors, which are located in the muscles, tendons and joints, and provide feedback regarding joint position, posture and force production.
The development of body equilibrium is a must for skilled, safe movement. The development of kinesthetic sense or how one is moving on a quality scale, and the ability to scale force (force gradation) are learned and refined with practice that stimulates the sensory feedback systems.
This type of training culminates in the development of a host of desirable athletic qualities that everyone should strive to develop, and include coordination, agility, reactivity, balance, strength, speed and power. Once this type of movement quality and challenge is being developed, training transitions from isolated or a less useful outcome, to high-transfer, functional training that directly impacts how one moves, plays and competes.
Why the BOSU® Balance Trainer?
Six benefits of BOSU® Training:
- Versatility for all fitness levels. From kids to frail elderly adults to elite athletes, programming, skill sequencing and strength/power development can carefully be orchestrated and scaled to any capability.
- Adaptability for group fitness, small group training, personal training, and athletic training. While BOSU® programming can be formatted for large group fitness classes, its strength also lies in using it for circuit, small group, and one on one training, even if for only a short part of the session.
- Flexibility to progress or regress any exercise. While movement skills will continue to improve with proper progressions, no one will ever “master” the BOSU® Ball. There is always another challenge around every corner. Simultaneously, using appropriate progressions, anyone should be able to exercise safely and successfully, regardless of fitness level. Please see Balance Challenge Variables.
- Integrate with any type of fitness training. People have said, “Everything is better with BOSU.” The Balance Trainer is very compatible with various training methodologies and other training equipment, depending on the training goal. This is evident in the industry today, as many programs mix and match sessions pairing BOSU® Programming with many different training approaches (circuit, boot camp, Pilates, balance etc.) and types of equipment such as suspension training, ropes, elastic resistance, harnesses, and plyo boxes, to name a few.
- Injury prevention, rehabilitation, and performance improvement. Many people pigeonhole BOSU® training into balance only outcomes, but training with it can contribute to a bigger aspect of fitness development, injury prevention and reestablishing function after injury. Secondary fitness characteristics can be trained that include Coordination, Agility, Reactivity, Balance, Strength and Speed (CARBSS). The sum of all these key qualities of athleticism culminates in an expression of Power (force/speed), which is key to improved performance at any level.
- BOSU® training is skill-based and fun. Little victories with regard to eliminating movement faults, skill acquisition and moving with more rhythm, better timing, balance, fluidity and confidence--is why BOSU® training remains so popular. The Balance Trainer is used by top coaches, trainers and fitness instructors worldwide. At the end of the day, “fun and results,” undeniably, must be part of the training picture.
BOSU® Complete System
The BOSU® Complete Workout System focuses on the science, theory and practical information necessary to create safe and results oriented functional balance training programs that can be adapted for all levels of fitness. The key to the BOSU® Complete Training System lies in the ability to manipulate four simple and easy to understand Balance Challenge Variables.
Balance Challenge Variables
By understanding how to manipulate progression and regression on the Balance Trainer, one can progress or regress any exercise, create variety and provide “on the spot” modifications for any exercise or movement limitation.
Safe and effective movement progression and regression on the Balance Trainer begins with understanding how to manipulate four balance challenge variables, which include:
- Contact Points
Kneeling Balance Challenge Drill
- Anything that supports the body while working on the BOSU® Balance Trainer
- Body parts that remain in contact with the Balance Trainer or the floor
- A surface areas or piece of equipment that provides a point of support
Hold a dumbbell or soft weighted fitness ball; pull your arm up and extend the elbow; establish five points of contact (hand, knees, feet)
Lift the arm slightly higher, and take away two points of contact (feet)
From the lifted straight arm position, flex the arm; establish two points of contra-lateral contact (e.g., right hand and left knee)
- Visual Affect
Squat Balance Challenge Drill
- Manipulating the type of feedback received from the eyes
- Closing the eyes (visibility) removes visual feedback and highlights other sensory feedback mechanisms
- Changing where the eyes are focused (focal point) alters stimulus
Holding a partial squat, close your eyes; add motion up and down to progress the challenge
Holding a partial squat move your head right, and then left; add motion up and down to progress the challenge
Side Lunge Balance Challenge Drill
- The amount of movement or range of motion introduced to an exercise
- The quantity of locomotor skills added to a basic exercise
- The degree of motion at any joint
Stand upright with knees and hips extended
From the standing position, move the leg laterally, increasing range of motion with hip, knee and ankle flexion
- External Stimulus
V-Sit Balance Challenge Drill
- Any outside force exerted or used during an exercise
- Resistance such as weighted balls or elastic tubing exert force and increase challenge
- External stimuli can add variety as well as progress or regress exercises
Establish a v-sit position and braced, neutral core; the back should not round or flex
Maintaining a properly set v-sit position, pass the ball side to side
Basic BOSU® Progressions
To truly understand the BOSU® Balance Trainer, the body must feel the response that is generated while working out on the BOSU® Ball.
Try these five popular whole body integrated exercises to get a sense of the unique movement challenges that must be solved by the exerciser:
- Walk, Run and Jump Progression
- Burpee Snap Progression
- Plank Push Up Progression
- Core Tuck Progression
- Single-Leg Balance Progression
Incorporating the BOSU® Balance Trainer into workouts helps to establish foundational movement skills, mobility, stability and body control. Skill-based movement can be progressed that has relevance to activities of daily life and sport. The BOSU® Ball is extremely versatile in terms of progressing or regressing skills, and its adaptability to participant capability. Finally, balance training with a labile surface is one more piece of the programming puzzle that contributes to a complete workout that covers all participants’ overall injury prevention, fitness and performance needs.