If you’ve ever walked into a gym or fitness center, chances are you’ve come across at least one piece of equipment that’s completely foreign to you. A particular piece of equipment that was intrigued by before I knew how to incorporate it into my exercise routine was the BOSU Balance Trainer, or the BOSU ball, as it is most often referred to.
The BOSU ball can easily be identified as an inflated, soft, curved rubber hemisphere attached to a hard and flat bottom platform that resemble a large suction cup. Sometimes the BOSU ball is referred to as a “blue half-ball,” since it looks very similar to a stability ball cut in half. “BOSU” is an acronym for “Both Sides Up,” which refers to the two different ways a BOSU ball can be positioned depending on the kind of exercise you are doing.
A BOSU ball is most often used for balance training. When you place the BOSU ball on the ground with its dome side facing up, the BOSU ball provides an unstable surface for you to exercise on – allowing for a wide range of athletic drills and aerobic activities – while the other side remains stable on the ground. If you flip the BOSU ball over with its flat platform side facing up, the instability of the device increases and works harder to increase your muscle balance.
Muscle balance is the ability to keep your center of mass over your base of support, better described as the body parts in contact with a support surface that exerts a counter-force against your body. Your base support, however, can also be described as the relationship between the left and right side of your body.
When you perform exercises while standing on the flat side of the BOSU ball, the left and right side of your body begin working equally together to ensure that your body does not wobble from side to side. This bodily response means that you are less likely to develop a strength imbalance from left to right and increases your lateral muscle balance.
Exercises performed on a BOSU ball also help improve your proprioception, which is your innate awareness that allows you to know exactly where your limbs are and what they are doing despite not being able to see them. The constant shifting created by the BOSU ball’s instability improves your lower body proprioception, since the shifting challenges your muscles and nervous system.
Additionally, exercises performed on BOSU balls coordinate and condition your body. BOSU exercises require multiple groups of your muscles to work simultaneously, enhancing your coordination. Many BOSU exercises place an indirect load on your core muscles – the collective term referring to your abdominal, lower back and waist muscles – to stabilize therr are around your spine.
Modified move: Perform the exercise as described, but add weights into the equation. Holding and lifting the weights in your hands as you perform the squat adds resistance. The resistance will tone your arms in addition to the balance and core conditioning the BOSU ball already provides. This becomes a lot trickier than the exercise without weights, so I suggest you work on your balance training without weights until you feel confident enough to add them into your workout routine .
Important tip! Remember to breathe! It’s extremely easy to hold your breath as you exercise, especially as the movements become more difficult and you start to feel more strain on your body, but holding your breath when you exercise pose a lot of dangers, such as raising your blood pressure. So inhale and exhale every chance you get!
Junior Charity Walden prepares for the BOSU ball squat as described in step 1 of excercise.
Walden proceeds to lower her body into a deep squat. Paying mind to keep her core engaged and stay balanced.
Walden performs the modified version of the BOSU ball squat by adding weights to create tension and resistance.
(Photos by Bridget Stagnitto)