Climb aboard that BOSU ball and reap the benefits of balance, strength and agility with some simple exercises for in-home or at-the-gym workouts. The BOSU is inexpensive and just a few, simple BOSU basics will get you started on the path to better balance.
Balance & Aging
As we age, our balance and agility skills naturally decline. That is, unless we proactively include balance training into our workouts.
“Over the age of 40, we start to lose our ability to balance,” says Suzi Parmentier, certified personal trainer, post-rehabilitation specialist, and stand-up paddleboard instructor. “Women are especially prone to imbalances as they age, which is why every single one of my clients gets balance work.”
Parmentier explains that a natural part of the aging process is loss of lean muscle tissue. Potential weakness affects balance, which increases the chances of slips, trips and falls.
Let’s also add declines in vision, decreases in sensory receptors on the soles of our feet that communicate position to the brain, and changes in the inner ear that affect coordination. The combination becomes the perfect storm for mobility loss.
But there’s hope. Balance and agility skills can be improved with age if we work on it. “Just like anything, if you don’t use it, you lose it,” says Parmentier.
BOSU is for Everyone
The best part about BOSU fitness is it’s for everyone. From beginners to advanced exercisers, nearly every movement can be easily modified as balance skills strengthen over time.
BOSU inventor David Weck rolled out his balance trainer 17 years ago as a tool to expand movement, reshape bodies and strengthen the cognitive connections between brain and body.
At the core, balance training works the body’s stabilizer muscles – muscles that don’t get worked when you’re standing on two feet on a flat surface. “The second you pop up on one foot or apply a BOSU or any other unstable surface, you start working muscles that you would wouldn’t normally work on two feet,” Parmentier says.
BOSU Basics & Progressions
BOSU exercises are not only effective for balance and agility, they are also good for your brain. “When you step on a BOSU, or any unstable surface, the first thing that has to fire is your brain,” Parmentier explains.
The focus required as your feet and toes are gripping the ball and your entire skeletal structure is suddenly on an uneven surface requires your brain to work differently and reflexes to engage quickly. “There’s a balance-brain connection that’s engaged, which supports cognitive function,” she says.
You don’t even have to own a BOSU ball to get the benefits of balance training. “Just stand on one leg and do the exercises, or a pillow or couch cushion,” Parmentier says.
Practice Makes Perfect
Like any other athletic skill, balance training takes time and effort. Parmentier recommends starting with three days a week for 10 minutes and working up to 30 minutes a day.
She recommends the following top 5 BOSU exercises for beginners. Strive for three sets of 15 reps for all exercises.
1) Squats (dome up or dome down) – With the dome either facing up or down, step firmly onto the ball and slowly squat and return to the starting position.
2) Pushups (dome up) – With the dome side up place your hands firmly on the ball directly under your shoulders. Lower your body with a flat back and eyes focused in front of you to maintain a neutral neck. Return to the starting position.
3) Abdominal Bicycles – Dome side up, plant your bottom firmly and slightly forward on the BOSU. Lean back enough to feel your abdominal muscles engage. Bicycle the legs from side to side for 30 seconds, rest, repeat.
4) Bird Dog – This is a classic core exercise to work on lower back strength and balance. Doing it on a BOSU ups the game a bit! Start on all fours on the dome of the BOSU. Slowly extend opposite arm and leg out and hold briefly. Return to the starting position and extend the opposite arm and leg.
5) Single-Leg Deadlift – Using only your bodyweight, stand on the dome side of the BOSU with one leg. Slowly bend at the hip, extending your opposite leg behind you as you reach for the top of the BOSU.
When you’re ready to take it to the next level, try these more advanced moves:
1) Lunges – These can be done with bodyweight only, or with dumbbells. With one foot firmly on the dome and the other leg behind, lunge down for three sets of 15 reps.
2) Staggered-Hand Pushups – These are similar to basic BOSU pushups. (See above.) However, with the dome side down this time, grasp the BOSU with one hand higher on the platform side and one hand lower for added instability. Alternate hands with each set.
3) Side Planks – Start on one side with your feet together and one hand or forearm on the dome side of the BOSU directly below your shoulder. Contract your core and raise your hips until your body is in a straight line. Hold the position for 30 seconds without letting your hips drop, then repeat on the other side.
4) Single-Leg Bicep Curls – Holding dumbbells in each hand (or in this illustration, boulders), stand on the dome side of the BOSU, feet slightly apart and knees slightly bent. Lift one foot off the ball and perform bicep curls.
5) Glute Bridges – Lie face up with your upper back/shoulders against the BOSU, knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Keep arms at side, or hands on hips. Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line. Hold for a few seconds and lower back down. To make this more difficult, rest a dumbbell or weight plate across your hips.