Fo Real Fitness: BOSU Balance Trainer

By Danielle Douglass and Neal Iwamoto

Have you heard of a BOSU (pronounced “bo sue”) balance trainer? It’s like half a stability ball, made of blue (or pink) rubber and supported by a plastic platform. The word “BOSU” means “either sides up” or “both sides utilized.” The trainer’s creator, David Weck, invented this exercise tool in 1999, and the device made its debut at fitness conferences in 2000. Weck was a big fan of the stability ball, but recognized it had limitations. For balance exercises, a balance board fared better. He created the BOSU trainer as a combination of the stability ball and balance board, which combined the benefits of both tools.

Curious about these half-balled objects lining the walls of the gym, Fo Real Fitness caught up with personal trainer and strength conditioning coach Tim Rabetoy. He gave us the rundown on the BOSU trainer and how we could use it to complement our workouts. Tim recommended three moves for us to get our feet wet. Intrigued by his instruction on how to use this domed ball, we decided to test and review the exercises for ourselves.

Exercise 1: Spider push-up

Level: Intermediate

Muscle target: Chest, shoulders, biceps, shoulders

Tutorial: Start with your belly button in the middle of the ball, your hands shoulder-width apart, your feet as wide as the ball and your forehead on the floor. Push up all the way up so your rear is as high in the air as possible and your feet are on their tippy toes. Control slowly down until your belly button hits the ball again with your head as close to the ground as possible, before going back up immediately.

        

Dani says: This one was awkward and uncomfortable to me. I tried it a few times, to see if I could get my “flow” down but it didn’t feel like a natural transition. I think I’ll pass on adding this one to my routine. I was more concerned with trying to make it fluid and feel right than enjoying the benefits of the exercise.

Neal says: I struggled with this one; it just didn't feel natural. Tried it few times hoping I would get the hang of it, but no dice. I'm sticking with the old standard push-up.

Exercise 2: Rocker

Level: Intermediate

Muscle Target: Oblique (sides of trunk), core (lower back, abdominals)

Tutorial: Turn the ball over so the half dome is on the bottom. Put your hands on each side of the platform and get in a push up position with your feet stationed the width of the ball. Keep your trunk straight and parallel to the floor and rock from one side to the other, while keeping all the muscles in your trunk nice and tight. Keep your arms as straight as you can and make sure to come to a stop at the top (starting position) before you rock left or right.

    

Dani says: I like this one a lot; it’s a great balance exercise and I can feel it working my obliques. I like that this exercise forces you to maintain a plank position, which strengthens your core and improves your form. I am constantly looking for new abdominal exercises to add to my routine, and this one is both fun and beneficial.

Neal says: This one is part of my regular ab routine. It's really a unique way to work on the core, so I like that. It also gives my upper body a little workout too.

Exercise 3: Oblique Crossover

Level: Advanced

Targets: Oblique, core

Tutorial:  Lay sideways onto the ball with your trunk on the center of the ball. Bring your top leg forward and spread from your back leg as far as you need so that you're balanced. Put your hands behind the back of your head. Lean over as close to the ground as possible. Come up and crunch hard, then control back down.

   

Dani says: Another great one for the obliques; I really enjoy this exercise because it sets you up for good form right off the bat when you begin the exercise. I am conscious about wrapping my obliques over the bosu trainer when doing this exercise and making sure I get the full extension when I raise each time, which I think maximizes the benefits of this exercise.

Neal says: If you're worried about your "love handles," this is the perfect exercise for you. I don't regularly work out this muscle group, but I'll definitely keep this one in my back pocket when I do. The use of the ball really makes you isolate the muscle.