Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rose-coloured Reviews Balance Exercises on the Bosu Ball

I have terrible equilibrium, as I believe has come up in this space before, in relation to climbing things, crossing stages, and most especially, walking on ice.

But it's not as if I'm just working my way through winter at a violently whining crawl. I've been working on this issue in various ways, most recently since June on the fun and dangerous Bosu Ball!

Wikipedia defines a Bosu Ball as:

an athletic training device consisting of an inflated rubber hemisphere attached to a rigid platform. It is also referred to as the "blue half-ball", because it looks like a stability ball cut in half. The name is an acronym which stands for "Both Sides Utilized," (although the BOSU official web site also says it means "Both Sides Up") a reference to the myriad ways a BOSU ball can be used [1].

Click here to see a picture (yes, that is the best one I could find).

This is a branded product, Bosu, but as far as I can tell there is no generic term. I guess there's a pretty limited market for half a rubber ball with a standing platform, and the Bosu people have covered it. Good on them, I say.

What do you do with a Bosu? Well, tonnes of stuff according to various websites, but for the amateurs among us, we basically move upper body exercises onto this really tippy platform, which adds an element of core strength (you improve your posture and tighten your abs in an attempt to stay vertical) and lower-body strength (you brace your feet and tighten your quads for similar reasons).

It takes awhile to just get to a comfortable point of standing still on a Bosu. Start out practicing near a wall. Put one hand on the wall and foot fartherest from the wall in the centre of the flat surface. Then put the other foot as close as possible and wiggle the first foot out until they are parallel. Wiggle a bit more until you are balanced, more or less. There. Now take your hand off the wall.

The easiest things to do on a Bosu involve standing still and moving only your arms, something like an Arnold Press. That is where you do a biceps curl with a dumbbell in each hand, and then flip the arms out into a shoulder press, then reverse back to start (see here for a cute little video. And yes, it was named after the Terminator.

Any sort of standing biceps/triceps/shoulder exercise will work on a the Bosu, and you can move on to doing squats, cable pulls, all kinds of strength training stuff.

If you're me, you have to cut way down on the weight you're lifting every time you put an exercise onto the Bosu, to compensate for the extreme distraction of potentially falling over and smashing your skull into the very wall you used to pull yourself upright. Every time you do the work-out, though, you gain confidence. It's really *not* the safest thing in the world, but with a reasonable amount of care (about what you work out around, principally--mats are good, bench-press bars are bad) you can be reasonably assured of finishing the work-out in one piece.

Six month later, I do think I am marginally steadier on ice and land, though six months of indoor exercise cannot erase a life-time of falling phobia. I do appreciate the efficiency of these exercises, since they always hit the aforementioned abs and quads, no matter what you are doing. And Bosu exercises are a novel challenge, keeping me from getting bored with my work-out.

But really, a Bosu costs $45 to $60, is sort of terrifying and you could always just do a lot of Tree Pose. Only get involved if you can try out a ball for free somehow; lots of gyms have them. If you like this sort of possibly-concussion-inducing challenge, maybe then go ahead and spend the dough.

Me, I'm still scared, and I actually don't try to do this stuff on days I'm feeling headachy or otherwise more off-balance than usual. But I have felt some small gains from it, and it is satisfying to me reasonably steady up there, though also something about it that's like being a trained bear in a cirucs. And then there was the time I was doing standing cable rows and squats on my Bosu, concentrating *very* hard in order to keep from pitching forward into the weight stack and smashing out all my teeth. A woman strolled past, stopped aghast and exclaimed, "And you're chewing *gum*!"

All you single ladies.


Anne-Michelle said...

i would just like you to know that the Bosu ball makes me want to whimper and not go to the gym anymore.

you are a much braver woman than i.

(once i fell off a treadmill so hard that i bounced, and i was NOT even chewing gum...)

unmth said...

thanks for sharing this very interesting post
upright exercise bike

Anonymous said...

My name is Dustin and I'm the project manager for the company that manufactures the BOSU Balance Trainer. You bring up a very common issue people have with balance - the FEAR of falling. Using our product can be a little intimidating at first for most people. That being said - the learning curve is very quick - you get better quickly.

To address both the FEAR and COST concern - we developed a product called the 3D Stand which is like "training wheels" for the BOSU ball. Second - we are bundling it with some refurbished BOSU balls (customer returned it after changing their mind etc) and selling them on eBay for $79 for the bundle - it also comes with a bunch of new DVD's. Feel free to search eBay. It's actually a pretty good deal.

I hope you can benefit from this information and also from the great benefits of balance training. Thank you for this post!