Typically when I give an orientation at the JRMC Wellness Center, one of the things I discuss with a new member is the “rate of progression” for strength training. We discuss the fact that in order to show continued improvement, some aspect of a routine must change as time progresses. This change can be made with the apparatus used to perform the exercise. You see, the technical demands of most any exercise increases as an individual progresses from performance on a machine (balance is not an issue), through performance with a barbell (balance is an issue, but the hands are still “connected” through the bar), to performance with dumbbells (balance is an issue with each hand, simultaneously).
When an individual has mastered the performance of an exercise with dumbbells, intensity can be further increased by performing the exercise on an unstable surface. The introduction of an unstable surface provides several training benefits, the primary being: 1) increased exercise intensity, and 2) development of balance and “proprioception.” Let’s discuss the latter.
Balance is the equal distribution of weight. Proprioception is defined as “the awareness of the position of one’s body.” Exercising on an unstable surface force an awareness of the body for the benefit of balance. Enhanced development of these traits earlier in life may not only lead to improved athletic performance and increased positive self awareness but, more importantly, less fall risk in our later years.
Most everyone who pays any attention to exercise related things has seen what is commonly referred to as a stability ball (or Swiss ball, or Physioball). These devices are sort of the “Granddaddy” of instability devices. And while they are a wonderful tool in any exerciser’s arsenal, there is another, more versatile piece: the BOSU stability trainer. The BOSU “ball” was developed by David Weck in 1999.
Weck developed the piece after taking a spill while jumping on a stability ball. He wanted the benefits he was experiencing with the stability ball in a slightly “less mobile” piece. He named his creation the BOSU, for Both Sides Up. A BOSU looks like half of a stability ball married to a hard, round plastic platform. Being able to utilize both sides of the device lets the user choose whether to have both feet in the same plane at all times (hard platform up) or work with the round side up to separate the feet and place more demand on the stabilizers of the ankle and lower leg.
Essentially, any exercise that can be done on the floor can be accomplished on the BOSU, albeit at higher intensities. But, just as there is a progression with strength training in general, there is a progression in getting to know the BOSU. First is learning how to mount the thing. I recommend that the first few times anyone use the piece they place it on the floor within reach of a wall or some other, VERY stable object. Step on with the first foot and get a feel for the movement before attempting to step on with the second foot. Getting accustomed to stepping on will take some longer than others, but stay with it! When mounting has been accomplished, standing on it without having to constantly look down at your feet is step two. When you no longer have to stare at your feet to keep from falling off, try to “move.” Squat (again, near something stable), twist, and move the arms above the shoulders. When you decide to add weights, check your ego at the door and start VERY light.
I really love the BOSU and so does everyone else I know who likes a challenge in their workout! Oh, and if any of your buddies or girlfriends start giving you grief about the wimpy weights you’re using, invite them to step right up!
The JRMC Wellness Centers, located in Pine Bluff and White Hall, offer a variety of fitness options for all ages and interests. Free weights, machines, cardio equipment, personal trainers and a full schedule of Les Mills classes are available at both facilities. Open seven days a week with extended hours.