Archive for November, 2007

My perspective on the BOSU

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

Some of you may be familiar with the sarcastic remark I make on occasion about those in our industry that feel functional training means doing a one-legged stance on a Dynadisc or BOSU with the eyes closed, singing the Star Spangled Banner while holding a puppy overhead. If taken the wrong way, you might think I was anti balance devices. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.In fact, the inventor of the BOSU, my friend Dave Weck was at a talk I was doing here in San Diego in the spring. I made a similar comment regarding the puppy, etc. and Dave called me out on it. It was then that I realized that there might be a perception that I was not a fan of the BOSU or other air balance devices.

Dave is helping me with the development of my own balance device (and there is NOTHING like it available!). During a visit, Dave asked me to put my perspective down on paper. He asked me because there are hard line trainers and coaches out there that have put out a lot of negative comments about the BOSU. Which is absolutely ridiculous. So they following article is what I wrote putting things in perspective.


A BOSU Believer


Anthony Carey M.A., CSCS, CES

Function First

If you are a personal trainer, strength coach, athletic trainer or physical therapist, then you are also an environmentalist. Maybe not the recycling kind, but you are an environmentalist nonetheless. Webster defines environmentalist as “one concerned about environmental quality especially of the human environment”.

In this context we are not talking about air, water or trees. We are talking about the environment that you create to maximize your client’s function, performance and reduce their chances of injury.

The environment must match the goals and needs of your client or athlete. That’s why we don’t train our running athletes on their backs or our seniors with depth jumps. But the environment also must provide a way to challenge the body outside of its normal operating environment because that is where injury typically occurs.

Some in the health and fitness industry have polarized philosophies of training. On one end of the spectrum are those that believe either traditional machine and/or Olympic style lifting is the only way to go. On the other end are those that believe that every exercise must be triplaner and performed in an unstable environment.

Who is right? Neither. If you agree with the previous statement “…the environment that you create to maximize your client’s function, performance and reduce their chances of injury”, you can not justify either position exclusively.

Those that are anti training on unstable apparatus inevitably refer to the naïve professional they have witnessed who has their client/athlete doing an exercise on a BOSU that the client can not perform successfully on solid ground. And they make a valid point. That environment is not appropriate for that client at that time.

But to disregard the benefits of the BOSU is also naïve. If the body is not challenged outside its current modus operandi or “M.O.” via the training environment, when it does venture there out of necessity or as the result of the current environment (i.e. change in playing surface, opponents, momentum, etc.), the body is predisposed to injury.

Consider the linebacker whose training regime consists of traditional Olympic power lifts and plyometrics. Both of which are essential to power development necessary for the sport. All of these are movements in which the athlete has prior knowledge (feedforward) of where his base of support is or will land. He also has prior knowledge of where his center of gravity (COG) is based either on his current starting or landing position or as a result of the external weight of the barbell. And he has prior knowledge of the consistency of support surface he is training on in the facility.

Now consider that same linebacker who is engaging blockers while moving, who must control his COG in three dimensional space while working to overcome the mass and momentum of his opponents all with unpredictable arrangements of his body parts. These are situations that no Olympic lift or plyometric exercise can produce. The shear number of variables and combinations of situations make it impossible to physically train the body in every potential scenario.

Therefore, the next best thing is to train the body’s systems that will be expected to gather and interpret changes in the environment to give the body and opportunity to produce, reduce or control forces as necessary. That’s where the BOSU comes in. The BOSU demands that the user make use of the body’s three primary feedback mechanisms for the purpose of controlling it’s COG. These include:

     1. Somatosensory (muscles spindles, golgi tendon organs, joint mechanoreceptors, and cutaneus receptors)

    2. Visual

    3. Inner ear

It then requires the body to integrate the gathered information into an appropriate motor response (sensorimotor integration). If the body does not elicit the appropriate motor response or does not illicit the response fast enough, the user’s COG will be disrupted and they fall off of the BOSU or over correct with inefficient motions.

Many people view the BOSU strictly as a lower body (when standing on it) balance device using the somatosensory receptors. But it will also effect the visual feedback as the user’s gaze fixation is disrupted during involuntary shifts in the COG. The same will produce motion of the head that requires input from the inner ear as well. Neither of which are adequately challenged using Olympic lifts or even plyometrics.

The BOSU is an environment. And it is an environment that is a progression from solid ground and can be a progression from uniplaner balance devices. Although the BOSU surface does not reproduce the base of support for most activities, it does provide an environment to challenge and enhance the sensorimotor mechanisms at work on the ground.

Can anyone really argue that improving one’s reaction time, proprioceptive awareness and activation rate of stabilizing muscles is not beneficial? Of course not. But can they argue that the progressions to the BOSU ball or while on the BOSU are at times inappropriately applied? Absolutely.

To borrow a slang saying, “don’t hate the player, hate the game”.

I believe that we should never lose perspective on the roll of the BOSU or any other training device or environment. We use them. They don’t use us. They are a means to an end. If we attempt to structure any exercise program around a piece of equipment, the equipment is using us.

Anthony Carey M.A., CSCS, CES is the CEO of Function First in San Diego, CA. He has been using his approach to functional corrective exercise for the past 16 years helping people feel and function better.

Hasn’t walked without walking aids since 1998…until now

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

Today I witnessed one of those amazing events that inspire me to do what I do. The irony is, I wasn’t the one working with this client. Our lead Corrective Exercise Specialist Adrienne Navarra was responsible for this client.

A young woman who had many unsuccessful hip surgeries walked today after her session without crutches or walking sticks for the first time since 1998. This young woman is amazing in a lot of ways. Just by talking with her, you would never know that she has had any physical “challenges” to deal with. She is the most delightful, upbeat person you would ever want to meet.

She was referred to us by her chiropractor. Her chiropractor has helped her significantly. He also knew that our program is what she needed to get to the next level. On her first appointment, this young woman could not believe that Adrienne had identified movement issues and musculoskeletal relationships that none of the other “specialists” in the last 10 years could see.

Once Adrienne developed the strategy to begin addressing those issues, the changes have been profound. This young woman began to tear up as she thought about how thrilled her parents were going to be when she showed them how she could walk across the room without her walking aids.

It was a great thing to see.

Anthony Carey M.A., CSCS, CES

Holiday hurting

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Today I was thinking about the next educational talk I was going to do for the San Diego community. A great December talk would be on the role holiday stress plays on the increase in musculoskeletal symptoms. But then I realized that same stress is what most people would use to rationalize why they couldn’t make it to the talk!

You can not separate psychological tension from musculoskeletal tension. Pile on an increase in alcohol and sugar consumption, mix in some late nights (less sleep) and you’ve got the holiday recipe for pain production.

If you are a Function First client or are using the exercises from my book, The Pain-Free Program: A Proven Method to Relieve Back, Neck, Shoulder and Joint Pain the holidays are not the time to take a holiday from your exercises. You may need them more now than ever.

Stress is a product of reduced control. Your exercise program gives you control. Keep that in mind now before you get causght up in the worldwind of the holidays.

Best in Health

Anthony Carey M.A., CSCS, CES

Anthony Carey’s welcome post

Monday, November 5th, 2007

One of the major reasons I wanted to start a blog for health pros is because I know that if you are reading this than you want to hear what my therapists and I have to say. You can look forward to technical posts from myself, Adrienne Navarra and Zac Marshall. You can also look forward to a little controversy.

We don’t plan to appease everyone with what we will be posting. Understand that we will be sharing our thoughts on what works for our clientèle. This will not mesh with everyone. And that is OK. At that same time, I don’t plan to be some arrogant SOB who is going to hide behind a blog to get things off of my chest.

Those of you that know me know how much I respect the work and efforts of so many other people in the field. I don’t agree with them all. But I respect them.

So this is going to be fun.

Anthony Carey M.A., CSCS, CES

Function First has entered the blogosphere

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

We are looking forward to communicating regularly with the Function First community on a consistent basis. We will be posting information for our consumer clients and for the health professional community that seeks to learn more about the Function First Approach.