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
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.
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
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
1. Somatosensory (muscles spindles, golgi tendon organs, joint mechanoreceptors, and cutaneus receptors)
It then requires the body to integrate the
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.