Have you ever heard of a bosu? Probably not, if you are not a gym buff. Nor did I until I began core and posture training with a diehard fitness educator with an undergrad degree in biology along with a masters degree in exercise physiology. I mention those things because I think there is a lot to be said for a trainer with a mind for the "science of the body." There's an understanding that expands beyond the norm of just moving weights. The body moves naturally through a chain of commands, one muscle firing up to signal the next, its an incredible systematic process. When all of that is compromised from injury or poor training, our range of motion becomes limited and/or more serious injuries occur to our spine, joints, back, etc.
I was extremely fortunate to discover the techniques of this trainer, before they really caught on. My trainer was practicing his method long before anyone ever heard of posture and core training and now, every creme de la creme spa and top sports training facilities from New York to LA is finally "smartening" up and updating their conventional programs to more advance, yet similar scientific functional training. Even where I went for my personal training courses and certification, I realized the new techniques are leaning towards this method. Why? Spinal health and core stability are essential to a healthy and athletic body, prior to receiving any other type of conditioning.
I was always an athlete, from field hockey, cheerleading, tennis, hunter jumper, skater, dancer, golfer to an "official" Runner's World sneaker tester. But, had I known then what I know now about the body, I would have been a stellar athlete. I was always coordinated and balanced, at least I thought I was until after all the the training I received. When I was asked to step up onto a bosu ball or balance board, it was undoubtedly not an easy task. Was I horrible? No, not compared to many "so-called athletes" but I wasn't the best balanced, neutrally aligned me I could be. What does all that mean?
It's imperative we stand in a neutral position with our neck/cervical spine, shoulders and hips and pelvis in a natural aligned state or erect position. The spine should be elongated (standing tall) and the shoulders should be rolled back (chest out) rather than forward. When all of this is in alignment, the core can be activated in effort to initiate hip flexion, extension, rotation and allowing all the other muscles to fire and follow with a fluid range of motion.
On that note one of the very first and very best training routines I received
was on a bosu ball, well, an upside down bosu ball. For newbies, a bosu ball is half an air filled ball that is attached to a flat, hard back. When turned upside down, it is the ultimate tool for balance training. This is a yoga-esque routine, where you are forced to find your center (core) and elongate the body to hold form in unnatural, compromised positions. Below are some examples of my training techniques. I went from wobbly imbalances to a perfectly balanced body.
Below: place the bosu ball side down
Exercise #1/knee raises
Below: carefully place one foot in the center of the flat side of the bosu.
Below: in a neutral position, step up onto the ball slowly lifting the other foot and placing it next to the other foot. Remember to stretch the spine and don't look down.
Below: begin by activating the core. With one hand on your hip, raise the same side knee as high and comfortably as possible.
Below: reach up tall with the opposite arm. The more you stretch your body tall, the easier it will be to hold form. Hold position as long as you can.
Below: dismounting: slowly bring your foot and arm back down to the center of the ball. With your hands on your hips, slowly bending your knees, remove one foot from the ball and back towards the floor.
Exercise #2/squat hold:
Below: stepping up to the center, slowly with one foot at a time.
Below: when balanced with a neutral spine, activate the core, stick out the buttox and slowly work your way into a squatting position. Be sure to track your knees and toes. If the knees come out past the toes, you are squatting too far and are risking knee injury. Once squatting, reach the hands straight out in front of you.
Below: next slowly raise the arms up over the head.
Below: next, lower the arms and reposition them back behind the body. Note my neck in alignment with my hips, pelvis and spine.
Exercise #3/quad rocker:
After stepping up onto the ball, slowly work the feet out (heel,toe,heel,toe) to the inside of the border on the ball.
In an athletic position, slightly squat with the buttox out and the core activated and begin rocking from side to side as the arms swing front to back (exercising both the arms and legs simultaneously). Pick up speed as you become more proficient.
Rock the ball slowly first, rocking the ball all the way down, where the side edges the floor.
Above/Below: dismounting is simple when careful. Rock down to one side and slowly work the opposite foot towards the lower foot and step off, one foot in front of the other.
The bosu when used properly, can not only balance, but strengthen just about every part of your body. Without a balanced center/core, as an athlete, you will find yourself not only out of position, but unable to generate your maximum force/ power. Here's an example: when I am playing tennis, if I lean into a shot or too far back, it hinders not only my balance, but limits my range of motion and how hard I can hit the ball. When I am centered or "in position," my athleticism is limitless.