Diary of a Fit Patriot: BOSU: Balancing Fun & Fitness
By: Alison M. Hall
What is that strange mushroom-top looking blue thing you see in the group exercise room, stretch room, and fitness floor? It’s a BOSU Balance Trainer. BOSU is an acronym for Both Sides Utilized. David Weck introduced this half-dome piece of fitness equipment in 2000. Stories told at fitness conferences say he fell from standing on a stability ball injuring himself one to many times, so he cut it in half and created the BOSU. (PLEASE do not stand on a stability ball!) I don’t know if the story is true or not, but I’m glad the BOSU came to be, because it’s a great piece of fitness equipment.
BOSU for Cardio
The BOSU can be used dome side up for a variety of cardio activities. It can replace a step for steady-state cardio classes. The reactive dome, however, makes the workout much harder than using a regular step, so expect to tire out more quickly. The dome also can be used for high-intensity cardio intervals. You can do step-type activities like basic up and down, across the top, straddle, dome toe taps, etc. Most people find it more fun to jump on it. You can power onto the dome from the floor, power across it, or just jump on top. You can use one BOSU, two at a time, or set up a line and jump down them like Marlin and Dory on the jellyfish in Finding Nemo.
Both sides of the BOSU can be used for strength training. You can stand on the BOSU with one foot or both feet on the dome to challenge balance while doing traditional dumbbell strength. You can do pushups with hands or feet on the dome or platform, squats on the dome, lunges with the front foot or back foot on the dome, or lunges with your back foot on the platform side and front foot on the floor. (BOSU advises against standing with both feet on the platform side.) It also is a great core trainer. Many yoga and Pilates moves can be done on the dome or platform side, including plank, v-sit, crunches, and bridge lifts.
BOSU for Balance
Anything you do on the BOSU challenges your balance because of the unstable surface. You can challenge your balance more while standing on the dome by moving your gaze left to right or up and down, standing on one foot, or by closing your eyes. Start slowly if you are not used to balance training.
Always work out in a safe environment. If your BOSU gets sweaty, wipe it down. Make sure no equipment is on the floor near your BOSU. You can find some crazy videos online of super fit athletes doing amazing things on the BOSU—some safe and some not-so-safe. To be safe, BOSU.com and BOSU’s social media pages have video clips of recommended exercises using good form. If you still aren’t sure, take a class or work with a personal trainer to learn proper use.
All About Abs
By: Alison Hall
It is commonly believed that six-pack abs are the product of the most popular workout fad. In fact, a library search for “six-pack abs,” came up with 537 hits, yet only 14 were scholarly, peer-reviewed sources. The rest were magazine articles with the next great workout supposedly designed to “shred your abs” or get “rock solid abs.” The workouts were complete core workouts, but most of them made no mention of cardio for overall fat loss or a good clean diet. A well-rounded approach to abdominal training and the coveted six-pack needs to consist of all three.
Core Strengthening Exercises
While the six pack is aesthetically pleasing, it is more important to strengthen your entire core. The core refers to the abdominal and lumbar spine areas. While strong abdominals can be shown off as the six-pack, a strong back is equally important for good posture and muscular balance. To begin strengthening your core, you should first strengthen your deep core stabilizer muscles. Core stability, defined as a dynamic equilibrium between whole body movement and controlled motion or stability of the spine,1 is critical for controlling the motion of the trunk over the pelvis. This leads to control of your body from head to toe as you move. Once the spine and pelvis can be controlled, dynamic core strengthening exercises can be performed. A variety of equipment can be used, including stability balls, medicine balls, BOSUs, weights, and machines. If you are unsure how to use them, consult a personal trainer. Pilates is a type of exercise that works both core stability and mobility. Joseph Pilates created his exercise series to concentrate on controlling your “powerhouse,” which consists of the core muscles, while moving your limbs with fluidity and precision.2 Mason fitness offers Pilates classes at the RAC. Visit fitness.gmu.edu for more information.
No matter how strong your abdominal muscles are, you can’t see them if they’re hidden under a layer of fat. Cardio exercise is essential for many reasons, including improving cardiovascular health, but especially if showing your abs is your goal. The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) recommends at least five days per week (150 minutes total) of moderate intensity cardio, at least three days a week (75 minutes total) of higher intensity cardio, or three to five days per week of a combination of the two.3 Following these recommendations will increase your calorie deficit, helping to lose any unwanted belly fat.
There’s a saying “you can’t out exercise a poor diet.” All the cardio and core training in the world won’t make a difference in the appearance of your abs if you don’t eat clean. Avoid as much processed food as possible. Select whole grains over refined. Limit soda, alcohol, and sugary foods. Pay attention to serving sizes, and eat an appropriate amount of calories for your activity level. Include a full rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day. The USDA site choosemyplate.gov is an excellent resource for a proper diet. Following these dietary guidelines will help show off all your hard work.
Remember, healthful habits are far more important than how you look. If you train and eat smart, you will reap more benefits than you could ever imagine.
- Weeks B, Horan SA. Core Stability for Performance and Injury Prevention. Modern Athlete & Coach. 2013:51(2);13-16.
- Fitour Primary Pilates Certification Manual, 2008.
- Clark MA, Lucett SC, Sutton BG (Eds.). NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training (2012). Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.