You see them at most fitness facilities now, the weird little half ball with a hard plastic side and rounded blue top.
The BOSU ball (stands for Both Sides Up) has been infiltrating the gym culture for over 5 years.
Why has it become so popular?
You will hear trainer after trainer talking about core muscles and their importance to the health of your back and spine. I have been saying this for a long time: they don’t know what they are talking about. (Not uncommon in the fitness world).
The theory is that performing exercises on this moderately unstable platform will cause enough instability for your body that it will respond by turning on more of your core muscles (abs, obliques, spinal erectors, TVA, etc.), which in turn would lead to a better workout for those muscles.
First, I would like to point out in a very I told you so kind of tone, that I have been saying for years that this doesn’t make any sense.
And now vindication! Recent research has demonstrated that performing exercises on the BOSU ball does not increase the activation of those core muscles any more than the exercises I have been prescribing for years: squats, deadlifts, lunges, and step-ups.
What? You mean those exercise I have been making the staples of every single training session for the lasy years? All the while explaining diligently to my clients that those really are the best exercises for your core?
And what two exercises topped the list of the best for engaging and strengthening your core?
Squats and deadlifts!
If you are really concerned about your back health and core strength you need to be intimately involved with both of those exercises and all the variations of them. They are the most important ones you should master!
They key is to know the difference between activation and strengthening. Activation means they turn on. Strengthening means you are actually making them stronger. And to increase support for your joints and limbs you need strong muscles that activate.
In order to make a muscle stronger you need to make it work harder than it is used to. We typically accomplish this now by lifting weights or doing bodyweight resistance training. The more weight you can lift or move the stronger you will get. The stronger you are the more protected you will be.
Will you be able to life more weight on the solid floor or on the squishy unstable BOSU ball? I will let you take a stab at that one all on your own!.
Lift more weight, get stronger, be healthier. Simple. The key is to target the right exercises. None of these silly little tricep kickbacks and lateral shoulder raises. Squats and deadlifts reign supreme.
Now, is there a place for the BOSU ball? Definitely. If you need some variety to your workouts or want to improve your balance and coordination they can be a great change of pace. Are they necessary in your workouts to keep you strong and healthy? Absolutely not. But if you have the time and desire and want some variety they are a great tool to provide that!
And now you have another tool to discern the quality of fitness professional you are talking to. If they say the BOSU is the only way to go, you make sure to tell them where to go, and don’t spend your money or time on them!