Monday, November 14, 2011

The Most Functional Exercise Ever?

The BOSU is a funny tool in the facility. It is overly used in some settings and some hold it in the highest regard. I remember when it first hit the market and I actually saw it (maybe around 2004); anyone and everyone was standing on it and performing squats on it. I mean, it was the whole "balance and function" craze. And what better apparatus to use, than a bouncy dome with a flat bottom that makes people's ankles scream? Ok...okay...I was one of those trainers that was really into the "functional craze". But the more I educated myself and began to understand functional anatomy more, I realized that balance doesn't supersede function. Balance is a by-product of optimal functional anatomy. You see, many of us tend to use the BOSU squat as a means of making balance challenging; and thus, improving balance. of course, I am not bastardizing the BOSU, because I do believe it has a place in some exercise programs; but through the years, I have found that making my clients stronger improved their balance and coordination tremendously--over simply making their surface artificially unstable 

How functional is a BOSU squat? If you understand ground reaction forces, you will understand that a stable ground is what the body needs to generate power. During walking or jogging, each step propels our bodies forward. If we need to get somewhere faster, we move our hips and swing each leg forward in a faster manner--all the while still generating power to propel us forward faster. The more stable the surface, the more power we can create during locomotion, picking things up off the floor, and jumping. The reason why we find jogging on the beach so difficult is because the sand is not a stable surface and therefore, each step loses some power generation. The sand disperses the power (it spreads as you plant each foot) and our bodies have to work harder to move forward--thus, fatiguing our muscles quicker.

The faster we swing each leg and the more efficiently we can generate power with each step is a question of strength. To realize this, you would prefer your clients to increase their strength levels on a stable surface. More strength means more coordination, improved reaction, and better functionality.

There's that word again: function. Well, one day I was toying around with my BOSU. I don't condemn it. The BOSU is actually a great instrument to use in small group training classes where fun and challenge makes the environment more engaging. I always believe there is a time and place for any fitness tool; but it needs to be used at the right time and the right place in an exercise program. I came up with a very functional exercise (in my opinion). Enter the BOSU Get Up. Not a new exercise as I do believe it is a BOSU created drill by the makers of the tool. However, I added a 50 lb. sandbag into the mix to liven things up a bit:

Breaking it down:
The first rep is really a chance for me to find the right "landing spot" and foot placement. After the first rep, the object of the exercise is to keep the feet in constant contact with the ground and descend onto the BOSU and lean back-wards (crunch style) and generate enough power to rise back up.

The Descent:
The question to ask yourself is are you capable of performing a full squat where you are below parallel? Because the BOSU is literally only about 8 inches high, the squat portion is going to be the most trying mobility-wise. There will be some butt-tucking and the feet will possibly turn out-wards.

Once your butt touches down on the "sweet spot" onto the BOSU, the trunk extension serves as a nice stretch and allows the rib cage to full extend. Remember, the feet must stay plastered to the floor on the same spot. I know this looks like a crunch, but it does nothing to isolate the abdominals. The entire trunk is working in unison to maintain your body on the BOSU and spring back you to an upright position. Before you chastise it for not looking like anything Stuart McGill would wink his eyes at, keep in mind that you don't plank to get up out of bed in the morning.

Returning to Standing Position:
Here is where your power comes in. The ability to generate power from your lower-body and return to a standing position is the key here. The sandbag adds extra resistance and makes the exercise more challenging. Hold the sandbag close to your torso/chest and make it become "part of you". Remember, once your find a comfortable foot placement and butt landing spot,  the key is to keep the feet in contact with the ground.

Wrap Up:
This exercise calls for optimal mobility. Before you we talk about strength or generating power,  the mobility factor is a prerequisite. Without mobility and strength, the user will simply "fall" onto the BOSU--with no controlled descent. Without ankle mobility,  the user will constantly lift the feet off the ground. Without mobility,  the squat will end ahead of schedule and the butt will hover over the BOSU higher than normal. This will make the user "afraid" to descend further causing the likelihood of falling into the BOSU,  and rolling  over. Basic strength is needed. Give it a try and let me know what you think!


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