When gearing up for a triathlon, it may seem counterproductive to spend your training time on anything other than swimming, biking and running. And yet, the opposite is true. Cross-training is a vital means of your success; both during training and the actual race itself. Cross-training should incorporate strength training, speed and agility drills, core and balance challenges, as well as ample time spent stretching. There are many advantages of cross-training for triathletes and fitness enthusiasts alike. Such benefits as joint stability, core strength, body control, improved flexibility and both muscle strength and endurance will definitely come in handy during race time. The BOSU Balance Trainer, specifically, targets the instability a racer might encounter during a triathlon.
The BOSU Balance Trainer is essentially a stability ball with a flat bottom. Invented in 2000, it is one of the most successful fitness training products in the world. The name ‘BOSU’ was initially an acronym meaning ‘Both Sides Up’. Now, people use the descriptor ‘Both Sides Utilized’ when describing how a BOSU works and is used. Essentially, you can stand, sit or hold the equipment dome side up or dome side down (i.e. the flat platform). When used as a cross-training tool, it’s an incredibly effective means of improving core stability and neutral spinal posture. All functional movement is directly related to the harmonious work of joints, muscles and the neurological system. When working out on a BOSU balance trainer, one’s neurological system interacts with the musculoskeletal system in a highly coordinated and complex manner. Additionally, the physical skills tested while on the BOSU (righting, protective and equilibrium reactions) are of extreme importance and use especially during race cycling.
Truly, there are a multitude of exercises that can be done on the BOSU Balance Trainer. Entire upper body, lower body and core workouts can be done, as well as cardiovascular conditioning. The exercises I shall be focusing on are strength training movements that should help build muscle strength and endurance in your lower body, but will also challenge your core stabilization in the process.
Dome Down Squats: Place your BOSU dome side down, with the flat platform on top. Step carefully onto the center of the BOSU and get your balance. Your legs should be approximately shoulder width apart. Slowly squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor, then straighten your legs. Arms can extend straight out in front of you to provide more equilibrium support and balance. You should feel your glutes firing, as well as engagement of your quadriceps and hamstrings. It’s quite common to experience ‘lateral knee shaking’ as you lower deep into the squat. Perform 10-25 repetitions and 2-4 sets depending on your fitness level.
Dome Up Forward Lunges: Place your BOSU dome side up. Step away from your BOSU approximately 1-3 feet depending on your height and leg length. Stepping forward with your right leg, place your right foot onto the center bulls-eye of the BOSU. Slowly lower yourself into a deep lunge, bending both knees and lifting your left heel off the ground. Draw the right foot off the BOSU and back to a standing position. Repeat motion 10-15 more times with the right leg. Then, switch and repeat forward lunging motion with your left leg. Perform 10-15 repetitions per leg for 2-4 sets. If you feel any sort of knee pain, do not lower yourself as deeply into the forward lunge. If you feel sharp pain when performing this motion, discontinue!
Lateral Squat Side to Sides: Lateral squats when performed on the BOSU Trainer can help aid in proprioception, stamina, speed and agility. Place BOSU dome side up. With one foot located center and the other foot located laterally on the ground, perform a squat bending both knees. With a ‘hopping’ motion, push off the leg located on top of the BOSU and land on the opposite side. Lower into another squat and repeat side to side lateral hopping motion. For this exercise, focus not only on good form, but also improving your tempo to challenge your overall cardiovascular capacity. Perform motion for time rather than repetitions. Aim for 30 seconds to 60 seconds for 2-5 sets.