It looks rather like a blue mushroom or a Fitball sliced in half. The BOSU Balance Trainer is not a thing of beauty and I’m eyeing it with deep suspicion as it sits stolidly in front of the TV in my living room (clashing violently with the rug). This bit of home exercise kit is so hot I’ve had to wait several weeks to get hold of one, so what is all the fuss about?
Half an hour later I’ve found out. I managed about half the first session on the accompanying DVD and am now sitting in a pool of sweat. Can I feel it? Hell yes. I’ve lunged and squatted and stepped and jumped. I’ve wobbled on top of it and then flipped it over and done push-ups on it. I’ve crunched and stretched and I am shaking like a leaf. In a good way, I hasten to add.
The beauty of the BOSU is that it does the lot. You use it dome-side up for cardio workouts, to build lower body strength and work on your core. Then you flip it over and use the platform side for upper body workouts and sneaky moves like the Pilates plank. ‘It’s one of the most versatile pieces of fitness equipment out there,’ says Kelly Edwards who runs BOSU courses for instructors. ‘In fact the possibilities are almost endless.’
If you’ve ever tried standard Step classes, this is a step way beyond – the BOSU wobbles so you have to keep your core iron-tight with your posture poised. I reckon you work twice as hard. It’s proved a hit with serious sportspeople: skiers, golfers, tennis players and footballers find it helps their game. If that weren’t enough, you can add resistance tubing, balance bars, kettlebells and medicine balls to the workout. It’s world domination in blue plastic .
But the real key to the BOSU is balance. ‘Balance is the foundation of all movement,’ says Kelly Edwards. ‘Everyone needs balance and to improve it. The unstable nature of the domed surface encourages the body to function as a complete unit. It’s a total workout which not only increases the strength and stability around the joints and core muscles, but also muscular power, endurance and strength.’
My balance upped and went when I gave birth to my son and hasn’t been seen since. I found some of the exercises darn well impossible but the nice instructor on the DVD said this was fine and normal: if I practiced, I’d improve. And you know what? I believe her. I’m usually a bit sceptical about home workouts and wildly cynical about bits of kit that promise the earth but this does seem sane, sensible and seriously good. You don’t need tons of coordination and it’s relatively kind on the joints. Of course you’d have to stick with it to get results, but it is pretty good fun so I can see the longevity factor. Just don’t expect to look elegant while you’re doing it.
Talking of elegance, my one request would be for a funky cover you could pop on the BOSU when it’s not in use. But, hey, I won’t have a wobble about it.
The BOSU balance trainer costs from £78.25 from www.physicalcompany.co.uk .
Other great home workouts
These bits of kit work hard but take up very little space.
- Gliding discs – remember the Reebok Slide? Same idea (yet smaller, neater) and gives a killer inner thigh workout alongside the cardio. £19.45 www.gymcompany.co.uk
- Hoopnotica – fat-burning cardio and muscle-toning workout that blends hooping with dance. Travel hoop (breaks down into sections), carry bag and DVD. £47.10 www.victoriahealth.com
- Foam rollers – originally used in rehab training. Lightweight and versatile, they’re basically cylinders of high-density foam – great for stretching, stability, body support and self-massage. £21.98 www.physiosupplies.com
- Fit stik – hugely versatile, you can use this as dumbbells, barbell and skipping rope. Compact, portable and simple to use. £17.13 www.physicalcompany.co.uk