The truth about bosu balls, balance disks, and wobble boards.

Does your group training class, personal trainer, or personal training studio use bosu balls for “balance work?”

These instruments are among the oldest aids used in balance work.  The first time you stand on a bosu ball, you’ll find it hard to stabilize your stance when your leg begins to shake.  However—

After completing exercises on bosu balls, balance disks, etc… You’ll notice that your leg begins to stabilize after time.

This must mean you’re gaining amazing balance, right? No!

In reality, your body has simply learned to stabilize on an uneven surface.  While it appears you’ve gained amazing balance because of your bosu ball exercises, you’ve actually achieved better balance suited for a surface that you hardly use in daily life.

Have you ever tested to see whether or not you have gained balance on hard surfaces?

Self Test: You might think that your balance has improved after mastering the bosu ball, so try this exercise to test the truth of your belief.

Stand on one foot.  Still balancing easily?  Now, try standing on one foot while looking to the left.  Hold that position.  Move to a neutral position (look straight forward).  Then look right and return to the neutral stance.  Look down and hold that position.  Return to neutral.  Then look up— hold— and return to neutral stance.  While switching positions, try to turn your head as fast as you reasonably can.

Could you achieve all these positions while maintaining balance?  If so, try the same drill with your eyes closed.  🙂

balance disk

In another method designed to test the efficacy of balance balls, disks, and wobble boards, a muscle test is employed.  For this method, test the strength in a joint before and after standing on a bosu ball for ten seconds.  You should see a significant difference in strength.

Why doesn’t overall balance improve when you practice on uneven surfaces?

The S.A.I.D (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand) training principle is the most important standard for people in training to consider.  The S.A.I.D training principal explains that a certain exercise or type of training produces adaptations specific to the activity performed and only in the muscles (and energy systems) that are stressed by the activity.

When you train on a bosu ball, you achieve better balance on surfaces like a bosu ball.  But what type of surface do you stand on primarily?  Yes— hard ground and flat surfaces.  If most activities take place on hard, even surfaces, then those surface types should be used in your training.

Some sports like skiing or surfing take place on uneven ground.  Athletes in these kinds of sports may benefit from some use of bosu balls and balance disks, yet it’s important to realize that most activities aren’t performed on a wobbly surface.

In the future, I’ll talk about the vestibular system in order to explain how the nervous system impacts our balance abilities.

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