BOSU Integrated Balance Trainer

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With balance training and so-called "functional" workouts (stuff that crosses over to real life) so popular these days, the simplicity of the BOSU Integrated Balance Trainer makes you ask, "Why didn't I think of that?" An acronym for "Both Sides Up," BOSU basically looks like a stability ball cut in half -- it's a 12-inch-high inflatable vinyl dome atop a flat platform 25 inches in diameter. Funny looking, at first. Shucks, why would you cut a big ol' inflatable stability ball in half? Well, Sherlock, because it makes it more adaptable to more types of exercises and workouts as well as to different types of people who find the whole round ball too wobbly to deal with!

The BOSU just begs to be bounced on (sort of like your bed when you were little), and that's part of the appeal since you immediately feel about 7 years old again.

What can you do with it? Step up and down on it (like a bouncy version of step aerobics), squat on top, lunge onto it or off it, propel over it, do pushups off it, turn it upside down, or stand, kneel or sit on it to do various exercises for balance and muscle strengthening. Really, the varieties are endless. And since it won't roll away from you, it's great for seniors, beginners, rehab or anyone who is a tad less stable or coordinated.

Whatever you do, however, we found it important -- and not necessarily easy -- to stay in control. That's vital, that control stuff, since if you don't, it's fairly easy to fall off and perhaps twist an ankle. (Not a problem if you're sitting on it since a butt-slide off the side won't do much harm -- other than to your ego!)

All in all, the BOSU trainer is a beautiful thing: The flat bottom allows a user of any level to master more exercises, more quickly and more safely. We like that adaptability. Heck, who the heck can actually kneel on a fully round stability ball? And doing pushups with it is only for the most advanced. BOSU invites all to try it and most can be successful from the start while still gaining the same or even more benefits as with a whole stability ball.

One problem is with the programming guide. It is clearly written for fitness professionals, with oh-my-gawd terms like "Golgi Tendon Organ" and "reciprocal innervation." But, wait, what normal Jane or Joe exerciser would know what the heck a Golgi Tendon Organ is? (Or maybe they really don't want to!) And reciprocal innervation?!? Not with us you don't! A good home exercise guide with simpler descriptions would be a great advantage, and we'd like to see that ... soon. Although being sold mainly to health clubs, it is available to consumers through various outlets (do a search on the web to find 'em or click "order now" on the BOSU website), so a slightly dumbed-down manual would help those users get it right.

Also, we found that the BOSU gets a bit deflated more quickly than we'd like it to, which makes it much harder to use and increases the risk of injury. It would be better if somehow it could retrain the air longer so we didn't have to keep refilling it. And it's nice that the BOSU comes with its own pump but we found it a tad wimpy and would prefer a stronger one so inflating it could be faster.

Athletic teams and physical therapists ooze with enthusiasm, calling the BOSU "a breakthrough device" and "a tool that will stand the test of time," among other things. Ultimately, we loved that the BOSU provides as many exercise options for so many levels of exercisers as the imagination can dream up. And, as one athlete put it so well, "It's easy to learn but difficult to master."

4 hands clapping

Suggested retails:
Basic: $119.95
Pro Pack (includes video and programming guide): $149.95
Various videos and programming guides: $19.95-$24.95

For more information: www.bosupro.com or 1-800-321-9236

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