Slideshow: Find Your Center
<p>The <a href="http://bosu.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=20&product_id=54">BOSU</a> is probably the most popular and recognizable balance trainer on the market. It stands for "Both Sides Up" because you can use either side of the device. There's a flat platform on one side and what looks like half of a stability ball on the other. You can do any number of exercises using the BOSU, and the instability of the surface, no matter which side you're using, forces you to engage your core and improve your balance. </p>
Five tools for balance training
Balance and stability training has become a key component of workout regimes for amateurs and pros like Gretchen Bleiler, above. While balance training improves your functional fitness and core strength, one of the biggest benefits is that it also enhances proprioception -- your body's internal process of figuring out where it is (and all your limbs are) in space without your actually having to look, thus helping you maintain your desired position. This is critical to everyday movement and athletic performance.
With a variety of balance training tools to choose from, which ones are the best? We've rounded up five that challenge your balance -- in a good way!
-- By Christine Yu, Special to espnW.com
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
BOSU Balance Trainer ($119.99)
The BOSU is probably the most popular and recognizable balance trainer on the market. It stands for "Both Sides Up" because you can use either side of the device. There's a flat platform on one side and what looks like half of a stability ball on the other. You can do any number of exercises using the BOSU, and the instability of the surface, no matter which side you're using, forces you to engage your core and improve your balance.
Indo Board ($179.95)
The Indo Board consists of a skateboard-like wooden deck set on top of a cylindrical roller or an inflated air cushion. You can change the size and length of the deck and/or inflate or deflate the air cushion to change the stability of the surface to mimic real-world athletic situations. Stand on top of the board and perform exercises like squats and dead lifts to take your balance training to another level. Olympians Lindsey Vonn and Hannah Teter and pro surfer Courtney Conlogue (No. 4 on the ASP Women's World Tour) have all used the Indo Board in their strength training and injury rehab sessions.
Airex Balance Pad ($72.95)
Don't be fooled by this unassuming blue foam pad. Once you stand on it, your body weight causes you to sink down, making it difficult to perform even the simplest moves. Stack two pads on top of each other for an even greater challenge. Airex Balance Pads are often used by physical therapists and force you to work the small-muscle stabilizers in your foot and ankle.
The TRX suspension system is a total-body workout that uses only your body weight, making it perfect for beginners and experienced athletes alike. There are endless exercises you can do and the difficulty of each exercise can be adjusted by changing the angle of your body and the amount of assistance you rely on from the straps. The suspension system forces you to engage your core, improving your balance and agility.
Kettlebells have become a fixture in the weight room. They look like a cast-iron cannonball with a handle on top. Kettlebell exercises often incorporate fast, swinging movement. Because the weight of the kettlebell moves around during each exercise, your balance is challenged, forcing you to engage both large muscle groups and muscle stabilizers to balance the kettlebell (and yourself.)