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World renowned speed coach Bill Begg shares his vast knowledge of skating every week in his "Ask Bill Begg!" column on the Inline Planet.

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Nov. 8, 2010

Can BOSU Balls Help Skaters?

QDear, Bill: Would you please share your thoughts regarding the use of BOSU balance balls by inline speed skaters? The original idea was that skaters could use them to strengthen stabilizers and improve balance. But lately, some people have insisted that BOSU can only make you a better “ball balancer,” not a better skater — even if there is evidence it helps rehab injured athletes. Cheers - Nadine from Canada

Hi, Nadine: Opinions differ on the usefulness of balance training equipment for skaters. As you know, it is often used to help people recovering from injuries. My daughter Nicole used both a wobble board and a Swiss ball during her recovery from her ankle injury in 2009. They were part of the physical therapy prescribed by her doctor, the eminent Swiss orthopaedist Pierre Hofer, who is himself a skater.

Whether balance training equipment is useful for healthy athletes is an open question. There is one school of thought that holds that only sports-specific training can improve an athlete’s performance.

But I am not so sure about that. It seems to me that the proponents of sports-specific training forget that skaters need to condition their bodies from head to toe.

Skaters who focus entirely on sports-specific training may build up huge frog-like legs. But they risk injury if their other muscle groups lack the strength to support their massive legs.

I think that balance training equipment can be helpful, especially during the general preparation phase at the beginning of an athlete’s training year. In general, the general preparation phase occupies the first four months of a 10-month training program. Two of the main goals of this phase are to build strength and flexibility. And balance training equipment can help with this.

The BOSU ball is like a mobile gym. You can inflate and set it up anywhere and use it to do various exercises to build your core muscles and balance. It may not make you a faster skater, but it will make you a better overall athlete.

Later in the training season, you may want to abandon balance training equipment in favor or more sports-specific training, especially skating. But early in the season, it can be a useful tool.

Cheers, Bill

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