As I have mentioned in my past columns, two significant recurring benefits of functional training are injury prevention and joint stabilization. Balanced movements and adding instability are the way to target stabilizing the fine muscles within the ankle and knee joints. A great example of an exercise that focuses on these very important benefits is a bosu squat. We will take a basic exercise that we all know and love, a squat, and add instability and balance through the bosu ball to get a greater benefit and aid in your joint stabilization and injury prevention journey!

Many of you might not be familiar with a bosu ball. It is a fantastic tool that I use daily to add instability to almost any exercise. It is flat on one side and round like a stability ball on the other. For this exercise we will place the flat side down to the ground and the round side up. Before we take the squat up onto an unstable surface, I’d like to take a minute to touch on some important form details that are commonly performed incorrectly.

1. You want to start with your feet about shoulder width apart and toes pointed straight ahead.

2. As you squat down you want to be sure to keep the weight in your heels and let your hips shift back behind you. Think about trying to sit back into a chair that is located just slightly behind you so that you have to reach back to sit into it. If you have not been doing this all along, it may feel unbalanced and unnatural because you are letting your weight shift back so much. Not to worry, this is perfectly normal. What we are trying to accomplish here is that as you squat, you are keeping your knees from shifting forward past your toes. By keeping the weight in your heels and shifting back, we minimize the forward shift that places unneeded stress on your knees. If you have ever had knee pain when squatting, revisit your form and see if this correction alleviates the pain, it usually does!

Now that you are a squat champion, let’s add some instability and get the ankles, knees and even the arches of your feet reaping the benefits! One big difference in positioning yourself on the ball versus on the ground is that due to the slope of the ball, you won’t be able to have your feet shoulder width apart like you did on ground; they’ll probably need to be closer together. This is okay, just have them as far apart as feels comfortable and be sure to keep the toes pointed straight ahead. Now you will complete the same movement as you did on the ground. Be sure you are watching your knee position and not let them shift forward over the toes, keep your weight in the heels.

I hope you enjoy this new exercise. It will benefit you greatly!

Lauren is the owner and personal trainer at Chapel Hill Training, a private personal training and boot camp studio in downtown Chapel Hill. You can find her on Facebook or follow her on twitter @CHillTraining.