Using a BOSU Ball for Full-Body Fitness
Improve Your Core Strength and Balance
What in the heck is a BOSU ball, and how do I use it? The BOSU ball is a unique-looking piece of workout equipment that you may have seen at the gym but aren’t sure how to use.
Flat on one side with half of a stability ball on the other, it was invented by David Weck in 2000 and can be used in countless ways to challenge your strength and balance.
With the ball side up, you can work your small stabilizer muscles while maintaining a relatively stable platform.
Ball-side-down removes that stable platform and forces you to rely even more heavily on your stabilizer muscles and your core.
As far as the movements themselves, you can do just about anything on a BOSU ball for a full-body workout.
From your biceps and triceps to your chest and shoulders, the BOSU ball can give you a complete upper-body workout. Consider push-ups.
For this exercise, you’ll flip your BOSU with the ball side down. If you’re a beginner, start on your knees.
Place your hands on either side of the BOSU ball, and lower your chest toward it while keeping your core tight.
Push back up, maintaining control of the ball and not allowing it to tip to either side.
If you’re able, try this push-up from your toes rather than your knees. If that’s still too easy, take it to the next level with a plyometric movement.
In plyometrics, your muscles exert maximum force in short intervals to increase power.
In the case of the BOSU push-up, that means pushing up so hard that the ball actually comes off the ground a bit and lands as you return to the down position.
This will challenge your balance even more than a traditional BOSU push-up.
To train your triceps, you can either keep your BOSU ball side down or flip it up if you’re more of a beginner.
For beginners, sit in front of the BOSU with your butt just against the edge. Place your palms behind you on the ball.
Raise your hips, and keep your knees at a 90-degree angle with your arms straight.
Gradually bend your elbows, and lower your butt, then press on the ball and return to your position above it. Always keep your elbows tucked close to your body.
To make it a little harder, flip your BOSU over, and repeat the movement without letting the BOSU tip side to side.
For an even greater challenge, extend your legs in front of you so all your bodyweight is on your hands and arms.
You’ve probably heard of or been doing squats already. After all, they’re one of the best workouts for all the muscles in your lower body.
But there are several ways to modify your squat by adding the BOSU. We’ll focus on two. For the first, start with the BOSU ball side up.
Step on (carefully!), and practice keeping your balance as you squat until your upper legs are parallel to the floor, then return to a standing position.
Make sure your weight doesn’t float to the front of your feet, or you’ll be putting too much pressure on your knees.
If you have no problem keeping your balance with the BOSU ball side up, it’s time to flip it over.
Put one foot on the flat side of the BOSU along the edge. Carefully lift your other foot to the opposite side, and balance with the ball in the middle.
Try to keep the BOSU steady as you squat to parallel and return to a standing position.
By flipping the BOSU ball side down, you’ll be working against a platform that moves a full 360 degrees, challenging your balance and strength.
To do lunges with your BOSU, begin with the ball side up. From here, you can either step up onto the BOSU or start on the ball and step down to the floor.
With either approach, balance your weight between your back foot’s toes and your front foot’s heel.
Lower your back knee toward the floor while your front knee moves toward a 90-degree angle, tracking over your toes.
If you want to hit more of your glutes, a bridge is a great bet! Lie with your back on the floor, and place your feet on the BOSU.
If you’re a beginner, start ball side up. If you’re more advanced, flip your BOSU over.
With both feet on the BOSU, squeeze your glutes, and press your hips toward the ceiling.
Pause at the top, and lower your body back to the floor with control. If you’re ready to take it to the next level, try a single-leg bridge.
With one foot on the BOSU and your hips pressed toward the ceiling, raise your other leg.
Make sure you don’t swing your leg for leverage. Instead, squeeze your glutes to raise and lower with control.
Who doesn’t want a stronger core? Many of your favorite (or not-so-favorite) ab and core exercises can be replicated and kicked up a notch using the BOSU ball.
From the plank to sit-ups and even bicycle crunches, the BOSU adds an extra level of instability to every move.
Let’s start with the plank. The idea behind any plank is to keep your spine in alignment while you engage the muscles in your core, lower body, and upper body.
For all the BOSU plank progressions, flip the ball side down. For beginners, start on your knees, and begin the way you would for the beginner BOSU push-up.
Now hold it. Even as your body shakes, keep holding. If you want to take it a step further,
raise up on your toes while you hold the position. Be careful that the ball doesn’t move side to side!
Try to keep it as stable as possible, and don’t forget to breathe. If you’re looking for an even bigger challenge,
try doing your plank on a single leg with your other raised. As you complete your circuit, switch legs to make sure you get an even workout.
For sit-ups and bicycle crunches, you’ll flip the BOSU over and work with it ball side up. You’ll also start in the same position for each.
Sit on the edge of the BOSU, and lean back so your lower back is resting on the ball. Be sure that your back never arches over the ball.
For a sit-up, keep your back straight as you raise your chest toward the ceiling. Maintain control as you slowly lower to your starting position.
To tackle bicycle crunches, start in the same position, but raise your left foot, keeping your knee at a 90-degree angle, and reach your right shoulder toward your left knee.
Return to the starting position with control, and repeat on the other side, bringing your left shoulder toward your right knee.
For both exercises, make sure you keep your neck relaxed. In other words, don’t pull on your head or strain your forehead toward your knees.
Think the BOSU ball is just for strength and balance? Think again!
With cardio BOSU movements like burpees, toe taps, and mountain climbers, you’ll get your heart pumping in no time.
Let’s start with the dreaded burpee. For those who aren’t familiar with this exercise,
which was adopted by the U.S. military in 1942 to measure the fitness level of recruits, let’s take a moment to familiarize.
In a traditional burpee, you start standing normally. In the first part of the movement, you drop your hands to the floor then kick your feet behind you to land in a high plank (or push-up) position.
You then hop your feet back in toward your hands and stand or jump up with your hands raised toward the ceiling.
Then repeat. It’s as difficult (and hated) as it sounds. So how can we make it even more challenging? Add a BOSU!
If you’re a beginner, start standing with the BOSU in your hands and the ball facing away from you.
Place the ball on the ground and kick your feet back into plank position.
Hop your feet in toward your hands, then stand upright rather than jumping, keeping the BOSU near your hips. For the intermediates among us, you’re going to start the same way.
Perform the first step like the beginner, but when you hop your feet back toward your hands and stand, raise that BOSU ball high overhead!
Maybe you’re a little more advanced or you just like a challenge.
This time, after you bring your feet in toward your hands, jump up and raise the BOSU ball overhead at the same time.
For mountain climbers, you’ll keep your BOSU ball side down.
Begin in a plank position with your hands on either side of the BOSU and your legs extended with your toes on the floor.
Slowly bring your leg up toward your chest, keeping your foot off the floor. Return your foot to its starting position, and repeat on the other side.
While this can be a great abdominal exercise when performed slowly, a cardio mountain climber requires you to move quickly.
Imagine you’re running in place while facing the floor,
but always get your knees as close to your chest as possible, and make sure you keep the BOSU from toppling side to side.
Finally, try some toe taps! For this exercise, flip your BOSU so the ball side is up and stand facing the ball.
Lift one foot, and tap the very center of the ball with your toe. Return that foot to the floor, and tap the other foot to the BOSU.
Now, do it quickly by hopping from one foot to the other, never allowing more than one foot on the floor at a time.
The faster you move, the harder it will be to always reach for the center of the BOSU.
These are just a few of the innumerable exercises that are possible with the BOSU ball.
Even if you have no other piece of equipment at your disposal, you’ll be able to challenge every muscle in your body.
As with any exercise, safety should be your number one priority.
Always consult with a physician or personal trainer before beginning any exercise plan.