Can a BOSU workout help you take your workout to the next level? You’ve seen these popular fitness props shaped like a half ball, so named because you can use both sides. Hence the name, BOSU, which stands for “both sides utilized.” This unique half-ball came into being almost 20 years ago after a man named David Weck developed it and brought it to market. Since then, they’ve been a popular site at gyms and home workout rooms.
The most common way to use a BOSU is to place the flat side on the ground and exercise on the domed surface. The dome creates an unstable surface that activates your core muscles when you do certain exercises. Core stability is important since you generate power from your mid-section. Plus, a strong and stable core lowers the risk of back pain.
Can Training on a BOSU Lower the Risk of Injury?
One advantage of adding a BOSU to your training is the potential to prevent injuries. One way training on a domed surface does this is by improving proprioception, the sense of where your body lies in space. For example, when you do squats standing on the domed surface of a BOSU ball, you recruit more core muscles but also improve proprioception.
Why is this important? Finely tuned proprioceptive skills lower the risk of injury when you do other activities. This type of training teaches you to react more quickly and precisely to positional changes. That matters since people lose proprioceptive skills with age.
BOSU ball and wobble board training are also favorites of physical therapists since they help improve balance in older clients and are beneficial for injury rehab.
Ways to Use a BOSU to Power Up Your Training
Many of the exercises you do on a stable surface, you can also perform on a BOSU ball. We already mentioned squats, but you can also do forward and backward lunges by placing one foot on BOSU ball as you do the exercise.
BOSU balls are ideal for side lunges too:
- Start with both feet on the floor and the BOSU ball a few feet away.
- Step your foot out to the side and on to the dome of the BOSU ball.
- Squat down into the lunge. Then, come back up as you swing your leg back to the starting position on the floor.
- Switch sides.
In fact, any exercise you do standing on the floor, you can do on a BOSU instead. This includes biceps curls, triceps kickbacks, overhead presses, lateral raises, and more. The difference is you’ll have to balance while you do the exercise and your core stabilizers work harder.
You can use the other side of a BOSU ball. Flip the ball over so that the flat surface faces you. Place your hands on each side of the flat surface and do push-ups for an added challenge. Avoid doing push-ups on an unstable surface if you have a history of shoulder injury or shoulder pain.
How about abdominal work? Lie on the dome with your feet planted on the floor and do a series of crunches. The increased range of motion created by the domed surface recruits more stabilizer muscles and makes the exercise more challenging.
After doing a series of crunches, flip over on your back, and do a set of bicycle crunches. Then turn the ball back over so that the dome faces down. Place both hands on the platform and hold a plank position for as long as you can. It’s easy to see how you can do a complete workout using both sides of the BOSU ball.
You can even add a BOSU to your cardio routine. Flip the ball over so the flat side is up. Place your hands on each side of the frame and do mountain climbers.
The Limitations of Using a BOSU
When you do an exercise on a BOSU, lighten up on the weight. Doing exercises on an unstable surface is more challenging and the risk of injury is higher since you’re in an unstable position. Because you’re using lighter weights, you may also limit your strength gains. Therefore, if your main goal is to build strength, training on an unstable surface shouldn’t make up the bulk of your training since you’ll need to maximize the resistance to gain the most strength.
How much benefit you get from training on an unstable surface depends on how fit and well trained you are. One study found that well-trained athletes who used a BOSU ball didn’t experience significant gains in balance and proprioception while untrained people did. This may be because well-trained athletes already have excellent balance and proprioceptive skills and there’s a limit to how much improvement you can get.
The Bottom Line
When training on a BOSU, the greatest benefit is for strengthening your core muscles, adding a balance challenge, and improving proprioception. That’s important as we age and our proprioceptive skills decline, thereby increasing the risk of falling.
The limitation is working out on an unstable surface can limit your strength gains since you can’t max out the weight you use. Still, training on a BOSU ball can add a new dimension to your workouts and offer a way to add variety to your training. Plus, a BOSU inexpensive, take up little space and are easy to move around. It might be worth the investment! If you’re looking for a fresh twist on old exercises, try them on a BOSUl!
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- Atsushi Imai, Koji Kaneoka, Yu Okubo, et al. Trunk Muscle Activity During Lumbar Stabilization Exercises on Both a Stable and Unstable Surface. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2010; 40(6):369-375.
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