How to use the Bosu Ball (Half Ball)
by Gemma Carter

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This article discusses in detail what the Bosu ball is, how to use it and its many exercise benefits.

The Bosu was invented by David Weck and debuted in 2000 quickly becoming one of the most successful pieces of fitness equipment. Originally 'BOSU' stood for 'both sides up' which is a primitive way of explaining how the Bosu can be used on either side as a dome or platform.

Shaped as a half ball, one side of the Bosu forms a dome and the other a hardened platform which you can stand on. It can be used to strengthen joints, recover from and prevent injury and provide variety into any exercise routine.

The benefits of using a Bosu ball instead of flat weights training.

  • The Bosu ball engages more muscles in each movement so it can increase your workout potential.
  • It can be used for a variety of body zones such as upper body, lower body and core.
  • Balance can be worked on by improving dynamic (not static) stability and neuromuscular control.
  • One can alter the level of difficulty by inflating (making it tougher) or deflating the air.
  • The Bosu can be used on both sides in one workout saving time running around the gym for different pieces of equipment.
  • It adds variety and flexibility in your routine instead of sticking to the same floor weights.
  • It is fun and you will look pretty impressive in the gym (just don't fall off...).

How to use the Bosu Ball

Upper extremity

With the flat surface up the Bosu can provide a brilliant platform to do push ups on, giving added difficulty by the instability of the surface. This can be beneficial as it emphasises dynamic stability and encourages the user to engage the upper body as a whole instead of weights machines which can focus on only a few muscle groups, overdeveloping them.

Other upper body exercises that can be done on the Bosu include: 'the plank', 'the side plank' and 'push offs' (where you literally try to push off from the Bosu).

Lower extremity

Many balance drills can be performed on the Bosu on either side. Using the flat surface as a platform you can perform squats and using the dome side up you can use it to step onto in a lunge adding a little more difficulty.

To add a bit of variety to these lower body exercises try incorporating weights. Performing a series of squats on the Bosu with weights strengthens joints and adds difficulty which you can work up to. Single leg squats although difficult at first can also be achieved and give great benefits. Similarly lunges can be done with weights to engage core muscles at the same time. Try even incorporating a side twist at the end of each lunge to engage the oblique muscles.

Specifically the Bosu has been used to alleviated knee pain and rehabilitate from many lower leg injuries. The muscles that stabilise the knee as it moves connect to the hip and ankle. With an incorrect alignment this can lead to knee pain. Performing exercises on a flat surface can sometimes limit the range of movement in a particular action whereas the Bosu can enable more movement and therefore a quicker improvement in joint strength by using a wider variety of tendons and ligaments around the hip, knee and ankle joints.

The Bosu can therefore be seen as a great tool in strengthening joints to recover after injury and correcting bad posture and leg alignments.

Core

Many core exercises can be performed on a Bosu in a similar fashion as normal but with an added benefit of extra instability which works the muscles in your core a little harder.

Pilates teachers, fitness coaches and yoga instructors all explain the importance of a strong core and the Bosu can be a great way to achieve this.  Here are a few ideas of how to work your core with the Bosu.

  • Torso rotation - standing with knees slightly bent hold the bosu with both hands and rotate your torso slowly to the left then right with the Bosu held out at arm’s length. Repeat 8-12 times.
  • Plank rotation - just like a normal plank start with both arms on the Bosu. Here remove one arm and raise it to the ceiling to create a T shape in your body. Hold for 5 seconds before bring in back down and the repeat with the other arm. Repeat 5 times.
  • Bosu crunch - sitting on the Bosu just slightly forward from the centre, lift your legs slightly off the floor to create a V- shape in your body. This should engage your abdominals. Hold this position for between 15-30 seconds and release. Repeat 5-8 times.
  • Superman pose - with the Bosu dome shape up, put one knee on the middle of the dome and both arms out in front of you on the floor. Lift the other leg out flat mid-air behind you and when you are stable lift the alternating arm (left arm, right leg then right arm, left leg) up to make a superman pose. Hold for 10 seconds then repeat with the other arm and leg.
  • Exercise ball Bosu twist - just as in the Bosu crunch sit on the Bosu but with an exercise ball held in front of you. When you are steady slowly twist your core using the exercise ball out in front, from side to side but hold your lower body still. This should act to strengthen your abdominals, back and oblique muscles. Repeat 5 times.

Summary

The Bosu has definitely been a success in the fitness industry giving added benefits and an alternative to many strength routines and injury rehabilitation programmes. However, it has received some criticism from those who believe that compared to flat surface weight training the Bosu may distract and reduce the intensity of the movement as using dynamic movements instead of static weight lifting can lessen the load and workout received. Here they opt for flat floor weight training as each movement is controlled and performed with calculation so the correct muscles are targeted specifically.

This criticism may have some substance to it by showing how for particular uses the Bosu may lead to more injury and damage if used incorrectly (or through accident by falling off). However, compared to the benefits of incorporating the Bosu in your workout routine, this disadvantage is small. Overall the Bosu is a great success and can encourage people of all ages and skill to try strength training where regular moves may be intimidating and boring.

Gemma Carter is a fully trained fitness and life coach.
Visit her website at http://www.cartercoaching.co.uk or email her at: gemma@cartercoaching.co.uk

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