By Dr. Mercola
The BOSU ball is a deceptively simple, relatively inexpensive piece of fitness equipment that can expand your workouts and fitness level by leaps and bounds.
With a flat platform on one side and a rubber dome on the other (resembling half an exercise ball), BOSU originally stood for "Both Sides Up," meaning you can use either the flat or the rounded side depending on your workout.
Since being invented in 2000 by David Weck, BOSU has come to mean "Both Sides Utilized," and is meant to help expand your movement capabilities, reshape your body and even strengthen your mind.1
BOSU Provides a Total Body Workout
Because the BOSU is inherently unstable, it adds intensity to your workouts, requiring you to engage your core muscles in order to maintain balance. It's a form of functional training that can not only get you in shape but make you better equipped to better perform the movements you need to get through the day, which becomes especially important as you get older.
For instance, every time you walk your body must adapt to uneven terrain. The BOSU ball also forces you to maintain your center of gravity while performing various activities, providing a phenomenal way to prepare and tone your body for everyday life.
Plus, virtually any workout can be enhanced by incorporating the use of a BOSU ball; because it requires you to use more muscles to stabilize your body, it means your workout will be more intense and you'll burn more calories too. BOSU benefits include:
Balance training Enhanced flexibility Cardio workouts Building strength Fine-tuning sports skills Core training Kinesthetic awareness (an awareness of how your body is positioned, which often declines with age) Proprioception (sensing the relative position of neighboring parts of your body) Increased endurance
Balance Training May Reduce Falls in Older Adults
The real-life benefits of balance training using an unstable surface like the BOSU have been scientifically proven. In one study, a 12-week proprioception training program in older adults, which included work on the BOSU ball, was found to help improve postural stability and static and dynamic balance.2 Researchers concluded it:
" … could lead to an improvement in gait and balance capacity, as well as to a decrease in the risk of falling in adults aged 65 years and older."
A Total Body BOSU Ball Workout to Try
About.com recently featured a total body workout using a BOSU ball3 that is definitely worth trying. You can complete each exercise in order, increase it to two or more sets of each, or break the routine down to focus on just upper or lower body moves, if you're short on time. A sample of the exercises include:
- Triple Squats
With the platform side down, stand to the side of the BOSU with your right foot on top. Squat down, then step onto the dome with your left foot and lower into another squat. Next, step to the other side of the BOSU and squat, repeating the sequence of triple squats for about a minute.
Lower Body Exercises
- Power Lunges
Perform a typical lunge, but start with your right foot on the BOSU dome. As you rise from the lunge, jump up and switch legs in the air so your left foot lands on the dome and your right foot is behind you. Continue this jumping/lunging motion for up to 16 repetitions for excellent endurance and heart benefits.
- Hamstring Tilts
With the dome-side down, lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent and both feet on the platform. Lift your hips a few inches off the floor and press the dome forward and backward with your feet to work your core muscles and hamstrings (repeat up to 16 times).
- Hip Extensions
Get on your hands and knees with your knees on the dome-side of the ball and your hands on the floor. Lift one leg up in-line with your hip, keeping your knee bent, and press your heel toward the ceiling. Repeat up to 16 times and then switch to the other leg. A weight can be placed behind your knee for even more intensity.
Upper Body Exercises
Perform a regular pushup, but place your hands on the platform-side of the BOSU instead of on the floor. Along with working your chest and arms, this move also works your core.
- Back Extension
With the BOSU ball platform-side down, lie over the ball on your stomach with your hands under your chin. Contract your abs to lift your head and feet off the ground, extending your back. Lower and repeat while holding your abs tight, for a total of one to three sets of 8-16 reps.
- One-Armed Row
Place the BOSU platform-side down, then kneel with your left knee on the dome and your right hand on the floor. Your right leg should be extended straight out behind you. With a weight in your left hand, bend your elbow and pull it to your torso. Lower and repeat for one to three sets of 8-16 reps, then switch to the other side.
With the dome side down, get into a push-up position but keep your elbows straight, not bent. You can keep either your knees or toes on the ground, holding the plank position (with your abs tight) for up to 60 seconds.
- Full Crunch
Place the platform side down, then lie on the ball on your back. Pull your knees into your chest and keep your hands behind your head. Squeeze your abs and lift your shoulders and hips off the dome in a full crunch. Repeat up to 16 times.
An Inexpensive Fitness Essential
The BOSU ball is on my list of inexpensive fitness essentials that you can pick up to start your own in-home gym. The home version of the BOSU ball is about $100, or there is a professional version, which is designed with extra strength in the platform, for $130, both available on Amazon.
As with most things in life, a balanced routine works best, so you'll want to avoid placing too much emphasis on cardio, strength training or any one type of activity, as this can lead to imbalances that may actually interfere with optimal health.
This is why it's so important to maintain a well-balanced fitness regimen that includes not just functional training with a BOSU ball, but also strength training, stretching, and high-intensity interval training like Peak Fitness. The use of the BOSU fits in nicely to just about any comprehensive fitness routine, and can be used with virtually all of your activities, from stretching and strength training to aerobics.