How to Use a BOSU and Sample BOSU Exercises

By now I’m sure you’ve noticed all of the odd-looking blue domes floating around FIT. They look like a ball that’s been cut in half with a flat bottom and inflated top. You’ve probably been wondering what they are and how they’re used, right? Well, they’re called “BOSU”, which stands for “both sides up”. They’re also known as “balance trainers” and can be used with the inflated ball side up or the flat platform side up, hence the acronym.

So why is the BOSU so popular? Well for starters, it is an incredibly versatile piece of equipment. It can be used for hundreds of different exercises, including cardio and plyometric drills, balance and strength training, improving ankle and knee strength, and core training.
You’ve probably heard a lot about “core” training recently and the BOSU is one of the best pieces of equipment you can use for this. Your core consists of your abdominal and back muscles, as well as all of the muscles in between that work your torso and abdomen. When you use the BOSU you’re challenging your body to balance and stabilize, and your core plays a huge part in this. Without a strong midsection and back, it would be very hard to balance or do many day-to-day activities. Think about when you’ve gone snow-skiing, horseback riding or rollerblading. The first thing your body does is tighten up and try to balance in an attempt to keep you from falling. Your core protects your organs, helps you stand upright, helps you balance and, with good training, will also help you look great at the beach!

Any exercises that you perform on the BOSU will work your core—even just standing on it! But to really isolate your abs, try doing some basic crunches…they’re much harder to do on the BOSU than you think! Most people assume that doing crunches or abdominal exercises on the BOSU is easier than doing them on the regular stability ball or floor, but this is not the case. Take a basic crunch: It’s pretty simple to do 20 on the floor, a little more challenging to do 20 on the stability ball and even harder to do them on BOSU. The main reason is that you have less surface area to place your body on, thus your abs and core have to balance and work much harder. Also, you will engage your back muscles, hip flexors and obliques, resulting in a far more effective exercise!

Next time you’re at the gym, try this basic ab workout that I use with my clients: 20 regular crunches with the BOSU centered under your back and feet flat on the floor; 20 crunches to the right side (twisting your left shoulder up towards your right knee, then back to the center); 20 crunches to the left side (twisting your right shoulder up towards your left knee, then back to the center); 20 more regular crunches; and finally, a 1-minute plank with your forearms resting on the BOSU (inflated side up).

In addition to being a great tool for ab work, the BOSU can be incorporated into your lower body routine as well. Many of us go to the gym and do squats and lunges day after day. These are two of the best lower body exercises you can do, but why not kick it up a notch and use the BOSU next time? You can put the BOSU, with either side facing up, under one foot and do the squat or lunge. Or, if you really want to challenge your balance and coordination, stand on the flat side–using the wall to hold on if you need to–then have a friend hand you some weights and do 3 sets of 15 squats with a 60-second rest without stepping off. You will probably find that you are suddenly more aware of your body, and your legs may even shake a little because each muscle is attempting to help your body balance and stabilize. The best way to balance is to focus on contracting your core. Do this and the shaking should stop immediately!

So, next time you’re at the gym looking to add something different to your workout or challenge your core, grab one of the many BOSUs and give it a try! And if you have any questions or need help, just look for someone in a red shirt. FIT’s professional trainers are always happy to help!

This article originally appeared in Fit’s October newsletter as:
BOSU Basics
By Cari Shoemate, ACE-CPT, GFI

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