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The beauty of the BOSU “ball”—you know, the sliced-in-half physio ball—lies in its ability to improve full-body stability, as well as intensify a number of cardiovascular activities. “The BOSU is an excellent tool, whether you’re a novice or an advanced trainee, in or out of the weight room, because it’s extremely multi-faceted,” says Mike Krajewski, P.T., C.S.C.S., owner of MK Fitness in Nashville, Tennessee.
Use it to make bodyweight workouts more grueling, or incorporate some moves as a workout finisher. You can eliminate body imbalances and muscle weaknesses, in addition to elevate your level of strength and coordination. “As you’ll see from the workout below, there isn’t much a BOSU can’t do,” Krajewski adds.
To perform as a full-body circuit workout, follow these instructions:
Complete Circuit 1 before moving on to Circuit 2.
Pick one of the lower-body BOSU exercises (one-leg glute bridge, squat, split squat), followed by one of the upper-body exercises (pushup, incline and decline DB chest press, one-arm pushup), then one of the cardio/core exercises (“sled” push, burpees, mountain climbers, Russian twist). Repeat for prescribed reps, sets, and rest.
Repeat the same format by picking all new exercises, following the same format as circuit 1: lower body, upper body, then core/cardio. To perform as a workout finisher, follow these instructions: Perform each exercise for 20 seconds, then rest 10 seconds as you prepare for the following exercise. Keep moving through the circuit for prescribed number of rounds. There are no breaks between rounds—just the 10 seconds between exercises. Each round takes 2 minutes. Perform five rounds as a workout finisher, or 10 rounds as a quick 20-minute workout.
1. BOSU Pushups (or one-arm pushups)
2. BOSU Mountain Climbers
3. BOSU Squats,
4. BOSU Burpees
How to do it: With the ball side of the BOSU facing down, grasp the side handles and perform a mountain climber.
Expert tip: “I always instruct my clients to maintain a flat back while performing this movement, which will encourage full body control and fire up the abdominals,” Krajewski says.
Prescription: 3-4 sets of 30-60 seconds *rest 30-60 seconds*
How to do it: A squat can be performed two different ways, depending on how comfortable you are with a BOSU. “I would recommend novices to have the ball-side facing up and to stand on the BOSU with both feet. Then, with a controlled movement, perform a squat,” Krajewski says. “For the more advanced trainee, I would recommend flipping the BOSU so the ball side is on the ground. Stand on the flat side and, with total control, perform a squat.”
Expert tip: “This exercise is completely useless if you’re shaking so bad you risk falling off,” he adds. The whole idea of using a BOSU is to create instability, which forces your smaller stabilizer muscles to fire up and become active. If you’re rocking back and forth wildly, step off and work on your squat on solid ground.
Prescription: 3-4 sets of 10-20 reps *rest 30-60 seconds*
SEE ALSO: Chest and Triceps Attack Workout Routine
How to do it: Place the BOSU ball-side down. Grab the side handles and step or hop into a straight-arm plank position. (Advanced users can add a pushup here), then hop back up to your feet while holding the BOSU at your chest. Perform a ½ squat jump. If jumping is too jarring to your joints, you can lift the BOSU and press overhead in place of the jump, Krajewski says.
Expert tip: “Maintain total control with your core when hopping down into the straight-arm plank,” he adds. If you’re worried your arms might give out or you might fall over, begin by stepping back into the plank rather than hopping. With time, you’ll start to see a more shredded core and the benefits of cardiovascular training.
Prescription: 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps or 30-45 seconds per round *rest 45 seconds*
How to do it: Set the BOSU ball-side down. Grasp the handles and assume a straight-arm plank position. Perform a pushup.
Expert tip: “Stability will be the biggest challenge with this movement,” Krajewski says. “Your goal is to maintain a perfectly flat BOSU as you do your pushup.” If it becomes too easy, lift one leg; alternate sides. You can also try elevated pushups. Set your feet up on a ledge and perform pushups.
Prescription: 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps *rest 45 seconds*
How to do it: Lie on the ball-side portion of the BOSU so it’s supporting your mid-upper back. Grasp a pair of dumbbells (make the weight challenging, but not impossible) and perform a chest press.
Expert tip: “Don’t use the spring of the ball to bounce your elbows and assist in the lifting of the weight,” Krajewski says. Strict, controlled movements and immaculate form will give you the greatest benefit.
Prescription: 3-4 sets of 10-20 reps *rest 30-45 seconds*
How to do it: Begin the movement in a straight-arm plank with your right hand flat on the ground and the left on the ball side of the BOSU. Perform a pushup, then walk your hands over so your left hand is on the ground and your right is on the BOSU. Complete another pushup. Keep alternating.
Expert tip: “As you progress with this movement, the ‘walkover’ part of the movement can become explosive,” Krajewski says. Disclaimer: This is a slightly more advanced movement geared toward guys who can successfully perform multiple sets of flat-ground pushups, Krajewski says. You might have to work up to this move, so perfect the BOSU pushup before attempting the unilateral variation.
Prescription: 3-4 sets of 5-10 reps per arm *rest 45-60 seconds*
How to do it: Set up the BOSU with the ball side facing up. Place your back foot on the ball and your front foot flat on the ground. Hold dumbbells or simply use your bodyweight as you perform a split squat, just as you would as if both feet were flat on the ground.
Expert tip: “Balance is key! Begin with very light weight and ensure the movement can be completed without hopping around and losing balance,” Krajewski says.
Prescription: 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps per leg *rest 30-45 seconds*
How to do it: Lie on the ground with your feet flat on the ball side of the BOSU. Push through your feet and elevate your hips, coming into a glute bridge. This will create a natural ‘decline’ position for you to perform a chest press movement, Krajewski says.
Expert tip: Make sure you squeeze your glutes and core throughout the entire movement to keep you balanced and stable, and stimulate muscle fibers.
Prescription: 3-4 sets of 10-20 reps *rest 30-45 seconds*
How to do it: Set a BOSU on a section of carpet with the ball side facing up. Get behind the BOSU in a low crouched position with a staggered stance. Place your hands into the side of the BOSU and drive your legs as you push the BOSU for the determined distance or time. To make it more challenging, add weight on top of the BOSU, wear a weighted vest, or have a partner loop a large resistance band around your waist and resist as you push.
Expert tip: “Maintain a flat spine and don’t let your hips lift higher than your shoulders,” Krajewski says.
Prescription: 3-4 sets of 10-20 meter runs *rest 30-45 seconds*
SEE ALSO: Get Bigger Quads With Classic Exercises
How to do it: Set the BOSU ball-side up. Lie on the ground, facing the ceiling. Place your left foot on the BOSU, with your knee bent. Keep your right leg straight. Raise your right leg slightly, then drive your left foot into the BOSU to lift your hips straight up. Repeat with your right foot on the BOSU and your left leg straight
Expert tip: “In the fully elevated position, a perfect straight line should be formed from your hips to your knee as that working foot presses into the BOSU,” Krajewski says. Focus on contracting the hamstrings and glutes of either working leg.
Prescription: 3-4 sets of 15-30 reps per leg *rest 30-45 seconds*
How to do it: Sit on the ground, with your feet firmly planted on the ground and your back at a 60-degree angle with the ground. Hold the BOSU by the handles so the flat side is facing your chest and the ball is facing away. Lean back slightly and twist your upper body side to side. To make the move more challenging, raise your legs off the ground; if you do this, make sure you’re not rocking back and forth.
Expert tip: “Focus less on touching the BOSU ball down to the ground as you twist from side to side,” Krajewski says. “Instead, keep your arms bent and locked tightly toward your chest, using your abs to control the movement as opposed to letting your arms taking over,” he explains.
Prescription: 3-4 sets of 30-60 seconds *rest 30-45 seconds*