In the world of sport and fitness, training methods and equipment are moving forward. Balancing exercises have become a hit in recent years, promising better injury prevention, improved postural movement, coordination or balance. Among the most used aids in balance training is the bosu ball.
Let’s take a look together at its history, uses, advantages – but also disadvantages that you should consider before buying. In the end, we also attach some ideas for bosu exercises.
Why and how did the bosu ball originate?
BOSU hasn’t been around that long. Officially, the first models were introduced in the spring of 1999 and were intended for professional athletes and Olympic teams. This aid received great feedback and quickly spread from the professional world of sports to ordinary gyms. Today, you can find it in almost every gym.
If you are ready to improve your physical fitness and lose weight, you should definitely look into barefoot ball exercises. It’s a great piece of fitness equipment for the gym that you can also use at home, so you can exercise when it suits you.
Exercising with a bosu ball is ideal for improving overall muscle strength and toning, leading to a leaner physique. You can use the bosu ball for many different exercises such as crunches, lunges, push-ups, plank and squats and many more.
What is BOSU?
The Bosu balance ball (if we are talking about the original BOSU) is a balance exercise aid that resembles a half-cut fitball. It has a diameter of 63.5 cm and the top is inflated to a height of about 22 cm. There are handles on the sides of the solid board, which are used for carrying and carrying, but you can also use them for exercise.
The Bosu ball is often referred to as a balance trainer. It consists of an inflatable rubber, latex or PVC half-ball, with the flat side (bottom side) attached to a hard plastic platform. The half-ball is quite soft and is designed to provide an unstable platform for exercising on a hard surface. The Bosu ball can be used for balance training, mobility training, to increase flexibility, for squats and in some cases for strength training.
What does “bosu” actually mean?
BOSU is an abbreviation of the English words “both sides up”. It refers to the two-sided use of the bosu ball – whether it is laid flat side up or round side up on the mat. It means that it can serve as a balancing platform or a balancing protrusion.
Where is bosu used everywhere?
- rehabilitation exercises (in healthcare, physiotherapy)
- balance mat in fitness, but also as a supplementary training for athletes
- exercise step for step aerobics
- as an alternative to the classic fitball
How to practice on barefoot?
Exercising barefoot looks easy, but you’ll quickly discover that the opposite is true.
WHEN EXERCISING ON BALANCE PADS, THE PRINCIPLE APPLIES THAT WE SWITCH TO THEM ONLY AFTER WE HAVE FULLY MASTERED THE EXERCISE ON A SOLID MAT.
In practice, this means that if you don’t do a perfect squat (and not just one) on a solid mat, you should forget about squatting barefoot.
The first experience with the bosu ball should be more of a familiarization and focused on the basic positions: kneeling, standing, standing up.
Relatively safe alternatives to exercise are static bosu exercises (lunges) such as the plank or one-legged stand.
Variations that require more advanced skills and better balance are squats, push-ups or different variations of lunges and other complex exercises.
With a bit of exaggeration and imagination, we can say that you can transfer almost every exercise you do on a stable mat to the barefoot – but the question is whether it will have a real benefit – simply put, whether adding an unstable surface will develop exactly what you want to develop.
What are the benefits of barefoot exercise?
The bosu type ball is a very versatile piece of exercise equipment that comes with many different benefits for your workout. As we mentioned earlier, any floor exercise such as lunges, crunches, push-ups, plank, angles, and a host of other exercises can be performed on a bosu ball. They can even be used to intensify your yoga routine or pilates.
The unstable soft platform you exercise on forces your body to compensate for sway and position changes, helping to improve balance and coordination. At the same time, the unstable part of the bosu ball also forces your muscles to work much harder on any exercise, much more so than on a regular exercise, helping to increase your strength.
Additionally, the bosu ball can also be used to increase flexibility and range of motion due to the increased difficulty provided by the elevated platform. It’s a great feature that many rehabilitation specialists praise for its ability to help people overcome old injuries and also prevent new ones.
- improved coordination and stability
- strengthening of connective tissues
- recovery training
- increase the difficulty of training
- versatile use
- suitable for full body exercise
How to get off the bosu properly?
If you place the barefoot ball with the inflated part facing up, stand just in front of it with your feet about hip-width apart. Place one foot over the heel on the rubber protrusion, but still keep the weight on the back foot.
Gradually start to take the back foot off the ground from the heel and step on the barefoot with the other foot. Find a balanced stance, feel how the muscles of the foot work. Try to activate both the arch and the toes, which will help you with the semi-squat.
For better stability, you can try shifting your weight alternately on your right and left leg and stay in each position for a while.
How to get started with bosu? Easy, but carefully!
If you want to use the bosu as a balancing aid to improve coordination and balance, you can start with a simple standing joint. You stand on the barefoot – and maintain your balance. If this is too easy for you, the second step is to close your eyes.
You may find it funny – why would you close your eyes on a barefoot ball? But the truth is that we perceive up to 80% of information from our surroundings through our eyes. When we take it out of play, our body suddenly has far fewer signals to maintain proper positioning. We are left with the inner ear as the seat of the organs that not only allow us to hear, but more importantly, help us maintain our balance and sense the position of our head in space.
The most common errors include misalignment of the pelvis to either side or insufficient work of the deep stabilization system.
What are the principles of the bosu ball exercise?
- safety: plenty of space to all sides, dry surface – especially watch out for sweat
- movement should be controlled and smooth
- Exercise technique comes first
- follow a sequence: from the easier exercises (standing barefoot) to the more difficult ones (e.g. squat, kneel…)
Barefoot exercise: barefoot or in shoes?
Several authors recommend barefoot exercise. The barefoot foot feels the ground better, the arch muscles engage more easily, and the brain receives better information, allowing us to regress more quickly to, for example, a misaligned centre of gravity – and this leads to better balance.
What kind of bosu balls do we know?
At this point it should be noted that there is only one original BOSU ball – but today you can buy many almost identical models that perform the same function. They may differ, for example, in the diameter of the circular section or the height of the arc, but they will serve very similar purposes.
The advantage may be a lower price.
Bosu ball: what is the price?
You can buy an original BOSU ball from about 120 $, newer models go up to over 200 $. If a cheaper alternative is enough, you can buy similar balancing aids for half the price.
What are the most common mistakes when exercising on the barefoot?
We’ve already mentioned that practicing barefoot looks easier than it actually is. The most common mistakes include:
- insufficient or incorrect involvement of the deep stabilisation system
- poor posture (“distended” abdomen, protruding buttocks…)
- accelerating progress and practicing exercises for which you are not yet ready
- incorrect expectations
Bosu ball is not primarily designed for strength training
If you’re expecting an increase in strength from barefoot exercise, you’ll probably be disappointed. Unless you are a complete beginner whose first contact with exercise will be only on the barefoot, you probably won’t find the barefoot exercise reflects on your strength.
We will always perform on a stable mat – moreover, with unstable surfaces, we have to reckon with a higher risk of injury – especially as the weight of the load increases.
So you have to leave your ego in the locker room, and if you want to squat heavy weights, it’s more sensible to keep a solid ground under your feet.
That doesn’t mean you can’t include the bosu at the end of a workout as a “finisher” for a body part. You can take inspiration from the exercises at the end of the article.
What is the involvement of the abdominal muscles while doing crunches?
The importance of a strong core is important for both professional athletes and everyday people – either as part of sporting performance or as a prevention against lower back pain.
So called abdominal crunches are one of the most commonly performed abdominal exercises (we can discuss their (in)appropriateness another time). Saeterbakken et al. investigated in 2014 what the effect on the engagement of the abdominal muscles (m. rectus abdominis – upper and lower, oblique abdominal muscles) will be if we do crunches:
- on a stable surface
- on an unstable surface for the lower part of the body (feet on bare feet, back on an elevated stable mat)
- on an unstable surface for the upper body (crosses on the inflated part of the barefoot, feet on an elevated stable mat)
- on an unstable surface for both lower and upper body (combination B+C)
In the case of an unstable surface under the feet, no significant changes in muscle activity were observed. As soon as we put the crosses – C – on the unstable surface, the activity of the direct abdominal muscles increased, but the activity of the external oblique muscles decreased.
Dual instability slightly increased the activity of the upper part of the direct abdominal muscles, but decreased the activity of the external oblique muscles.
Conclusion? The use of an unstable surface reduced the activity of the oblique abdominal muscles during self-weighted abdominal crunches. Lower body instability (feet placed on an unstable platform) did not significantly alter the activity of individual muscles.
This research was somewhat at odds with most others, which most often found greater muscle engagement rates for the same load – however, this may be related to a reduced ability to produce force on an unstable surface.
In other words, doing goblet squats on the floor with a 10kg barbell is easier than doing them on a bosu ball.
Exercises on the barefoot: which to choose?
With a little imagination you can exercise your whole body on the bosu ball.
It is recommended to start with stable exercises, such as standing and its variations or plank – and gradually increase the difficulty.
- stand on one leg (if it seems easy, close your eyes)
- Romanian deadlift on one leg
- zigzags (with one hand on the barefoot, with both hands on the flat side of the barefoot ball, with feet on the barefoot…)
- mountain climbers
- plank (with unstable arm or leg support, different variations of plank)
- squatting on barefoot (first with own weight, later goblet squats with kettlebell or single arm, pistol squats – but be careful, it doesn’t develop strength)
- barefoot lunges
- Variations of abdominal exercises in a seated position on a half ball
Are you interested in other options for exercising on an unstable surface? Read our article with the best exercises on the fitball, which we have prepared in cooperation with an experienced physiotherapist.