Bosu Ball training

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By Chad Zimmerman

Sean Cochran [Strength and conditioning coach to Phil Mickelson, Mark Prior and other professional golfers and baseball players]
"Most athletic movements are performed in an unstable environment. Balance allows your body to perform efficiently in this setting. Better balance leads to generating more power, speed and efficiency, and reduces fatigue."

Tim Robertson [Co-Owner of Speed Strength Systems, Cleveland]
"Balance is the attribute that can separate you from other athletes. A lot of athletes overlook this, thinking success results from strength and power, but balance is necessary to complete any athletic movement successfully."

To improve balance, you need to train on an unstable surface. The Bosu ball—the top third of a physioball attached to a flat, plastic surface—is one of many pieces of equipment that can create instability. Robertson says, "From throwers to football players to basketball players, the Bosu complements all our athletes' training programs and develops balance, joint stability and body awareness."

Cochran uses the Bosu to challenge athletes in various ways. "You can work with the round side up or on the floor to make the training environment even more unstable."

The Bosu ball is just one tool that both experts have integrated into their strength, speed and agility programs. Cochran has been using it for more than six years, while Robertson and the Speed Strength staff began using it only within the past nine months.

Here Cochran provides strength exercises and Robertson provides warm-up movements that athletes can do with the Bosu. All of the drills result in balance training as well.

Cochran's athletes learn the exercises by performing them on both feet and working against only their body weight. Over time, they progress to working on one foot. Then, only after they've mastered double- and single-leg body weight movements, Cochran adds resistance with dumbbells, surgical tubing or medicine balls. He says, "Adding external resistance too quickly is a common mistake. Too much resistance before you're ready compromises technique and heightens the risk of injury."

For advanced athletes, Cochran prescribes 15 to 20 reps for 1 to 3 sets. But for beginners—who typically have more trouble performing the exercises with good form—he prescribes as few as 5 to 6 reps per set. Rest time for both is usually no more than 60 seconds. "Part of balance training is creating fatigue within the nervous and muscular systems," he says. "So, I keep athletes moving at a fairly rapid pace between sets. Too much rest isn't good for this type of activity."

The following exercises can be performed with the round or flat side of the Bosu on the ground. Make sure to master the drills on two legs before progressing to one. Always perform upper body exercises with both arms and use the same rep, set, rest and weight patterns as the lower body movements.

Squat

• Stand on Bosu in athletic stance
• Squat down pushing hips back, keeping chest up and back flat
• Lower hips until thighs are parallel with ground
• Do not allow knees to move past toes
• Extend at hips and knees, return to starting position

Single-Leg Squat

• Same as regular squat, but perform on one leg

RDL

• Stand on Bosu in athletic stance
• With slight bend in knees, bend over pushing hips back and keeping back flat
• Bring hands toward toes until stretch felt in hamstrings
• Extend at hips and return to starting position

Single-Leg RDL

• Same as regular RDL, but perform on one leg
• Keep opposite leg straight and in line with back

Push-up

• Start in extended push-up position with hands on Bosu
• Bend arms and lower chest to just above Bosu
• Extend arms, return to starting position

Push-up to T

• Start in extended push-up position with hands on Bosu
• Bend arms and lower chest to just above Bosu
• Extend arms, return to starting position
• Shift weight onto right hand
• Rotate upper body until shoulders are perpendicular to floor
• Extend left arm to side creating straight line hand to hand

To properly prepare his athletes for activity, Robertson integrates the Bosu into a full body warm-up. "A warm-up with the Bosu develops your balance capacity and body awareness, which increases strength and flexibility and reduces the chance of certain injuries," he says.

The following drills are part of Robertson's warm-up routine. Perform each one pre-workout to loosen your muscles, wake up your nervous system and elevate your heart rate for the best workout possible.

Shoulder Walk-up

• Start on all fours with only hands and feet on floor and Bosu placed in front of hands
• Keep hips up and back flat
• Place right hand on Bosu, followed by left
• Place right hand on ground, followed by left
• Repeat walking hands on and off Bosu 20 times

Robertson's Remark: This basic warm-up exercise builds great shoulder stability.

Medicine Ball Chop

• Stand on Bosu in athletic stance with slight bend in knees and hips
• Hold med ball with both hands at chest level
• Extending hips and knees, raise ball overhead
• Lower ball toward feet, and lower hips into squat position
• Repeat 8-10 reps

Medicine Ball Twist

• Stand on Bosu in athletic stance with slight bend in knees and hips
• Hold med ball with both hands at chest level
• Keeping hips forward, rotate upper body left as far as possible using only core
• Keeping hips forward, rotate upper body right as far as possible using only core
• Repeat 8-10 reps

Robertson's Remark: Performing med ball chops and twists on the Bosu versus performing them on a solid surface significantly increases balance.

Mountain Climber

• Start in extended push-up position with hands on Bosu
• Keeping back flat, drive one knee toward chest
• Return leg to starting position and repeat with opposite leg
• Repeat 8-10 reps for each leg

Robertson's Remark: This drill effectively works the hip flexors and core during your warm up.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: STRENGTH TRAINING | CHEST | STABILITY AND BALANCE | EXERCISE | TRAIN | DRILL | STANCE