There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about doing Bosu Ball sit-ups, what will the effects be?
Bosu Ball sit-ups are a variation of regular sit-ups where you do the exercise while lying on a Bosu Ball. You can describe the Bosu Ball as the top of an exercise ball attached to a flat surface.
One study measured the difference in muscle activation between regular sit-ups, Bosu Ball sit-ups with the ball under the lower back, and Bosu Ball sit-ups with the ball under the feet. All of these were done both with body weight alone and weighted.
Interestingly enough they measured a reduction in oblique muscle engagement in the bodyweight Bosu Ball sit-ups compared to the bodyweight version. Ab muscle engagement was not affected.
On the other hand, they found that doing weighted sit-ups on the Bosu Ball engaged ab muscles more than sit-ups with the same load on the floor. In both weighted and bodyweight sit-ups putting a Bosu Ball under the feet did not affect core muscle engagement (1).
These results are relatively counterintuitive. A different study measured more ab muscle engagement when doing crunches on an exercise ball compared to ground crunches (2). You would expect a similar relation between sit-ups and the Bosu Ball.
This means that either the measurements from the first study were not entirely perfect or that you likely want to keep Bosu Ball sit-ups for when you are strong enough to do weighted versions.
This exercise is typically done to grow and strengthen core muscles. For other fitness goals, there are many better exercise options. Also keep in mind that Bosu Ball sit-ups can be hard on body parts like your lower back and neck.
Whether you should Bosu Ball sit-ups or alternatives to your routine ultimately depends on things like your personal situation, personal preference, and training goals.
How to do a Bosu Ball sit-up
As the name implies, you need a good Bosu Ball to do this exercise. Once you have that, to do a Bosu Ball sit-up take the following steps:
- Put the Bosu Ball with the flat part on the ground on a steady surface.
- Sit on the Bosu Ball so that it is positioned against your lower back. Put your hands against your chest, the side of your head, or stretch your arms. You can put your feet on the ground for stability.
- Curl up your body until your chest is close to your knees. Start with your shoulders and as you get closer to your knees more and more of your upper body gets off the Bosu Ball. Make sure your abs and not the momentum of your arms power the movement.
- Slowly curl down your body again. Your lower back goes first and gradually more and more of your upper body touches the Bosu Ball again until you are back in the position of step 2.
Keep your movements slow and controlled to make your abs and obliques really work hard and to avoid bad technique. If you don’t curl your body as described and instead keep your spine straight you are mostly working your hip flexor muscles.
Make sure you don’t jerk your head forward throughout the exercise, especially if you put your hands behind your head. Also try to make sure your abs are powering the movement, not the momentum of your arms.
To make Bosu Ball sit-ups even more challenging you can stretch your arms above your head or hold weights against your chest.
Muscles worked with Bosu Ball sit-ups
Bosu Ball sit-ups are mainly a core muscle (abs and obliques) isolation exercise. Your hip flexor muscles may have to work to a certain extent at the end of raising your upper body.
Compared to another popular exercise like Bosu Ball crunches, sit-ups are more of an overall core exercise instead of only focusing on the abs.
One study compared core muscle activation between sit-ups on the ground vs sit-ups with the lower back on a Bosu Ball, both bodyweight and weighted sit-ups. In the bodyweight comparison, they observed less oblique muscle engagement and similar ab muscle engagement in the Bosu Ball sit-up compared to the ground sit-up.
In the weighted comparison, they observed that Bosu Ball sit-ups cause more ab muscle engagement compared to sit-ups on a sturdy surface (1).
The way you build muscle in places like your core is by engaging these muscles so that they get damaged enough. This may sound counterintuitive but this damaging makes it so your body repairs these muscles, and adds a bit more to be better prepared to exert similar efforts in the future.
If you stick to exercises with the same weight, as your muscles become stronger this same effort may not damage your muscles enough to promote extra muscle growth.
By adding extra resistance to exercises like Bosu Ball sit-ups you are better able to damage the muscles in a shorter amount of time. If you don’t overdo it, give your body enough nutrients, and give your muscles enough rest this can in turn lead to faster and more core muscle gain.
Depending on your personal situation, workout plan, and training goals, Bosu Ball sit-ups may be a good or bad addition.
Benefits of Bosu Ball sit-ups
Some people question how useful this exercise can be but adding Bosu Ball sit-ups to your routine can offer you some helpful benefits. Some of the most important ones include:
- Stronger muscles: Bosu Ball sit-ups are a type of resistance training that can help you strengthen your core muscles and make them stand out more.
- Can help with losing weight: Doing Bosu Ball sit-ups likely requires more energy than your regular daily activities. Extra muscle mass also helps with burning more calories. Both of these aspects can help with, but are no guarantee for, weight loss. Keep in mind that there are better exercise choices if weight loss is your goal.
- Improves mood: Exercise like Bosu Ball sit-ups promotes the release of substances that help you feel good.
- May reduce or prevent back pain: Core strengthening exercises like Bosu Ball sit-ups can reduce or prevent back pain (3, 4). If you currently have back pain you do want to be careful and talk to an expert before implementing this exercise.
- Improves sleep: Exercise like Bosu Ball sit-ups can improve the quality and duration of your sleep which in turn offers many important benefits.
- Slows down aging: Bosu Ball sit-ups won’t influence how many days have passed since you were born. However, exercise can slow down the progress of certain aging markers that are correlated with negative health effects.
While inevitably many workouts are better for some of these benefits than Bosu Ball sit-ups, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine. A Bosu Ball can offer other benefits too.
The main thing to keep in mind is that Bosu Ball sit-ups can be hard on body parts like your hips, neck, and back, even if you implement the right technique.
If you are weak or sensitive in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any back pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before implementing Bosu Ball sit-ups in your workout routine.
If you feel pain in any body parts it may be a sign you are overdoing it. In that case, you may need some rest, better lifestyle habits, a less intense workout schedule, or it may be a sign that Bosu Ball sit-ups are not (yet) for you.
Bosu Ball sit-up alternatives
While Bosu Ball sit-ups can be a good addition to your workout routine, there are also some alternatives available for training similar aspects of your physical health. Some of these Bosu Ball sit-up alternatives include:
- Bicycle crunches
- Crunches (with or without Bosu Ball)
- Side plank dips
- Russian twists
- Ab wheel roll-outs
Which one of these options is the best depends on things like your personal situation, training goals, the equipment you have available, etc.
Many people will benefit from adding Bosu Ball sit-ups with the right technique to their routine. You may need to make the regular version more challenging soon with sit-up equipment to keep seeing a lot of muscle growth and strength progress.
That being said, for goals besides strengthening your core muscles and making them stand out more, there are many better exercise options.
You also need to remember is that Bosu Ball sit-ups can be hard on body parts like your back, hips, and neck even if you implement the right technique.
If you are sensitive or weak in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any back pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before doing more Bosu Ball sit-ups.
Also keep in mind that consistency is an important factor for any workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If doing Bosu Ball sit-ups is a workout you love, great.
If not, sit-up alternatives and other exercises can also offer a lot of benefits.
If you do decide to implement more Bosu Ball sit-ups make sure you give your body enough nutrients, rest, and sleep to repair and grow your muscles.