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The Perfect BOSU Ball Routine for Every Runner
Exercises that work on balance and stability are key for injury prevention. Get started with these five moves tailor-made for runners.
If you're a running junkie, you know: The problem isn't motivating yourself to get out there and do the miles. It's everything else. Specifically, strength training—that not-always-exciting-but-totally-critical practice of building stronger muscles that will ultimately help you take bigger, faster, more powerful strides while keeping you injury-free. If you're looking for the single best strength-training routine to supplement your runs, head straight for the BOSU ball in your gym. It's the half-flat, half-rounded object in the stretching area that looks deceptively easy—until you try it.
"A BOSU ball adds an extra element of instability to moves. It requires you to engage more of the small muscles in your core that help you control your body and stay balanced," says trainer Andrew Abt, owner of Abtsolute Fitness in New Rochelle, New York. Stability and balance are the building blocks for good form whether you’re a new runner or a pro. They're also two of the main things that stand between you and a muscle strain or tendonitis—the less stable your body, the more load you put on weaker, secondary muscles for support, making them vulnerable to injury.
The core workout you'll get from the BOSU ball is worth every drop of sweat you'll shed as you wobble on top. Research shows that BOSU ball exercises engage your abdominal muscles at a much higher rate than performing the same exercise on a stable surface. That's important for runners, since the amount of power you can generate pumping your arms and legs during a race is highly correlated with the strength of your core, says Abt.
To give the BOSU ball a try, check out this five-move circuit from Abt that you can do after your run or on off-days. The moves are physical, so wear durable training shoes, a high-support sport bra and sweat-wicking tights, pack your hydration, and get ready to hit the gym.
Split Squat: Place your right foot on top of the BOSU ball and step back with your left foot, keeping your back leg straight and heel lifted. Bend left knee 90-degrees until it almost touches the floor; front knee bends 90 degrees at the same time. Straighten legs, then bend again. Do 10 reps, switch sides and repeat. Do 4 rounds.
Single Leg Hip Up: Lie flat on your back. Place your left foot on top of the BOSU ball, leg bent, while straightening the right leg toward the ceiling. Tighten abs and press your left heel into the BOSU ball, driving your hips upward while squeezing your glutes as you rise into a modified bridge position. Pause, then lower your hips to the floor. Do 10 reps, switch sides and repeat. Do 4 rounds.
Runner's Lunge: Place right foot on top of the BOSU ball. Step back with left foot so both knees are bent 90 degrees. Push off the floor with your left foot and rise up to standing on top of BOSU ball, driving your left knee forward so leg finishes bent at 90 degrees in front of your body. Step back into lunge position. Do 10 reps, switch sides and repeat. Do 4 rounds.
Lateral Shuffle: Stand with the BOSU ball on your right side. Quickly step onto the BOSU with your right foot followed immediately by your left as you step down to the other side with your right foot. Step your left foot down to meet your right, leaving the BOSU ball on your left. Quickly reverse the sequence. Continue this shuffle for 30 seconds. Do 4 rounds.
Mountain Climbers: Flip the BOSU ball over so the flat side is up. Place your hands on the flat side, extending your body into a high plank position (arms straight). Bring one knee in toward your chest at a time, switching legs quickly while you balance on the BOSU ball. Do 30 reps. Do 4 rounds total.
You didn’t become a runner overnight, so don't expect your balance and stability to miraculously improve by tomorrow (you’re good, but not that good). Give yourself three weeks of incorporating BOSU exercises into your routine at least twice a week, and you'll start to see the pay off. And don’t forget, with every great workout comes a much-needed recovery session. Steal these strategies for doing it right.