Bosu Ball Alternatives: How to Target the Same Muscles

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
January 31, 2022

Also known as the bosu balance trainer, a bosu ball is a form of fitness equipment found in the shape of a half-ball attached to a flat plate so as to impart a dual purpose to the equipment, with the half-ball side acting as a balance training piece of equipment while the flat plate may be incorporated into agility drills.

However, certain gymnasiums or home workout equipment sets may not have a bosu ball readily available for the exerciser to use, necessitating that a suitable alternative piece of equipment be found so as to allow the rehabilitation or workout program to continue unimpeded.

Several alternative pieces of exercise equipment and home-made implements can all substitute the use of a bosu ball with nearly no difference, with such things like specialized balance discs being just as effective an alternative as memory foam pillows or yoga balls.

Can the Bosu Ball be Substituted?

Yes, the bosu ball may be substituted quite easily, especially when making use of other types of exercise equipment specifically made for the same purposes as the bosu ball itself.

bosu ball

It is important for the exerciser to temper their expectations, however, as even though the bosu ball may be readily substituted in terms of its ability to impart a level of balance training that is difficult to replicate otherwise, substitute equipment may not entirely replicate the exact sort of stimuli produced by bosu balls.

This is primarily due to the difference in size, material used, and the general shape of a bosu ball, with the best possible substitutes to the bosu ball in terms of similarity simply being that of off-brand bosu ball products that aim to entirely replicate the hemisphere-shaped exercise equipment itself.

Bosu Ball Alternatives for Balance Training

The primary purpose of a bosu ball in most workout regimens is that of strengthening neural muscular connections for the purposes of maintaining balance and core stability during times of exercise induced physical tension.

When choosing to find an alternative piece of exercise to the bosu ball for this particular capacity, simply using exercise equipment specifically produced for the purpose of balance training should prove more than sufficient for the exerciser.

Balance Discs

A cushioned and flat disc oftentimes inflated with air or fluid for the purposes of being stood upon, balance discs work best as a bosu ball alternative for exercises that require the exerciser to remain standing on their two feet, such as in the case of bosu ball squats or functional Zumba exercise dancing.

Balance discs may also be used in a similar manner to the bosu ball for the purposes of athletic and agility drills, though they do lack the flat and solid baseboard that is normally found on the opposite side of most bosu balls.

Balance Boards

A type of specialized balance training equipment taking the shape of a flat board atop a roller or tube shaped contraption, balance boards are yet another excellent substitute to the bosu ball in terms of training an individual’s innate sense of balance and abdominal muscles for such a purpose.

balance board

Much like balance discs, balance boards are best used for the sort of exercises or drills that require the exerciser to remain standing on both feet as they balance themselves, making balance boards somewhat less applicable for exercises like bosu ball push-ups or similar exercises.

Roller Boards

Quite similar to a balance board in function, roller boards possess a foursome of wheels affixed to the bottom of a hard and flat plane where the exerciser is meant to stand upon, usually with the sizing of said plane being just small enough to make balancing atop it difficult while performing an exercise.

Roller boards are a common staple of gym classes, either in an institutional setting or in public exercise training.

It must be noted that the certain kinds of roller boards are meant to be sat upon instead of used as a standing balance training exercise equipment, and as such it is best to first ensure that one’s particular brand of roller board is capable of withstanding the exerciser’s body weight prior to usage.

This, however, has a benefit, as roller boards may be used for balance training exercises that require the exerciser to be in a prone or supine position as it is performed.

Balance Pads

Unlike the majority of the previous bosu ball alternatives mentioned in this article, the balance pad does not rely on the laws of physics or an individual’s own bodyweight to induce balance training stimuli, and instead works in a method similar to a memory foam pillow.

This is due to the fact that the balance pad and its subsequent material deforms around the feet of the exerciser as they rest their bodyweight on the pad, requiring the exerciser to adjust constantly as they perform other movements atop it.

Due to the flat and relatively small nature of the balance pad, it is not suitable for use in such exercises like push-ups or planks wherein the exerciser’s feet are not directly atop the pad itself.

Wobble Boards

Very similar in appearance, shape and usage to a bosu ball, wobble boards should be among one of the top candidates considered by the exerciser when choosing to substitute the bosu ball in their training or physical rehabilitation program.

Wobble boards function in a manner quite similar to the bosu ball, with the main difference being the fact that the half-sphere located along the bottom of the board is much smaller than the bosu ball itself, making it more difficult to balance upon and preventing the exerciser from standing atop said half-sphere.

This, by extension, precludes the use of the wobble board for usage in certain exercises that require such a position, though it is otherwise one of the best possible alternative pieces of equipment to the bosu ball.

Bosu Ball Alternatives for Abdominal Muscle Training

Though the particular use of a bosu ball is contested in its other functions, there is some evidence to prove that the use of said bosu ball while performing other exercises can greatly contribute to the activation of the rectus abdominis muscle, otherwise known as a primary component of the core stabilizer muscle group.

As such, if this particular characteristic of the bosu ball is what must be substituted when choosing a potential alternative, several other forms of exercise or exercise equipment may replicate much the same effect.

Hanging from a Pull-Up Bar

Though this may be difficult depending on the particular exerciser’s bodyweight, several abdominal exercises are capable of activating the core muscles in a similar manner to the bosu ball by simply hanging from a pull-up bar.

This may be seen in such exercises like static hangs, hanging knee-ups, or hanging stair climbers, wherein the exerciser is required to stabilize their own torso through sheer core strength so as to perform the exercise without falling or abandoning proper form.

Plank Exercises

With the primary form of muscular activation derived from the usage of a bosu ball being that of isometric contraction, it should be by no stretch of logic that performing similarly isometric type exercises can replicate much the same training stimuli imparted by bosu balls.

plank

As such, the classic plank exercise and other exercises that place the exerciser in the plank position can act as excellent substitutes to the bosu ball in terms of abdominal muscle training, alongside the other benefits found from whatever exercise is used.

Yoga Ball

Though not as resilient or convenient to use as a bosu ball, the usage of a yoga ball for certain exercises may help recreate the abdominal training benefit that is found in the usage of a bosu ball, especially in the sort of exercises that require the exerciser either be seated or place their feet atop the yoga ball as they lay in a prone position.

yoga ball

The yoga ball, then, can be surmised to be an excellent alternative to the bosu ball for such exercises like bosu ball push-ups, bosu ball planks or even highly dynamic and intense exercises like bosu ball mountain climbers.

Bosu Ball Alternatives for Athletic Drills and Aerobic Exercises

While the bosu ball no doubt fulfills its purpose as a balance training tool as well as a method of passively training the rectus abdominis while performing other exercises, it is also occasionally used in such veins of athleticism such as CrossFit or similar sports wherein its capacity as an athletic and aerobic drill implement can truly shine.

Due to its rather unique shape and material, the bosu ball may be rather difficult to alternate in such a function, though several pieces of equipment can replicate certain characteristics of the bosu ball, depending on the exercise intended to be performed.

Sliders

A single or pair of small disc shaped exercise tools meant to be placed beneath the hands or feet so as to reduce friction between the exerciser and the floor, sliders may substitute the bosu ball in such exercises like mountain climbers or archer push ups where the distal end of the limbs is meant to move dynamically as the exercise is performed.

While sliders do not immediately seem to replicate the function of a bosu ball, their use in dynamic exercises can induce significant improvements in the function and strength of an individual’s core muscles, as well as passively train their ability to balance, though the latter function depends on what sort of exercise is being performed.

Push Up Stands

Also called push up bars, push up stands can replicate the more practical function of a bosu ball in terms of having a semi-solid base from which the exerciser may suspend or support themselves from while performing a variety of exercises.

Push up stands need not be used entirely for the purposes of performing push ups, as other functions like acting as a pair of parallel bars for dips or leg raises can also be fulfilled, with the relatively small handles of the push up stands also imparting a passive level of balance training that is found in the bosu ball as well.

Push up stands are rather unsuitable for things like standing exercises or exercises that require the individual to rest their feet in an elevated position while supine or prone, primarily due to the shape and size of the push up stands themselves.

Medicine Balls

Usually taking the form of a textured and weighted ball with or without a handle built into one side, medicine balls may be used for a variety of purposes that the bosu ball itself would also fulfill the function of, such as in the performance of a medicine ball push up or overhead presses using the weighted ball.

medicine ball

Medicine balls, due to their shape and relatively small size, cannot advisably be stood upon so as to recreate the usage of a bosu ball in such a manner, and as such are best used as an alternative for other exercises that require an unstable platform for the hands or feet to be rested upon, or a low amount of weight be used as resistance.

References

1 Clark, K. M., Holt, L. E., & Sinyard, J. (2003). Electromyographic comparison of the upper and lower rectus abdominis during abdominal exercises. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 17(3), 475–483. doi:10.1519/1533-4287(2003)017<0475:ECOTUA>2.0.CO;2

2 Behm D, Colado JC. The effectiveness of resistance training using unstable surfaces and devices for rehabilitation. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2012 Apr;7(2):226-41. PMID: 22530196; PMCID: PMC3325639.

3 Behm DG, Muehlbauer T, Kibele A, Granacher U. Effects of Strength Training Using Unstable Surfaces on Strength, Power and Balance Performance Across the Lifespan: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2015 Dec;45(12):1645-69. doi: 10.1007/s40279-015-0384-x. Erratum in: Sports Med. 2016 Mar;46(3):451. PMID: 26359066; PMCID: PMC4656700.

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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