I did a single-leg Bosu ball deadlift every day for a week — and it nearly beat me

a photo of a man on a bosu ball
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ever wondered what those bouncy, dome shaped pieces of equipment are at the gym? The Bosu Ball, which is essentially a large inflatable stability ball cut in half with a flat, hard surface, might look a little odd, but there’s an array of different exercises that can be done on them. 

One such exercise is the single-leg Bosu Ball deadlift. It’s a move that requires epic balance and some serious stability. I decided to take it upon myself to do a few sets of this movement every day, for a week. Why? Because what doesn’t challenge you won’t change you, and I am always down for a way to work my body in new ways.

There are several benefits to incorporating the Bosu Ball into your workouts, but the main benefit is you’ll work on your balancing skills. This means that your core has to work hard to keep your body upright, making Bosu ball exercises a great way to tone your mid-section too. What’s more, the Bosu Ball is also ideal for single leg exercises as it places more emphasis on working the leg muscles, challenging them and making them stronger.

What is a single-leg Bosu Ball deadlift? 

As you might have guessed, this is a single-leg deadlift, but on a Bosu Ball. The Bosu Ball deadlift can be done with or without weight (take a look at the best adjustable dumbbells and best kettlebells for working out at home here), however, I would say it’s best to start with no weight so you can get to grips with the exercise first. 

If you are choosing the weighted version of this exercise, remember it’s unlikely you’ll be using the same weight as you would use on a regular single-leg deadlift, because you have the added challenge of the Bosu ball. 

  • To do this movement with good form, place your left foot on the centre of the Bosu Ball’s flat surface. The round side should be on the ground. Your left leg should hover just slightly behind you, foot off the Bosu Ball.
  • Engage your core and bend at the hips. As you bend the hips back, extend your right leg straight behind you, lowering your torso towards your knees and maintaining a flat back.
  • If you’re doing this with a dumbbell in each hand, arms should be straight down in front of you and the dumbbells should pause at about shin height.
  • Then, squeezing your glutes and maintaining that flat back, bring your hips back to neutral, lowering your straight right leg back to the start.

No Bosu Ball? No problem. Try using a balance board — a smaller round surface which is attached to a very small half sphere. Balance boards will actually make the exercise harder, as the sphere is much smaller than the round surface of the Bosu ball. 

I did a single-leg Bosu ball deadlift every day for a week — here’s what happened  

Is this my hardest Tom’s Guide challenge yet?

On day one, I realized I’d perhaps bitten off more than I could chew here. I did one rep and was wobbling all over the shop — single-leg Bosu Ball deadlifts are hard. I had to use a nearby gym bench for support, although this made the move feel less glute and leg focused as it took away a lot of the weight from my lower body. 

They hit your quads and glutes

My quads felt engaged as soon as I stood upright on the Bosu Ball, and as I tilted my leg back into the single-leg deadlift, I felt my glutes firing, particularly on the leg that’s still on the Bosu Ball. Adding weight only emphasises this muscle activation, however, I definitely found that adding weight makes it much harder to balance.

I did improve over the week

I’d say I improved as the week went on, however I’d like to flag that these improvements were marginal. I was doing about three to four unaided reps by the end of the week rather than my measly one rep. 

Take your shoes off for better control

Although it can feel a bit odd taking your shoes off at the gym, you might find that your stability and balance actually improve when taking off your shoes for single-leg Bosu Ball deadlifts. I noticed a much better connection with the Bosu Ball and it allowed me to grip with my toes while also really pressing my heel into the flat surface. If you’re someone who wears chunky running shoes to the gym, try taking them off for this move.

One side felt easier than the other

I’m left handed and found that when I had my left leg on the Bosu Ball and my right leg lifting behind me, I felt far more in control. It is normal for the sides of the body to be a little uneven, so if this applies to you, don’t worry. Instead, I’m taking it as an opportunity to test my progress and try to improve over the coming weeks and months so my right side can match my left. 

My core worked in overdrive

For good balance, the muscles in your core are working hard — after all, it’s your torso, in the middle of your body, that helps to keep your body upright. Although I wasn’t doing the usual crunches, v-sits and leg raises, my core was certainly being worked during this exercise.

I did a single-leg Bosu ball deadlift every day for a week — here’s my verdict 

I’ve found my nemesis with the exercise. As a personal trainer, I can usually get to grips with an exercise pretty quickly, but this one certainly tested me as it required so much balance. This week has taught me that I need to work on my right side to make it stronger and to improve the stability and balance in that side of my body. 

I do think practice makes perfect, and as the week went on, I did see small improvements. If you already find it easy, more weight can be added to make it more difficult. I will definitely be incorporating more single-leg Bosu Ball deadlifts into my training — I love a challenge, so I’m keen to see how much better I can become at this exercise. Watch this space.

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Lucy Gornall

Lucy is a freelance health and fitness journalist as well as a pre and post-natal personal trainer. Although a sweaty gym session (skipping rope is a must) is her favorite way to ‘relax’, she’s also a fan of bingeing on The Office, snacking on chocolate-coated raisins, and fizz-filled brunches with friends.