Sunday Sweat Talk {Unstable Surface Training}

A couple of months ago, I splurged and bought myself a bosu ball. It was definitely an impromptu decision after training on them all day at my MMA Fighter Fit certification, but I learned a lot of new moves using the bosu that weekend. It was also on sale. Like super duper sale. My at home fitness equipment collection was starting to get boring, so a bosu seemed like a good solution to add some variety.

MMA Fighter Fit - Bosu & AirFit

Despite my purchase, I have mixed feelings about using the bosu as a workout tool. If the bosu is used correctly and creatively, it can be a fun piece of equipment to shake things up in a workout routine. However, I know many fitness professionals out there who will argue that unstable surface training is not all that cracked up as everyone makes it out to be.

Here are some reasons for this:

  • You can’t use nearly as much weight while training on an unsteady surface. I know that I can lift much more when both feet are standing on steady ground than when I’m wobbling around on a bosu. And lifting heavy equals results. You think there’s any chance of me deadlifting over 100 pounds while standing on a bosu? No way.
  • Quality of form often gets compromised, which can lead to injury. This kind of goes hand in hand with the first reason because it’s when trying to use too much weight on the bosu that you often see form go right out the window. But even just bodyweight exercises can lead to bad form. Buckling knees on bodyweight squats, arched backs or butts in the air during pushups and planks, etc. are very common things to see in your everyday exerciser who doesn’t know any better while using a bosu.
  • Core strength can be obtained in better ways. Using a bosu DOES challenge the core, but it’s not the end all be all to core strength training like many inexperienced people claim it is. I know that when I am holding a heavy barbell on my back in a back squat, I am using a LOT of core strength to be able to get through my full range of motion.

Weighted Barbell Squat

When I do train with the bosu, I really don’t use it much as a tool to stand on like many people do (and how I used to do myself). I know I’ve posted a couple of workouts on F&F before that include exercises standing on the bosu, but my views have simply changed over time and with more experience. Whenever I stand on the bosu now, it’s either 1) for rehabilitation or balance work, such as building the strength back up in my weak ankle after spraining it in January, or 2) for cardio, power, or explosive types of exercises that don’t focus on using weights.

For the latter, I love coming up with creative exercises that fit these categories. I like to pick the bosu up and LIFT it as part of my workouts by doing burpees with bosu halos and bosu sprawls. I like to punch the crap out of it for upper body work. I like to do core work on the bosu, but again, I prefer moves such as walking planks and oblique hip dips instead of awkwardly wobbling on one leg while curling 5 pound weights in each arm. How boring is that? When teaching, I like to use the bosu in stations classes to introduce members to these different types of exercises.

Stations Workout

I guess the point I’m trying to make in this post is to just be careful if you are doing unstable surface training. Save the weights for a different workout so you can lift heavier and safely. If you can’t yet do a regular pushup with good form and DEPTH without dropping to your knees, don’t do them on the bosu just because it seems like you’ll get more results that way. Use the bosu to work on balance, or try to think of ways to lift and hit the bosu instead.

Maybe I’ll do a post soon on some of my favorite creative bosu exercises. Just not today because I’m recovering from Katrina’s bachelorette party last night, and nobody wants to see me try to do anything that requires an unstable surface today.

–Let’s chat–
Do you incorporate unstable surface training into your workouts? Do you ever exercise using a bosu ball? What’s your favorite way to use them? After reading this post, do you think about some of the “traditional” standing bosu exercises in a different light? Agree or disagree, I’d love to hear from you!

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