Why you won’t ever catch me doing things on a Bosu…
First of all, what’s a BOSU… It stands for Both Sides Up. Because guess what, you can use it either way up.
It’s a tool used to create instability, i.e. it wobbles. The theory is that because it creates instability, it makes training harder. So, for example, if you can normally squat, I dunno, 40kg, you’d struggle to get more than 25kg on a BOSU. The theory is you work harder to fight the instability and you need to activate your core more.
Which would be extremely useful if the world was made of jelly, but, thankfully it’s not.
But the real reason I object to it is because my training has a very specific objective: to increase strength and power (where power is defined as strength at speed).
In a similar way, the training I deliver to my clients also has a specific objective: to increase strength (not so much power).
And in order to increase strength and power you need to be able to apply maximal force. And as noted above, you can’t apply maximal force when you’re wobbling around on jelly…
So, my squats need to be with the heaviest load I can manage for the given number of reps. Anything less is non-specific. It might look fancy. It might feel hard, but it doesn’t fit the objective.
There’s another (slightly technical) reason. Unstable surfaces lengthen the time between the eccentric and concentric phase of a movement. So, the force production that follows eccentric preloading is considerably less. It’s like trying to jump out of sand. You just can’t generate enough force because of any stored elastic energy is lost before you can activate it.
This is ESPECIALLY important for jumpers and sprinters. Because it’s the exact opposite of what we want to achieve. Let me explain. If you’re squatting on an unstable platform you’re creating a time lapse between the down portion and the up portion of the squat. Whereas, jumpers and sprinters want to be able to produce the maximal force, in the shortest possible time = power man…
But what about core stability, I hear you say… Well what d’ya think is stopping my back from collapsing under the heavy squat load? You have to be strong in your core to lift maximal weights… And if it’s not strong enough, or you need additional work on it, my go-tos are plank variations, hollow holds, roll outs and anything done in a long position… (i.e. with a long torso. Because guess what, we don’t do very many activities in a crunched up or sit up position do we? In life or athletics!)
But surely, triple jump and long jump are pretty unstable events? You’re jumping, shifting weight from left to right, fighting rotation, all at speed. True, it is a very unstable event, but the specific way to train that is to do lots and lots of very specific drills: bouncing, hopping, jumping followed by more bouncing, hopping and jumping… And in the gym, you train it through lunges, split squats and single leg deadlifts! With the heaviest weight you can manage for the required reps!
Specificity – that’s the key word.
And here’s another point: if I was 21 and a professional athlete with lots of time for training and recovery, then maybe I’d be inclined to give it a go… for the change if nothing else.
But I’m 41 and rarely get enough time for training or recovery. So the more time short you are the more specific your training needs to be. Always looking for the best bang for your buck!
And back to you, my lovely clients who are reading it. You’re also time short. So in order to get you strong, we need to train you using the maximal load that you can manage.
And that’s why, unless the world turns to jelly, you’ll never catch me on a BOSU…
Interested in the science? One of the main studies is this: Cressey, E. et al. The effects of ten weeks of lower-body unstable surface training on markers of athletic performance. J Strength Cond Res.21(2):561-7. 2007.