The Bosu 101

Have you wondered what the new piece of equipment, which looks like a giant blue marshmallow is all about? It’s not so simply called a ‘Bosu’, which is an acronym for "both sides up". One side is a solid platform 25 inches across, the other side is domed shaped similar to half a swiss ball. The bosu can be used with solid side down or up creating two distinctive balancing modes.


This unique design makes the bosu an extremely versatile and functional piece of equipment. A small group of professional and Olympic teams first used prototypes of the bosu in 1999. David Weck invented the bosu when he saw a need for a safe and effective piece of equipment that challenges the users balance, core stability and pro-perception. The bosu has two unique properties. Firstly, it is very versatile you can use the bosu for many training modes such as: strength, power, cardio, rehab and core stability training. Secondly, no matter what mode of training you are performing on the bosu balance and stability will also be a factor.


The bosu works great as a platform for traditional weight training exercises. Leg exercises such as squats and deadlifts, upper body exercises such as dumbbell press and one arm rows can performed using the bosu as a base of support. Power training such as plyometrics can be performed using the bosu. Try jumping on and off the bosu at different angles not only are you performing a plyometric but the changes in angles help improve agility necessary for most sporting situations. Group fitness classes using bosu’s for cardiovascular exercise can already be found in the USA. If they haven’t already started it is only a matter of time before a class similar to step classes will be started in New Zealand. Jogging or stepping on to the bosu will give you a cardiovascular response similar to using a rebounder or stepping on to a box.


The bosu works very much the same way as a wobble board is used in rehabilitation. Standing on an unstable platform increases the amount of work the stabilizating muscles have to do to keep balance. The properceptive system (senses body’s position) also has to work a lot hard to maintain a balanced posture. Overloading these systems will in a normal situation increase their ability to function. The bosu can be used to perform many of the same core stability exercises found using a swiss ball. Because of the unique nature of the bosu, new core stability exercise can be perform such as rollout while kneeling on the bosu or bridging with elbows on the domed side. The variation of exercises and modes of training using the bosu is huge. Because of the doubled sided nature of the bosu some exercise can be made more difficult by having the dome-side facing down. An example would be performing squats on the solid-side up.


The most important factor the bosu has to offer is no matter what mode of training you perform balance and stability will also be trained at the same time. This makes the bosu a great piece of equipment for the average exercises enthusiasts to the professional athlete. The two for one deal is a great way to save time allocated towards training. With today’s busy lifestyle time set aside for training is at a premium, for example the bosu gives you the opportunity to strength train and work on stability at the same time. Sporting situations place great demands on balance and stability, exercises using the bosu gives you a more sports specific style of training. For example performing squats on a bosu not only improves strength but also places great demands on balance and stability.


If you are looking for more information on training with the bosu there are DVDs, videos and books found on the Internet at sites such as If you do not have access to a bosu, try the larger sporting retail stores. Prices range around £70.


The Exercises


The following exercises can be used in addition to an individual existing exercise programme. Before commencing any exercise seek clearance from a medical practitioner. If possible have a qualified instructor check your technique.


Do not hold your breath, breathe out on exertion. Maintain a neutral spine position and switch on your inner core on before starting exercises. Maintain technique throughout exercise, once you lose your technique -stop! Make sure you perform all exercises in a cleared area with no chance of contacting objects during falls.


The following exercises are not to be used as a programme; they are merely an example of verity of different exercise modes that the bosu can be used.




1. Bosu Squats (Strength training)

Bosu squats can be performed with a barbell, dumbbells, medicine balls or simply body weight. A great exercise for strengthening the back and lower limbs. The nature of the exercise places greater demands on muscle stability and balance compared to traditional squats. Performing bosu squats with curved side down increases the difficultly of the exercise.


Starting position

Feet should be width apart, toes forward and slightly outward. Keep elbows directly under the bar, eyes on the horizon and the chest up. Move with hips first then knees.


Down phase

Squat as if sitting into a chair, keeping the abdominals strong. Stop decent if you start to lose your balance or the pelvis tilts backward. Stop when the thighs are parallel to floor.


Up phase

Drive through your heels using your glutes and quads. Keep eyes on the horizon, abdominals strong and the chest up throughout the movement. Do not lock your knees at the top of the movement.


2. Alternating M/ball Bosu press (Power training)

Mixing elements of power and stability training this exercise can be very demanding. This exercise will increase upper body (chest) power when performed with explosive speed. The nature of the exercise will help increase coordination and stability of the upper body.


Starting position

Place two bosu’s just greater then shoulder width apart. Start with the medicine ball next to the left hand bosu. You can perform full press-ups or start on your knees depending on your training experience. Place your left hand on the medicine ball and your right hand on the bosu to the right.


Down and up phase

Perform a press up until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. As you come up to the starting position move your left hand first by rolling the medicine ball to the bosu on the right. Then place your left hand on the bosu on the left. As you do this place your right hand on the medicine ball next the bosu on the right. Repeat steps on opposite sides until rep range has been reached.


3. One-legged balance (Balance/Rehab training)

This is a joint stability and balance exercise. A one-legged balance exercise is usually performed for rehabilitation of the lower limbs, hips or lower back. Because the bosu produces an unstable platform, this exercise helps increase stability of the ankles, knees and hips. When performing rehabilitation exercises always seek guidance from a qualified professional.


Starting and finishing position

Place one foot on the centre of the bosu. Slowly step up and raise the opposite foot slightly of the bosu by bending your knee. Try to keep your hips level with each other. Keep your eyes on the horizon and the chest up throughout entire exercise. Hold this position for 10-20 sec or until you lose balance. Repeat with opposite side. Always start with weaker side first.


4. Rollouts on Bosu (Core stability training)

Rollouts on a bosu will place demands on balance and inner core strength. This exercise highlights the need to have a strong integration between the inner core and the thorax muscles, which in turn, are linked to our legs and arms.


Starting position

Kneel on a bosu while placing both arms in the middle of a swiss ball, which is about half a metre away. Maintain a neutral back and neck position at all times throughout the entire exercise.


Finishing position

Slowly roll the swiss ball away from the bosu. Maintain a neutral back and neck position at all times throughout the entire exercise. Make sure your forearms are in contact with the S/balls and your inner core muscles are switched on. As your increase in core strength increase the distance your roll the swiss ball away. Slowly return to starting position.




Richard Leonard BSc Sports and Exercise Science

Personal Trainer

M: 07511468490

Web: Personal Training Clifton





Twitter: @LesmillsPT

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