Updated: Oct 14, 2018
It still surprises me to hear of trainers utilizing unstable surfaces to improve strength or power or for so called balance training. It frustrates me to know that people are still standing on these tools and performing squats or bicep curls or any additional exercise the trainer can think of to reduce boredom for their client instead of the trainer developing a progressive goal specific program based on adaptation and movement restrictions.
Now, there are some rehab benefits to using these tools but since the term “Functional training” has exploded in the industry these tools are being used incorrectly to promote Sport performance and improve daily tasks, it is much more beneficial for the human body to be rooted into the ground! Our brain understands this concept and standing on BOSU’s or stability balls isn’t the answer. It should be in every list of goals to improve strength and power development plus improve speed and reduce injuries.
why is this such an important topic?
The human body must create a strong foundation of efficient CORRECT movement. Many people think that standing on unstable surfaces “strengthens stabilizers”. Stabilizers such as rotator cuff, deep glutes, ankle stabilizers, transverse abs are reflex driven. These take on an immediate response to movement in the body to correct and support. It’s correct motor control and when these “stabilizers” work the way we want them to work we reduce risk and move better. Muscles in our body must work together in order for CORRECT movement to occur. We must be able to squat, lunge and step. Stand on one leg, chop, lift and rotate all with the appropriate ability to create and control mobility and have the appropriate stability.
Let’s take a look at squatting while standing on an unstable service. Ask yourself WHY? If you are looking to improve strength the last thing your brain wants to do is improve your strength output. It is doing its best to avoid falling off this unstable service. It becomes a joke of an exercise with little or no strength gains and with most individuals moving poorly due to postural or mobility restrictions because of repetitive daily patterns, the last thing they should be doing is a circus act.
Stop trying to improve strength on top of dysfunction! Start improving balance by improving mobility. Movement restriction in the body down regulates (decreases) effort in order to protect itself. Restriction forces you to give up the stability you need in order to move. Just because it’s hard or it burns doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do! For example, If you lack hip mobility you may compensate in the low back while you try to squat. Now what may happen if you try this on an unstable surface?
You are learning incorrect patterns on unstable surfaces. Sure, that may seem to get easier the more you do it but you simply will get better at standing on an unstable surface. Now put yourself into game play with ground reaction force and opposing players and you have done nothing to improve your performance. Your brain and body hasn’t been following a sound program because you have wasted your time in circus play.
What would give you more benefit? Try standing on one leg with eyes open AND eyes closed. Narrow your base of support. Perform ½ kneeling patterns, chops and educate yourself on WHY!