Unstable surface training

An exercise ball allows a wide range of exerci...

An exercise ball allows a wide range of exercises to be performed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Resistance exercise has been recognized as an essential component of a comprehensive training program for all athletes. The types of resistance exercise performed are dictated by the specific physiological and biomechanical demands of a sport or position within a sport. In recent years, there has been increase emphasis in performing resistance exercise in unstable body positions. Because sport skills are often performed in unstable body positions like tennis, baseball pitcher wind-up, shooting a puck while balancing on a single blade in hockey. Resistance exercise performed in unstable body positions have been hypothesized to increase the muscular strength and muscular endurance of the core musculature, which may translate to more powerful and efficient movement patterns and less risk of injury.

The word ‘core’ is used to collectively describe a group of muscles that stabilizes the lumbar spine and pelvis. These muscles include the rectus abdominus, transversus abdominus, internal and external obliques, erector spinae, and multifidi.

Several factors determine the extent to which stability is challenged when performing a resistance exercise. The resistance exercise can be increased through modifications in the base support (stable surface vs. unstable surface), body position (seated vs. standing), the type of equipment you use (machine vs. free weight), or how the exercise is performed (unilateral or bilateral). Research demonstrated increased muscle activation in the core because of performing resistance exercise on unstable surfaces.


Increasing stability should be an important objective of all sports conditioning programs. Sport skills are often performed in unstable body positions therefore performing resistance exercises on unstable surfaces such as a wobble board, Swiss ball, stability disc has been widely promoted as the most effective method for increasing sports specific stability.

All though researches has demonstrated the effectiveness of resistance exercise performed on unstable surfaces for untrained and recreational trained individuals, these findings may not be applicable to elite athletes. Reason why, the muscular strength or muscular endurance levels of elite athlete may ultimately reach the point at which resistance exercises performed on unstable surfaces do not provide an effective overload for the core or limb musculature.

Based on the principle of specificity, free weight exercises performed while standing on a solid level surface might be most effective for developing the type of stability needed for most sports. By performing resistance exercise in this manner, muscular overload is not greatly reduced allowing strength, ore endurance, and sports specific stability to be developed simultaneously. However, resistance exercise performed on a Swiss ball or Wobble board can be used for variety and may reduce the incidence of injuries when combined with other exercise modalities such as plyometrics and running drills.


About bexercise

-Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology - Certified Personal Trainer -1 time OCAA basketball Champion -1 time international basketball Champion -1 time OFSAA basketball Champion -5 time Regional basketball Champion -5 time Metro basketball Champion -16 time Gold medal Track and Field Champion

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