In the late 1990s, unstable surface training became the mainstream of gyms in the United States. In recent years, instability training has also become a staple of China’s gyms, known as “private recesses” (or functional training areas).
The most common types of unstable training equipment include the Swiss ball, the bosu ball, inflatable disks, balance pads, and balance boards. In addition, some natural terrain, such as sand, can also provide instability, increasing balance and coordination challenges, and thus enhancing core muscle activation.
Over the years, these gadgets have gained notoriety among powerlifters and bodybuilders, who tend to look down on them and avoid them because they don’t think the so-called functional training will make your muscles bigger and stronger.
At the same time, some personal trainers are digging into these gadgets and starting to teach beginners or the physically challenged nothing but bosu and Swiss balls. Call it functional training.
What can unstable training do for you?
Unstable surface training was first used in clinical rehabilitation, especially in physical therapy, to promote ankle and knee sprains by using balance devices such as roller boards as interference.
Many studies have shown that training with unstable equipment can reduce the likelihood of anterior cruciate ligament injury, lower back pain, and improve soft tissue stability in the knee and ankle joints.
Adding unstable movements to the training program can improve the body’s perceptual function, proprioception, and allow the central nervous system to receive better feedback to improve joint dysfunction.
The problem with erratic training
Unstable training ignores the principle of specific adaptation.
Almost all sports exert force on a stable surface, while instability is further applied to the dynamic chain.
In competition, the feet are on stable ground, while the torso and arms are in an unstable position. This is why unstable plane training may be more useful when training the core and upper limbs. This means that we need to be more specific in training for lower limb instability.
Unstable surface training can impair the function of the extensional contraction cycle (SSC) in healthy athletes.
Think about it. Most sports, such as track and field, weight lifting, etc., take place at high speed and involve a high degree of stretch/contraction cycling (SSC).
Instability training also lengthens the break between centrifugal and centripetal in the stretch and contraction cycle, so the force generated following the centrifugal preload is relatively low. It’s like jumping in the sand, any stored elastic energy is lost, so you can’t generate enough force.
Finally, with erratic training, the rate of power output is significantly lower, and the overall power output of the main power muscle groups may be only 70 percent of what it is at steady, which means that your neuromuscular coordination is harder to develop.
Go back to basics and focus more on free strength training
Free weight training, such as squat, pull-spin and unilateral motion patterns with barbells and dumbbells, also involves a degree of instability and is better at simultaneously training all connected dynamic chains, providing training stimuli that are even better than unstable training for building and improving core stability performance.
When we do the dumbbell unilateral push, can exercise the anti-rotation ability of the opposite trunk very well; The one-handed farmer walks, exercises the core’s ability to resist lateral flexion, migrates to daily life carrying heavy objects with one hand, and thus has better functional value.
In conclusion, we should know when to use unstable training and when a better training method can be used instead.