Swiss balls, balance boards, tilt disks, foam rollers and pads, inflated rubber disks and BOSU® Balance Trainers are all objects conspicuously placed around the floors of virtually every gym. Collectively, they comprise a class of exercise known as unstable training.
Originally used in clinical applications like the treatment of chronic ankle instability and lumbar spine injury, they’ve been widely adopted in the fitness industry for virtually everything from upper and lower body strength training, to core training exercises and even sports performance enhancement programmes.
But the truth is there’s little evidence to support the use of unstable training practices for general fitness – and little agreement on its benefits amongst the PhDs of motor learning.
The risks outweigh the rewards.
In fact, research* suggests that exercising on unstable surfaces is highly counter-productive method of training for general fitness. It compromises form and technique, disrupting movement mechanics and significantly increasing the risk of injury, with little positive effect on functional outcomes (performance enhancement).
Or in other words, you could be wasting your time unless you’re using unstable training under highly controlled conditions for clinical rehabilitation. We’re always happy to discuss how to achieve your fitness goal in the most effective, efficient and safe way possible, so let’s talk.
* Drinkwater, E.J., Pritchett, E.J., Behm, D.G. (2007). Effect of instability on unintentional squat-lifting kinetics. Int. J Sports Physiol Perform. 2(4): 400-413.