Nearly all of the research in this search says there is either no statistical difference in effectiveness or “The diminished force output suggests that the overload stresses required for strength training necessitate the inclusion of resistance training on stable surfaces.”
The SAID (specific adaptation to imposed demand) still applies, and if my goal were to make somebody as strong as possible in any given exercise, I would not opt for an unstable surface. if I were sure that the person already had very strong core muscles.
However, in the process of getting him/her there, I like unstable surfaces and usually see improvement in peripheral strength just by strengthening the core. Personally, I like to include unstable apparatus for it but Pilates and other modalities are just as valid.
The research doesn’t go counter at to any weight training principles (nor it should at all). I would definitely have my clients training on a stable surface to maximize their strength gains (due to a higher cost of failure if done on an unstable surface).
Every piece of equipment has its time and place and any good trainer should recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each type of equipments. I guess the unfortunate matter is when a trainer or any person working out gets obsessed with a particular type of equipment that they want to apply that to everything they do. This is kind of how “functional training” (which should actually be simple to get anyone to do) becomes something of a circus act. Trainers or uneducated people adding in equipments to make things a little bit harder and justifying it as “functional training.”
Hello Chris Lutz,
When is the last time a surfer went out on the waves with weights? Hmm, am I going to see a video of this now? Has anyone seen the new surfboard workout?
For strength gains we stick with stable surfaces; no circus acts, thank you.
For balance, we do unstable surface work without resistance.
That does the trick for us and no one gets hurt.
Thanks, Natalie. Yes, that would be absurd.
But, regarding balance, don’t we also know that there is no one balance skill or motor pathway. Each movement is specific unto itself with each change including any resistance differences involved creates a new motor pathway. There’s no way to train for a general “balance” skill or sense. For example,
“Skillful and efficient performance in a particular technique can be developed only by practice of that technique. Only in this way can the necessary adjustments in the neuromuscular mechanism be made to ensure a well-coordinated movement (p. 507).” “Strength or endurance training activities must be specific to the demands of the particular activity for which strength or endurance is being developed. The full range of joint action, the speed, and the resistance demands of the movement pattern should be duplicated in the training activity (p. 465).”
Luttgens, K., & Hamilton, N. (1997). Kinesiology: Scientific basis of human motion. Madison, W: Brown & Benchmark.
“A common misconception is that fundamental abilities can be trained through various drills and other activities…For example, athletes are often given various ‘quickening’ exercises, with the hope that these exercises would train some fundamental ability to be quick, allowing quicker response in their particular sport. There are two correct ways to think of these principles.
First, there is no general ability to be quick, to balance, or to use vision…Second, even if there were such general abilities, they are, by definition, genetic and not subject to modification through practice…A learner may acquire additional skill at a drill…but this learning does not transfer to the main skill of interest” (Schmidt, 1991, p. 222).”
Schmidt, R. A. (1991). Motor learning and performance: From principle to practice. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Some of those quote got off the balance argument, but they refer to the general vs. specific nature (or lack thereof) of training.