There is ongoing debate about the purpose of stability training devices. Tell us about your experience with wobble boards, Bosu trainers and stability disks. Did you experience improvements in fitness that were reflected in your/your client’s everyday function? Should these devices be used by everyone?
Well written review of exercise science dealing with stability devices.
Hi Andrew. Good stuff! Thanks. While I’m not sure of the efficacy of unstable surface training for “everyone,” I do a lot of work with girl athletes in particular, working on stability, balance and injury prevention (more specifically, the ‘reduction of risk’ of non-contact ACL knee injuries). I use many methods for improving the girl athlete’s balance and proprioception (e.g. pertubations on both stable and unstable surfaces, single leg balancing, jumping etc.). As one of the authors you site above stated:
“Balance training, along with other “neuromuscular” exercise such as jumping and agility drills, can reduce injury risk in sports such as soccer, basketball and volleyball. There’s also some evidence that simple balancing drills can reduce the risk of falls in older people.”
It is in this context, as well as some of my work with the elderly that I’ve found the most utility and carry-over effect. This is an interesting topic – thanks for bringing it up!
Great question, and thanks for the links Andrew.
I use the BOSU, a balance disc and stability ball with most of my clients. That said I do it more for exercise variety, fun and mental challenge rather than believing the skill will transfer. My clients are all 50 and older, and we do a lot of balance and reactive drills standing on a level surface. They certainly do nothing extreme on the balance “toys”, but it does add fun and variety to their training.
Like LaRue, I’ve often used balance training with clients who have had previous knee, hip or ankle injuries. I have found that most of my clients received some type of therapy for the previous injury, but stopped once they started “feeling” better. As a result, there may be some type of a muscle imbalance now. Using unstable surface training allows the weaker side to strengthen at its own pace, engaging the smaller ligaments and tendons.
I also work with a lot of runners. We use balance training to strengthen the ankle. As one runs from one leg to the other, out on trails or the road, runners deal constantly with changing surfaces and conditions. Balance training helps to prepare them for these encounters in a safe environment
I’ve also used it to add a bit of a challenge to my well conditioned clients. Fallls contribute to numberous injuries each year, some that eventually lead to other complications and death. By training the body to work on an unstable surface, they’re already conditioned to handle changing surfaces and less likely to fall. I’ve had numberous clients who have come to me saying “I’m such a clutz.” or “I have no coordination.” One of the first things they recognize, is that they’re not tripping as much as they used to before initiating a training program. They see the results for themselves.