Unstable surface training is an exercise that involves unstable surfaces such as; a balance disc, wobble board, Swiss ball (Physioball/exercise ball), and slings/rings. There is evidence to support the claims that unstable surface training will improve balance. However, you are likely to benefit the most from this form of training if you are in rehabilitation or you have ‘improving balance’ as a major training goal. Such training goals may correspond with the performance of activities such as surfing, windsurfing, kite surfing, skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, skateboarding, water skiing, etc.
POPULAR BUT QUESTIONABLE
If ‘improving balance’ isn’t a key training goal and you already possess good balance ability, then the benefit of unstable surface training is questionable. Higher quality research is required to provide greater detail as to what and when specific unstable surface exercises are beneficial. This research also needs systematic comparisons of unstable versus stable surface training.
I have spent years training with wobble boards and Swiss balls doing Pilates, and I can’t say that I got much out of it. Having said that I do like training with rings on occasion. Improving shoulder stability at the same time as training strength can’t be a bad thing.
For a continued discussion on improving balance, refer to balance.
1. Evidence supporting balance training in healthy individuals: a systemic review. DiStefano LJ, Clark MA, Padua DA. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Dec 23;(9):2718-31. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19910803
2. The effects of unstable surface balance training on postural sway, stability, functional ability and flexibility in women. Nepocatych S, Ketcham CJ, Vallabhajosula S, Balilionis G. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2016 Dec 16. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27991482
3. The effects of ten weeks of lower-body unstable surface training on markers of athletic performance. Cressey EM, West CA, Tiberio DP, Kraemer WJ, Maresh CM. J Strength Cond Res. 2007 May;21(2):561-7. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17530966
4. Effects of strength training using unstable surfaces on strength, power and balance performance across the lifespan: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Behm DG, Muehlbauer T, Kibele A, Granacher U. Sports Med. 2015; 45: 1645-1669. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26359066