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Stability Training That Actually Works!

Sometimes we hear people bad mouth methods of training even though we all used them in the past. We play off like we knew the whole time that things didn’t work, but we really didn’t! A great example is the use of unstable tools for stability training.

Many people get upset when I present at conferences about this topic and I tell them that unstable surfaces don’t build strength like they think with stability training. I try to explain to them that I did the same thing so I am not judging anyone. Heck, we all try things and then later learn whether they work or not.

A paper by Behm et al. stated, “The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) position stand on the use of instability to train the core or trunk musculature does not fully endorse instability training for athletic or sport performance training. They state, “ground based free weights are highly recommended for athletic conditioning of the core musculature as they can provide the moderately unstable environments to augment core and limb muscle activation while still providing maximal or near maximal force and power outputs”.

The famous Willardson study on unstable surfaces found, “The current study did not demonstrate any advantage in utilizing the BOSU Balance Trainer. Therefore, fitness trainers should be advised that each of the aforementioned lifts can be performed while standing on stable ground without losing the potential core muscle training benefits.”

Does that mean instability training has no place in our programs? Not at all! We just have to understand what better options we have in using instability. Let’s look at 3 examples.

Going Unilateral

One of the big reasons we have the progressions of DVRT in the manner we do is because we realize that progressing to more unilateral forms of training is one of the best forms of combining strength and stability. That is why even when the loads are lighter on some drills they can actually be MORE challenging than heavier loaded exercises that are more stable.

The Arc Press is a powerful example of more unilateral based training that people often overlook. Cory Cripe breaks down what we are really looking to achieve and ways we can add layers to build more sophisticated movement strength. 

Different Planes of Motion

As performance expert, Dr. Brandon Marcello stated, stability training is simply “allowing wanted movement while resisting unwanted movement.” A great example of applying this concept is when we move in different planes of motion. If you want to think about it in moving different directions that can help.

Why is this a strategy we want to employ? When we move in different directions we have to combine allowing movement and resisting forces that are trying to push our body out of alignment. It is this reason that the MAX lunge is such a powerful drill and one of the best examples.

When you are moving in one direction the load is moving in another direction. You not only have to lift the weight, but resist the forces pulling on your body. Megan Berner breaks down important concepts of this in the MAX lunge.

Shake N’ Bake

So, we’ve made an argument against the unstable surface method, but what about the other extreme? That is the “everything shakes” method. What do I mean? Whether it is attaching weights to bars via bands, or barbells that actually are designed to shake, are we actually building stability or just getting people to shake violently.

You see, many coaches think when the body is shaking like crazy that means we are turning on stabilizes and performing stability training. What is REALLY happening is that our nervous system is FREAKING out! Like the unstable surfaces, these different types of tools are extreme versions of instability that often result in the body just trying to hang on for dear life!

Even former Stanford Performance Director and current consultant to the U.S. Special Forces, Dr. Brandon Marcello, has made this point many times (you can listen to our interview with him HERE) and came up with the following point below.

stability training

What you see is the major point about stability training most people don’t realize. That true stability training is about building greater motor control. What’s that?! A great easy definition of motor control is, “The process of initiating, directing, and grading purposeful voluntary movement.”

Jessica demonstrates what we are looking to achieve in more advanced motor control concepts that truly enhance stability training. 

Um, okay, what does that mean? For many of us, focusing on building greater movement pattern proficiency is how we build greater motor control. Learning to take a hip hinge, for example, and be able to express it in many different directions and positions is a great way of thinking of this concept. In other words, teaching the body to produce seamless and efficient movement in a variety of means. So, it isn’t about the unstable surface or the bouncing weights. It is about understanding how we create and progress movement concepts to achieve lessons of movement that our body takes and can apply to real life.

Check out what real stability training is all about from the man himself, Dr. Brandon Marcello, at our upcoming Power and Resiliency summit where you can save $50 for 24 hours more with code “dvrt50” HERE

stability training