With the popularity of the BOSU and wobble boards on the rise, I've seen unstable surface training used and abused in the gym.
I cringe when I see trainers putting beginners on highly unstable surfaces and then suggest that they attempt to perform a squat or other lower-body exercises (often with weights!), as research has show that more often than not, there is more harm than good from these types of activities when performed by seasoned athletes:
While UST training was developed as a form of rehab therapy, it's important to understand that this type of training can actually increase the risk of injury if done improperly.
Based on the research that currently exists, the optimal approach for enhancing sports performance is to perform free-weight exercises while standing on a stable surface to increase muscular overload and the stimulus for strength gains.
While fitness enthusiasts should use caution in performing resistance exercises on unstable surfaces, I do feel that core training on unbalanced surfaces is very effective for building the core muscle groups for individuals at an intermediate fitness level or above.
My preference for performing these exercises is to use an Airex Balance Pad, which is professional grade equipment found in many rehab facilities and used for balance, coordination and stabilization training.
After using an Airex Balance Pad for several weeks I can attest to the fact that this is an extremely high quality piece of equipment and it provides enough instability whereas I'm able to optimize my workouts without putting myself at risk for unnecessary injury.
My recommendation would be to use the Airex Balance Pad in conjunction with an Airex mat if you do not have carpeting. Both can be purchased at Perform Better.
Some exercises you can perform using the Airex Balance Pad are included below. Many more, including sport specific exercises for tennis, soccer and golf, can be found here.
- Support your body weight with one arm of the pad, positioning yourself so that your side faces the floor and your feet are stacked.
- Hold position for 30 seconds, rest, and repeat on opposite side.
- Start in a push-up position with one or both feet on the floor and the Airex Balance Pad situated to the left or right of the hands.
- Move the outside hand over the near hand and on to the Airex.
- Reverse the movement and repeat.
- For variations try placing the pad in different positions around your hands.