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The Effectiveness of Resistance Training Using Unstable Surfaces and Devices for Rehabilitation

While the popularity of unstable resistance training (IRT) is evident in fitness training facilities, its effectiveness for optimal sport performance training has been questioned. The purpose of this clinical commentary is to explore the resistance training literature, which implements the use of unstable surfaces and devices to determine the suitability of IRT for rehabilitation.

The criticism of IRT for athletic conditioning is based on the findings of impaired kinetic measures such as force, power and movement velocity during a bout of IRT compared to traditional resistance training with more stable surfaces or devices. However, these deficits occur concurrently with minimal changes or in some cases increases in trunk and limb muscle activation. Compared to the kinetic deficits that are reported during unstable resistance exercises, the relatively greater trunk muscle activation indicates a greater stabilizing function for the muscles. IRT exercises can also provide training adaptations for coordination and other motor control issues, which may be more important for low back pain rehabilitation than strength or power enhancements.

Improvements in postural stability from balance training without resistance can improve force output which can then lead to a training progression involving an amalgamation of balance and IRT leading to higher load traditional resistance training.

Complete reference: Behm, D., & Colado, J, C. (2012). The effectiveness of resistance training using unstable surfaces and devices for rehabilitation. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 7(2):226-41. http://1.usa.gov/WlPrWp

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National Academy of Sports Medicine

National Academy of Sports Medicine

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  1. January 30, 2013 at 4:51 pm — Reply

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  2. sudesh
    January 31, 2013 at 5:37 pm — Reply

    Resistance training

  3. Jesus Revezzo
    February 7, 2013 at 7:22 pm — Reply

    Unstable surfaces to facilitate activation can be useful in either. Not to say high performance based training should use them though. The trainer or strength coach probably should not elevate someone to performance if they need additional activation. It could be used in warm up or cool down sessions but not when trying performance work as it could cause detrimental energy leaks. As for activation and awareness it can be very useful in early training or rehab. Once the muscles are active and the person can recognize them he/she should be given opportunities to integrate and learn to stabilize in a more natural way.

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