Squat and dead lift vs stability ball exercises for core activation

Unstable Surface Training (UST) has moved from being used almost exclusively in rehabilitation to becoming common place among personal trainers and strength coaches. One can’t go to a gym and not see somebody training on a Bosu ball, stability ball, wobble board or foam pad. It’s so popular entire books have been written on this type of training. But do not be fooled by its popularity.

UST is not popular because it works, but because of a tremendous media campaign. The fitness industry is always looking for something new. They know here’s huge money in marketing a piece of equipment and/or workout program.

Performing exercises on unstable equipment can be challenging no doubt, but research has not shown that the type of balance, and core stability developed through UST will transfer to any sports skill. Performing exercises on unstable equipment will make an individual proficient at performing resistance exercises on unstable surfaces but will not improve sports performance. Is UST training even necessary?

Researchers from Appalachian State University compared trunk muscle activity during stability ball and free weight exercises. The stability ball exercises utilized were the quadruped, pelvic thrust and ball back extensions. The free weight exercises were the squat (SQ) and deadlift (DL). During all exercises muscle activity was collected using electromyography (EMG).

During the study trunk muscle activity during SQ and DL’s was equal to or greater than which was produced during stability ball exercises. This was true even when 50% of the 1 rep max was used during SQ and DL. The role of UST is again shown to be in question.
(Journal of Strength Conditioning Research 22:95-101,2008)

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