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The Truth on Fitness: Should I Wobble While I’m Exercising?


Cybex Research InstituteOne of the most popular trends in fitness centers is exercise on physioballs, balance boards, tilt disks, foam rollers and pads, inflated rubber disks, and Bosu’s™, collectively thought of as unstable surfaces. The rationale behind this approach is that the inconsistent motion increases muscle activity, leading to enhanced joint stability, balance, and functional strength.

But while patients with chronic joint instability have benefitted from unstable training, normal healthy individuals seeking real strength and power improvements have not.

In fact, several different research studies have revealed that training on unstable surfaces reduces overall force output and rate of tension development by as much as 70%.  A recent study demonstrated that performing deadlifts on unstable surfaces produced lower levels of muscle activation and less force output than doing the same exercises on solid ground.

Truth on FitnessMaintaining balance on a moving object may be challenging, but if you really want to get stronger, which is the best way to improve function, then step off the merry-go-round and exercise on solid ground.

For more information on unstable surfaces, check out the full article at Truth on Fitness: Unstable Surfaces.

Paul M. Juris, Ed.D.
Executive Director, CYBEX Institute for Exercise Science

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Dr. Juris earned his Doctorate in Motor Learning from Columbia University in 1993, followed by a variety of positions in higher education, rehabilitative medicine, professional sports, and fitness. Paul Juris, Ed.D. was named Executive Director of the CYBEX Institute for Exercise Science in January of 2007.

Cybex is a provider and manufacturer of premium commercial fitness equipment.  Content featured in the Cybex Fitness Blog is meant to inspire healthy living and wellness and should not be taken as medical advice. For medical advice please consult a doctor. 



We have Cybek equipment in our Church Activity Center which workout on each week. I am 75 years old & have back problems and have been using your equipment for 2 years, 3 days per week. I need to do stretching exercises after each machine because I am not very flexable. Please guide me to a source for what stretching I should do after each of your exercise machines to improve my flexability.
Posted @ Tuesday, March 15, 2011 8:23 AM by Ray Fryrear
Dr. Juris, 
This is something many of us have been saying since we first saw these activities being brought to the main stream. It has been my experience that these activities are used by trainers who are lacking the skills to keep clients focused on results and need something like this to entertain them, one to keep their interest and two to give themselves value in the eyes of the clients. 
Thank you for writing this article, I will be passing it on to our trainers at Vertex Fitness and to clients and perspective clients. 
Dwayne Wimmer 
Vertex Fitness Personal Training Studio
Posted @ Wednesday, April 27, 2011 4:46 PM by Dwayne Wimmer
Like ALL fitness tools (stable or unstable)each has it's place and time. It is the fitness industries continued folly that new is better and trends mean profit. Intelligent use of multiple forms and functions is the best for my clients and that is what they get.
Posted @ Wednesday, April 27, 2011 7:44 PM by John Eberley
Can you please provide the references for your mention of the research studies that investigate this topic? Thank you.
Posted @ Thursday, April 28, 2011 9:35 AM by Susan
Found the references! Thanks!
Posted @ Thursday, April 28, 2011 9:36 AM by Susan
I don't think anyone in their right mind is going to debate th fact that training on an unstable surface is an effective way to gain strength and force output. Instability resistance training (IRT) has been proved in numerous clinical studies to reduce the instance of injuries in lower extemities, improve/condition balance and proprioception, increase core strength and produce higher levels of muscle activation using lower loads. In essence IRT has a place in periodization training particularly for those interested in improving kinetic chain stability. Writing an article about how training on unstable devices will not improve strength and power is comparable to writing an article stating that an intense Olympic powerlifting program will help you become a better ultra-marathoner. I think most fitness professionals can come to that conclusion on their own. There is a place for all types of training and it depends entirely on objectives and goals. Discounting a particular type of training because the company that pays you does not make a product that falls into that category is just weak.
Posted @ Thursday, April 28, 2011 11:06 AM by Chip M
Although I agree that each person is different and therefore should have a personalized workout program, I dislike the tone of this article which seems to write off the value of using any unstable surface to achieve your goals. Why would you test leg strength on a deadlift? You gain strength from your core when you work on an unstable surface. It helps people automatically fire the muscles they need to balance. Training your body to move from your core then out to your arms or legs is the benefit that should be focused on here. We also lose our balance when we get older if we don't practice it, so why discourage people to do this with a study bad mouthing the exercise? Working on both a stable and unstable surface is ideal, the more variety we give our body the better the results. Be wary of studies that tell you something is the next best thing or is bad for you. Instead, use some common sense and/or consult with your certified personal trainer for advice.
Posted @ Friday, April 29, 2011 11:20 AM by Lauri Martineau, STOTT Pilates Certified & ACE Certified Personal Trainer
I think we need to understand that most of what it taught in the fitness industry is not science based and is entertainment to try to get people moving. Which if that is the way it was marketed, I would have no problem with it. When things are just regurgitated because someone before them said it or that is the way others do it, is not professional. Before making statements, one needs to do real research and not just say things to keep these myths and misconceptions rolling. There has never been any real research done that proves that doing "Core Stability" work is effective. The research is here --> 
Furthermore, like the article states, unless you are working on a specific skill like balancing on a ball to join the Circus, there is no transfer into every day life, look up the "Laws of Specificity". We as professionals have to start taking this profession serious and stop doing things, like in this article, that have a hi result of possible injury and have little to no return on everyday life.
Posted @ Friday, April 29, 2011 11:43 AM by Dwayne Wimmer
Thanks for everyone's feedback and it's great to see this dialogue around important topics in our industry. 
We share your the that one ought to view exercises and fitness practices through a wider lens, in order to consider how these might apply to different individuals in a variety of circumstances. 
That said, we think it is equally important to consider research findings within the context in which they are reported. As a case in point, consider Ben Wilde’s comments about stable v. unstable cable-based exercise in his blog on "Stabilized Training for Building Muscle" His remarks refer to an independent research study conducted at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, in which it was determined that providing a stabilizing force during standing cable chest press, not only allowed for higher workloads, but also induced a significantly higher degree of core muscle activation, than the free standing cable chest press. 
We have no doubt that clients will have increased their strength and muscular hypertrophy from performing the unstable variety. In fact, the UMass research made no claims that unstable exercises would fail to do so. It did, however, indicate that stabilization results in higher work capacity, and thus, your clients will likely get even stronger than they would without any stabilization. 
Let’s keep in mind that no machine or exercise is capable of doing everything. Perhaps the best thing is to identify the specific needs of our clients, and optimize the exercises which we choose to administer to them.  
Thanks again for your interest,  
Paul M. Juris, Ed.D.  
Executive Director, CYBEX Institute for Exercise Science  
Posted @ Friday, April 29, 2011 3:10 PM by Dr. Paul Juris
You explain each point very clearly,make a good article that was best for the progress.
Posted @ Friday, April 05, 2013 9:46 AM by compulsive eating
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