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Adding instability to training

This is an area that gets tends to get cut to pieces among the S&C community. This is because it’s use is seen as being non applicable to training for maximum strength (which the research would seem to suggest) or that the proprioceptive demands offered by a bosu ball are very different to those offered by any sport. That said, it’s something I’ve been experimenting with a little more recently aiming to make an impact in a couple of different areas.

The first area is to add variation to training. By this I don’t mean to keep the athlete/patient entertained but to increase the challenge to the athlete to get into the positions through the patterns I want them to get into. We work very hard to change the motor patterns we think contribute to injuries and are seeing some good wins with this form of training. Speed and success of movement are still emphasised but bands, hydro bags, unilateral loading and altered surfaces are used to challenge them.

The second area is to improve range of motion and reduce restrictions in movement. It’s been a while since I asked an athlete to stretch certain structures, instead I see lots of athletes restore range of motion, particularly through the shoulder, through the use of unstable surfaces/objects. High proprioceptive demand and a movement goal appears to encourage self organisation allowing whatever is restricting the movement to ‘let go’. Examples like a bottom up kettlebell shoulder press or a single arm wall gym ball press up can have immediate improvements in range of motion in previously ‘tight’ athletes. It’s use in chronic mechanical issues or as pre-set ‘primers’ are two ways I’ve been using this.

Although, when compared to stable surfaces, unstable surfaces appear to not provide the same strength gains in a max squat it doesn’t mean that we can’t use it in training. Sometimes it’s easy to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Neil Welch

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