Read an article a while ago arguing that training on unstable surfaces (like Bosu stuff) denies training the procioceptors and fails to train the body for the real world of stable surfaces. Can anybody help me find info on this perspective?
It makes sense. Whose upper body strength would you have more faith in - someone who trains with one-armed handstands, or someone who pushes into a balloon? In sports, you train for the sport you play. If you are a weightlifter, would you train for tennis? Sure, there may be some carryover benefits, but overall, there's little direct benefit for your weightlifting. In life, it's the same. Our bodies are made for a world that is constructed of solid surfaces and solid resistance such as gravity.
I can see how attractive the idea of instability surface training is. I was into it when it was hot in the '90s. You figure if your stabilizers are firing, they must be developing. But that's only true to a point. They, or rather your body, seeks a task to master and develops accordingly. If you are training for the task of standing still on a wobbly ball, that's one thing. But if you are training for a task which you will perform on a stable surface, like most tasks on earth, then your body may be using a lot of energy firing off stabilizer responses it cannot employ for the goal task. So it's either a waste of energy, or a shotgun approach that may land a few hits, or both. The procioceptors are denied practical training in this environment because of its artificial construction. Their purpose is to give you a sense of self, where your body is, where your limbs are... That's built from a reference point. Without the reference point, they simply cast about.
Most situations demand you not simply to stabilize, but to push off. It's the combined development of these stabilizing forces and prime movers which delivers the most complete benefit. So when the instability craze emerged, it did address a need: the industrial fitness complex had created a population with developed prime movers but relatively underdeveloped stabilizers. Now what we're seeing, unwitting as it may be, is the next stage of development: the return to multijoint exercise (Oly weightlifting, Crossfit, old school strength training) on solid surfaces (the floor, the ground, the platform) using unstable sources of resistance (free objects or freeweights). This is the best of both worlds, and you can't argue the results. This is the strongman of old, of now, of the future. Call it classic for a reason. It won't go away. The simplest, most practical, real-life training in the world is picking something up and moving it.
But I'd like to track down some solid research on this. Any help appreciated.
Here's a good one. This study compared folks doing overhead presses on balls vs. benches, with both dumbbells and barbells.
From the abstract - "The results showed that as the instability of the exercise condition increased, the external load decreased... The findings provide little support for training with a lighter load using unstable loads or unstable surfaces."
The use of instability to train the core musculature
Behm DG, Drinkwater EJ, Willardson JM, Cowley PM, School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NL A1C 5S7, Canada. firstname.lastname@example.org Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2010 Feb;35(1):91-108.
From the Abstract - "While unstable devices have been shown to be effective in decreasing the incidence of low back pain and increasing the sensory efficiency of soft tissues, they are not recommended as the primary exercises for hypertrophy, absolute strength, or power, especially in trained athletes. For athletes, ground-based free-weight exercises with moderate levels of instability should form the foundation of exercises to train the core musculature. Instability resistance exercises can play an important role in periodization and rehabilitation, and as alternative exercises for the recreationally active individual with less interest or access to ground-based free-weight exercises."
Wahl MJ, Behm DG., School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Jul;22(4):1360-70.
From the abstract - "These results indicate that the use of moderately unstable training devices (i.e., Dyna Disc, BOSU ball) did not provide sufficient challenges to the neuromuscular system in highly resistance-trained individuals. Since highly trained individuals may already possess enhanced stability from the use of dynamic free weights..."