I am sure a lot of people out there think that you can only build strength, power and velocity by only using weights. What if I told you that instability training can work as well. Instability training and resistance training combined in a circuit training session has been a topic of conversation in recent research.

Effects of Instability Versus Traditional Resistance Training on Strength, Power and Velocity

Munoz (2014) randomly assigned thirty-six untrained students to two experimental groups and one control group (CG). The CG was made up of 12 men (age = 22.3 years, weight = 75.4 kg, height = 1.76 m). Experimental group 1 (12 men: 21.5 years, 75.7 kg, 1.78 m) underwent an instability resistance training program (IRT) as a circuit using unstable and suspension platforms. Experimental group 2 (12 men: 21.8 years, 71.8 kg, 178.4 cm) performed a traditional resistance training program (TRT), also as a circuit, with dumbbells, barbells and weight training machines. Subjects in the experimental groups performed a resistance circuit training program consisting of traditional exercises (TRT, n = 10) or exercises executed in conditions of instability (using BOSU® and TRX®) (IRT, n = 12). Both programs involved three days per week of training for a total of seven weeks. The following variables were determined before and after training: maximal strength, average and peak velocity, average and peak power, all during bench press and back squat exercises, along with squat jump height and counter movement jump height.

What did the Results Show?

After completing the program, the research showed that circuit training with instability and traditional exercises had similar results. When we look at the results of the traditional resistance training, there was a noticeable increase in the max back squat and bench press compared to instability training. 

How can we benefit from this study?

We often think weights are mandatory for increasing our strength, velocity and power. This study tells us that you can increase these factors without weights. Now, this does not mean we should not use weights at all. This can be ideal for someone who may not have a gym membership or limited finances to increase their abilities. The most important note is that if you’re new to instability training, make sure you start easy and learn the skill first and then progress.

What’s great about instability training is:

  1. You do not need a lot of space to do the exercises.
  2. If you have a TRX, all you need is a thick tree branch or a pull up bar in the park and you’re good to go. Don’t want to buy TRX, try making them…
  3. Instability training works the entire body at once. For example if you’re doing a push up on the TRX, you have to stabilize your entire body for it to be effective.
  4. Helps you improve your balance. When we are rehabbing or just working on the basics of stabilization, the BOSU ball makes you recruit every muscle that we may never train with weights.

When you are designing a program, you can use one day of traditional resistance training and another day of instability training. Another way you can do is combine both of them together in one workout. For example, bench press followed by BOSU walking push ups.

ADD EXAMPLE INSTABILITY PROGRAM
Exercise
Sets
Reps
BOSU Squats
3
6-10
BOSU Lunge
3
6-8 each side
BOSU Plank Holds
3
:30-:60
BOSU Push Ups
3
6-8 each side

Reference

1. Maté-Muñoz JL, Monroy AJ, Jodra Jiménez P, Garnacho-Castaño MV. Effects of instability training on strength,power and velocity in untrained men.J Sports Sci Med. 2014 Sep 1;13(3):460-8.

Written by Chris Barber, CPT