A Little Unstable…

14 01 2011

Greetings.  Hope everyone is well and that all New Year’s Resolutions are still intact.  I wanted to share with you today a way to get a little more out of your workouts in a little shorter time.  Take any typical resistance exercise such as bicep curls or lat pull-downs, add in an element of instability and you have increased the effectiveness of the exercise.  Let me explain further.

Think about doing a set of alternating dumbbell curls while standing on firm solid ground.   The instability could be added by balancing on one foot instead or, standing two feet on a thick foam rubber pad.  Now, in addition to working out the biceps you are working out your “core” muscles, those that stabilize the hips/pelvis, spine and shoulders.  The advantages to this are that you are working extra muscles important for balance and daily function, AND burning more calories for an overall more efficient workout.  Here are some more examples.

Try doing squats on a BOSU (look at Google Images), or almost any other exercise that you do standing flat on the ground, instead standing on a BOSU with flat side down.  You can also do sit ups sitting on a physioball or BOSU.  Some of these exercises may be a bit risky for injury for someone who has never done stability work, so using a trainer or spotter or work-out buddy is recommended initially.  Now for some other considerations.

I did a little web research prior to writing this and found a high percentage of articles recommending AGAINST stability training.  Most if not all of the negative reviews that I read were by trainers or those in a closely related field.  There was a definite consistent theme to their criticisms.   They all stated that you will not gain strength or muscle size with stability training and that training on solid ground is better for that.  My response is that I believe that is exactly true.  If your goal is to max out your bench press or curl, or you are wanting to bulk up, stability is NOT the way to go.  However if you are looking for toning and a way to add more trimming or fat loss to a resistance routine, improve the strength of core muscle groups, or just burn more calories in a shorter period of time, stability resistance exercise is a good choice.

Another criticism of theirs is that it is not safe, with most of these comments relating to using free weights, such as dumbbells while using a physioball.  The ball may burst, or you may topple off.  Again, valid concerns, but you can still do a lot of other exercises on the physioball without free weights, AND the physioball is far from the only prop to use to introduce an element of instability.

Bottom line:  My time for working out is much more limited at this time in my life.  I am looking for the most bang for my buck.  A few years ago I was able to lift weights 4 days a week for about 1.5-2 hours, and do about 30 min of cardio 3 times a week.  Now I workout with a trainer once a week for an hour, by myself once a week for an hour, and do cardio for 30 min 1-2 times a week.  I cannot bench or squat as much as I did with my schedule from a few years ago, but my body looks as good if not better, I maintain less than 11% body fat, and feel better with less workout associated pain, all with MUCH LESS investment in time.  I attribute this primarily to 3 things:  working out with a trainer once a week, using instability in my routine, and incorporating plyometrics as well (a subject for a future post).  I don’t care (as much) anymore what my max bench press is or how many inches my biceps are.  I want to be fit, feel good, have my wife say I have a cute tushy, and have others say, “boy you don’t look 43.”  So for me, instability it is.

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