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  1. TaeBo_Master is offline
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    Posted On:
    6/24/2011 7:35pm

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    Stability Training

    This is another one of the articles I wrote for my newsletter. This is about stabilization training, the pros and cons, the right and the wrong way to do it.



    In this article, I would like to discuss stabilization training. As functional training becomes more and more popular, the public is becoming more aware of the benefits of stability training. Certifying and educational organizations such as the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and well known individuals in the fitness industry such as Paul Chek and Juan Carlos Santana all strongly promote the benefits of stabilization training. In this article, I will talk both about the benefits and the flaws of stabilization training.

    As the last sentence implies, stabilization training is not always a good thing, nor always a bad thing. Like any aspect of physical training, there are appropriate phases of progression and regression that need to be followed in order to ensure maximum success. And like most things in life, there are circumstances that are appropriate for stabilization training and times where it is inappropriate. To further understand these concepts, we will begin our discussion with an explanation of what stability truly is, and the objective of stabilization training.

    Obviously, the root of stabilization is stability. And in essence, that is the goal of stabilization training: improving stability. In the context of fitness, stability essentially means the ability to maintain the structural integrity and proper alignment of the entire kinetic chain during movement. To this end, we want to improve both physiological and neurological factors. Physiological factors include the integrity of the local joints (including tendons, ligaments and other structures that comprise the joint itself), the absence of pain and serious trigger points which can affect the ability of the muscles to activate properly, and the strength and endurance of the muscles that are designed to provide stability to the body. The neurological factors involved are motor skills, and a little thing called proprioception.

    Your body contains within it countless numbers of mechanoreceptors. These are sensors located throughout the muscles, tendons, skin and joints that sense various types of movement (length change, tension change, joint pressure, etc.) and relay that information back to the Central Nervous System for processing. Proprioception is simply the cumulative input of all of these sensors, and it gives us the ability to know what our body is doing and where, for example, your arm is when you can’t see it. Like everything else, proprioception improves with practice and wanes with disuse.

    Effective stability provides a person with a number of benefits. First of all, for the novice trainee, stabilization training is typically more demanding on the body’s musculature as a whole. Whereas a basic arm exercise may only use a few muscles, the same exercise with a stability demand will recruit more muscles in the core, hips and other supporting parts of the body. The muscles you’re using fall into a category known as “stabilizers”, which are essential to proper performance. Your body will only be able to provide as much effort as it can while maintaining some kind of balance and support. Therefore, by increasing your ability to support the body, you’re also increasing your ability to maximize the effectiveness (and therefore the results) of your training program.

    Example of good stability training


    Most importantly, however, developing effective stability greatly reduces your risk of injury. This is accomplished because of two things. First, good stability training improves a person’s proprioception. As we saw earlier, proprioception is basically the body’s ability to know where it is and what it’s doing. This increase in spatial awareness reduces the risk of accidental injury, whether it is from using sloppy form during exercise, or missing a step when climbing a flight of stairs. Second, good stability training improves your ability to support both expected and unexpected loads with contractile tissue. This is good because contractile tissue (like your muscles) is mobile and adaptable. So when you trip, you can catch yourself, properly bend your leg and stand right back up. If the contractile tissue is unable to support the force your body encounters, then the force ends up transferred to non-contractile tissue (such as ligaments or bone), which cannot react to the stress. If the stress is too great, there is only one option: tissue damage; injury.

    Finally, there is also strong evidence to show that stabilization training can improve the recovery time for people who are in rehabilitation, either post-surgery or physical therapy.

    Despite these benefits, however, stabilization training is only one early step along the path to total physical fitness. Overuse of stabilization elements can slow or even stop functional progress (especially in athletes), as well as, ironically, REDUCE the ability of the body to stabilize. The crux of the matter boils down to two aspects. The first is proper use of progression and regression to ensure the appropriate challenge to the client. The second is the proper application of stabilization training in a more comprehensive program. In short, knowing when to use it and when not to.

    The basic misunderstanding comes down to one word: OBJECTIVE. All forms of training (not just physical, but ANY training) require an objective. Training without an objective in mind is like driving a car without turning on the engine. You might go through the motions, but you won’t get anywhere. The objective of stabilization training is to first find the natural alignment of the various joints of the kinetic chain and core, known as NEUTRAL, and then to develop the strength to maintain neutral. This is where progression and regression come into play. Stabilization training is not, I repeat, IS NOT simply having as hard of a time balancing as possible. In fact, with that approach, you’re probably doing more harm than good. Stabilization training is only effective when neutral position can be found and maintained throughout the duration of the activity. As you improve that ability, various progressions can be added to slowly increase the balance challenge. If you cannot maintain neutral throughout the activity, the stabilization elements can be regressed to the point where you can.

    A common sight in most gyms: A person standing on a BOSU (stands for Both Sides Up) trainer that’s been turned rubber side down, doing squats or curls or pretty much any other exercise, and all the while they’re wobbling around, lucky not to fall to the floor. This is an example of BAD stabilization training. Not only is neutral position not being maintained, it wasn’t even found in the first place. In fact, I would argue that this type of training makes a person’s stability WORSE. Quite simply, instead of learning to be stable, they’re learning to be unstable. They’re learning to FAIL.

    Example of bad stability training:


    The BOSU ball (as well as DynaDiscs and other such tools) are near the very top of the progression scheme of stability training. First one should learn to balance properly on one foot on flat ground, for example. Only after mastering these simpler techniques should a person even begin to introduce devices that are unstable.

    The other primary improper usage of stabilization training is with more advanced trainees and athletes. Remember, the body adapts in a very specific way relative to the way you train it. For example, if you’re a basketball player or a runner and you do your training on a BOSU ball, the balance and strength you develop will only crossover efficiently to your chosen activity if that activity happens to take place on a similar surface. So if you’re not competing in a rubber bounce house, then athletic training on a balance device is probably not a wise decision. This concept applies to everyone. Most of us spend our days standing and walking on firm, flat (or relatively so) surfaces. If all of your stabilization training consists of being wobbly on some inflated or cushy device, you’ve gained no experience at standing firmly on solid ground.

    Additionally, we have to remember that stabilization training does come with one trade-off: intensity. The harder it is to balance during an activity, the easier that activity has to be in order to maintain balance. Do you think you could pick up your heaviest load while standing one foot, or two? The slightest moment’s thought will confirm the answer is two. Once a trainee has passed the “novice” level, just doing any old exercise no longer will cut it. A reasonably high intensity must be imposed in order to create physical adaptations and therefore make progress. Adding stability challenges at this time will only lower the available intensity, and slow or halt progress.

    Bottom Line: Stabilization training has its benefits. But it is not the only thing out there. It is only one part of a much greater overall puzzle. Getting too zealous with stability, or using it during more challenging phases of your training may be counterproductive and make things worse, or at very least, cause nothing at all to improve. Be smart with your training, seek professional advice, and don’t get stuck in ANY one method of training. Athletes: Train in the manner and on the surface that most resembles your sport.
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  2. ChenPengFi is online now
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    Posted On:
    6/24/2011 7:47pm

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    Another great read.
    Thanks for sharing.
    How do you feel about these guys:
    http://www.sportsciencelab.com/
  3. TaeBo_Master is offline
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    Posted On:
    6/24/2011 8:02pm

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    From just checking out their website, it's hard to tell for sure. There seems to be a lot of hype and surprisingly little information on the website. There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with it per se. From what I could see over just a couple minutes, it looks like they're basically talking about stability training and plyometric training. Good stuff, but nothing revolutionary. But as I said, just a couple minutes spent looking at the site.

    All forms of training have their benefit. But none of them do everything. The key to success is a plan which combined them in an intelligent structure.
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    "You all just got fucking owned.";
    "TaeBo_Master and GajusCaesar just scored 10,000,000 points on all you pawns."

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  4. ChenPengFi is online now
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    Posted On:
    6/24/2011 8:15pm

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    They seem to do lots of plyo/weight/stability combinations with custom machines.
    Granted that is probably at a higher level but i was just curious as to your thoughts on combining objectives like that.
    This stuff seems pretty representative:

    Their youtube channel has more.
  5. TaeBo_Master is offline
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    Posted On:
    6/24/2011 8:20pm

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    It depends on how the objectives are combined. Trying to use the broad brush within one session can be counterproductive. You might get away with combining two different methods, strength and power for example, but if you try to do everything at once, you won't get much.

    To quote Charles Poliquin: There is an old Hungarian proverb: "A man with one ass cannot ride two horses." When you try to do everything, you get nothing.
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    "You all just got fucking owned.";
    "TaeBo_Master and GajusCaesar just scored 10,000,000 points on all you pawns."

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  6. ChenPengFi is online now
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    Posted On:
    6/24/2011 8:26pm

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    They seem to do lots of plyo/weight/stability combinations with custom machines.
    Granted that is probably at a higher level but i was just curious as to your thoughts on combining objectives like that.
    This stuff seems pretty representative:

    Their youtube channel has more.
  7. TaeBo_Master is offline
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    Posted On:
    6/24/2011 9:39pm

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    However, if you periodize your training into training phases which focus on different objectives, then you can more realistically expect to enhance multiple physical attributes.
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    "You all just got fucking owned.";
    "TaeBo_Master and GajusCaesar just scored 10,000,000 points on all you pawns."

    - The Wastrel
  8. ChenPengFi is online now
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    Posted On:
    6/25/2011 9:43am

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    Gotcha. Weird double post...
  9. marklee99 is offline

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    Posted On:
    7/26/2011 1:58am

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    Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about information and love learning more on this. If possible, as you gain expertise, It is extremely helpful for me. would you mind updating your blog with more information.

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