Home Blog Unstable Ground or Destabilizing Torques

Unstable Ground or Destabilizing Torques

Written on November 24, 2008 at 6:30 am, by Eric Cressey

I don’t watch a ton of TV, but when I do, it’s almost always sports – be it football, baseball, basketball, or just regular ol’ Sportscenter.  Likewise, when I’m at working, I’m constantly coaching athletes from a variety of sports on everything from weight-training, to flexibility, to sprint mechanics, to medicine ball throwing techniques.

Everywhere you look, you’ll see destabilizing torques.  Maybe it’s a running back trying to fend off a tackler; his feet are fixed while the destabilizing torque (the force applied to his body by that tackler) occurs further up the kinetic chain.

Or, maybe it’s an athlete doing a suitcase deadlift.  The load in his hand is a destabilizing torque that attempts to shift him into lateral flexion as contralateral core musculature fires to keep him erect.  Again, the feet are on stable ground.

You’re probably getting my point by now.  Our lower extremities operate in predominantly closed-chain motion on stable surfaces in the real world – and the destabilizing torques we encounter further up the kinetic chain are truly functional instability training.

Conversely, when was the last time you saw the ground move on a fixed athlete?  Perhaps the earthquake during the San Francisco-Oakland World Series in 1989?  It’s a long shot at best.

With that in mind, why are we universally accepting unstable surface training in the lower extremity?  We know it has merit in the rehabilitation of functional ankle instability, but to assume that benefits would also be conferred on a healthy population is a dangerous.  That’s where we came in with my research back in 2005 – and it’s why I’ve got a great frame of reference for writing a book that discusses true core stability training and the appropriate and inappropriate applications of unstable surface training.  At risk of sounding overconfident, if you coach or rehabilitation athletes or regular fitness enthusiasts, The Truth About Unstable Surface Training is an important read for you.

  • Boris

    Eric, what do you think about unstable surface training for hockey? I’ve been using half-Bosu-balls for a long time now in many settings (high school through college) with my trainers. I can’t tell if the effect wouldn’t be the same if I were doing something else but skates do wobble under weak players when piviting and stopping quickly under loads up to 2-3 bodyweights, and ankles do adjust to become more stable after training with Bosu balls. What’s your experience?
    Thanks
    Boris

  • Dr. Tim

    I was wondering how you view the “double push”
    in inline skating.

  • Nathaniel King

    I was at football practice during the 1989 earthquake at Piedmont High School.

    We used that opportunity to knock each other to the ground as a simple push is all it took.

    We ran for the exits when we heard the light towers bending from the forces.

    I was a thrilled Oakland Athletics fan that year!

  • This book is a must read! I share the ideas with my staff of trainers and certainly opened there mind. Many trainers I see in the club environment over use the unstable modalities without realizing what the true result of an exercise may be.

    I agree you need to really put on a show on the floor training a client in the club in order to create interest and sell training but doing so in a potentially dangerous way is not worth it. Get results and illustrate those results with testimonials and such.

    Good stuff Eric!

  • David Reid

    I agree with you completely. I went throught the whole unstable surface phase 10+ years ago. I used it enough to realize benefits and downfalls. Like all things fitness related, there is a over correction in the short term. It’s like the fad. “If you aren’t using a Bosu, you are behind the times.” I think it has it’s place but I always thought the person moves over the ground not the ground moving under the person.

  • A classmate encoraged me to check out this site, brill post, fascinating read… keep up the nice work!


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