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Old 08-28-2010, 05:34 PM   #1
Chris Ross
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the logic behind unstable surface training

Hi Guys

recently purchased and watched a S&C DVD called Combative Conditioning by the Straight Blast GYm. It's a well known combat martial arts group headed up by Matt Thornton BJJ Black Belt and MMA trainer.

So anyway the DVD has 4 main phases for strength training for mma/bjj.
1) Stability and Balance
2) Strength
3) Power Endurance
4) Fight Specific Training

Phase 1 is all about balance and stability so naturally there is a lot of one legged exercises and some unstable surface work (ie. swiss ball). This makes sense to me to create a foundation for balance and injury prevention.

However phase 2 &3 also have a heap of single leg and unstable surface exercises (eg. one legged band pushes/pulls, one legged deadlift, swiss ball rollouts).

So it got me wondering what the folks here on the board think regarding this kind of training for strength and power. Personally I don't see how you can build real raw strength and power without the big compound lifts on stable ground. But then again, many sports involve being on one limb, or constantly having to regulate balance whilst trying to issue powerful movements. So maybe this type of training is legit...

Any thoughts or experiences with this type of training?
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Old 08-29-2010, 08:00 AM   #2
Brent Eno
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Re: the logic behind unstable surface training

Trying to balance 300 lbs on my back and squat is enough for me. I'm sure this program wouldn't hurt, unless you are supposed to stand on a swiss ball or something like that, but I wouldn't do it.(been doing bjj for three years) I would stick to heavy lifts, oly lifts, metcons, and MMA-specific training(simply having a partner try to take you down). One-legged squats are a great balance training movement as well.

Also, I don't know if you have ever done any trail running through rugged terrain and varying elevations, but I've found that to be a great addition to my training, especially if you do it in vibrams. It requires balance, endurance, and a strong focus on where you are stepping. Just a thought.
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Old 08-29-2010, 08:16 AM   #3
Dimitri Dziabenko
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Re: the logic behind unstable surface training

I'd look at Ross's stuff, it's a very legit way for fighters to train.
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Old 08-29-2010, 08:59 AM   #4
Jon Cowie
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Re: the logic behind unstable surface training

Stability (if that is the right phrase) training may prove beneficial depending on the individual & their training history/programming in my opinion because:

proprioceptors muscle spindles & baroreceptors are useful things to have 'on your side'; if you can find balance and limb position easily without full sensual input(DEFINATELY not the right phrase!) ie. no vision to influence your balance, you will maintain it better when tagged and thus stay up

The stabalisation effects of your shoulder are entirely dependant on muscles (rotator cuff), which must be contracted & strong at the specific joint angle to effectively support the load. Therefore, training your shoulder girdle to support your body at 'odd' angles (like turkish getups, side plank style positions etc) will help prevent injury (tears, dislocations) if they should find themselves doing it for real (arms reach out during a knockdown/takedown)

If you routinely support and balance yourself on one leg, you will probably be in a better position to balance-support-generate-transmit power more efficiently & effectively whilst using it for kicks, takedown defence (especially if they've taken a leg)

Most of this should be googleable/on wikipedia for greater explanation so i don't waste my bank holiday on't computer
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Old 08-29-2010, 09:00 AM   #5
Justin McCallon
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Re: the logic behind unstable surface training

Yeah, Rosstraining is great. I'd also strongly urge you to check out Joel Jamison, as he is the best in the business and provides a ton of great info.

My take on the balance ball stuff --
Build up your strength doing the main 10 or so exercises (Bench, OHP, Dips, Rows, Chin-ups, Squats, Deadlifts, Cleans, Jerks, Snatches). This should comprise about 80-90% of your total work. Then, as competitions draw nearer and as you get stronger, start doing stability ball work, unilateral movements, etc.
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Old 09-01-2010, 02:08 AM   #6
Damon Stewart
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Re: the logic behind unstable surface training

I think unstable surface training is really good at selling DVD's, shoes, accessories, etc. Otherwise I wouldn't even give it 2% of my training time unless it was fun and felt like play.
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Old 09-01-2010, 02:45 AM   #7
Pearse Shields
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Re: the logic behind unstable surface training

I don't pay much attention to this sort of training. Occasionally, I will do some unstable surface training (usually only a bit of work standing on a bosu ball), but I don't really buy into it all that much.
My only real reason for doing balance training is that it becomes harder to retain balance after being hit, so I want to still be able to cope in that situation. Otherwise, there's no real point.
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Old 09-01-2010, 05:34 AM   #8
Ewen Roth
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Re: the logic behind unstable surface training

In my experience, balance is activity specific. Walking on a tight-rope, walking on your hands, surfing, skating and keeping a racing shell flat are completely different things. The sense of balance you acquire doing one activity won't necessarily transfer to another.

Other than fooling around or "circus tricks", useful balance training should therefore be treated as sport-specific training. So, no generic bosu-ball crap; find something that answers your needs and replicates (as best as possible) actual in-competition situations. Keep in mind also that balance is usually required in movement and that in most cases your BODY is put in an unstable position, while the ground underneath your feet stays put. Unless you enter a weird American Gladiator-style contest, you'll never find yourself fighting while standing still on a pogo ball.

In all cases, balance exercises complement your strength training. They won't make you strong on their own.
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Old 09-01-2010, 06:09 AM   #9
Ben Moskowitz
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Re: the logic behind unstable surface training

For the healthy trainee, unstable surface training is detrimental to the lower extremities (e.g. wobble board), yet might be beneficial for the upper extremities (e.g. ring push-ups) if you're ready for it.

Check out this write up by Mike Robertson. He references the following study performed by Eric Cressey:

J Strength Cond Res. 2007 May;21(2):561-7.
The effects of ten weeks of lower-body unstable surface training on markers of athletic performance.

Cressey EM, West CA, Tiberio DP, Kraemer WJ, Maresh CM.

Human Performance Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut 06269, USA.

Initially reserved for rehabilitation programs, unstable surface training (UST) has recently grown in popularity in strength and conditioning and general exercise scenarios. Nonetheless, no studies to date have examined the effects of UST on performance in healthy, trained individuals. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of 10 weeks of lower-body UST on performance in elite athletes. Nineteen healthy, trained members (ages 18-23 years) of a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I collegiate men's soccer team participated. The experimental (US) group (n = 10) supplemented their normal conditioning program with lower-body exercises on inflatable rubber discs; the control (ST) group (n = 9) performed the same exercises on stable surfaces. Bounce drop jump (BDJ) and countermovement jump (CMJ) heights, 40- and 10-yard sprint times, and T-test (agility) times were assessed before and after the intervention. The ST group improved significantly on predicted power output on both the BDJ (3.2%) and CMJ (2.4%); no significant changes were noted in the US group. Both groups improved significantly on the 40- (US = -1.8%, ST = -3.9%) and 10-yard sprint times (US = -4.0%, ST = -7.6%). The ST group improved significantly more than the US group in 40-yard sprint time; a trend toward greater improvement in the ST group was apparent on the 10-yard sprint time. Both groups improved significantly (US = 2.9%, ST = -4.4%) on T-test performance; no statistically significant changes were apparent between the groups. These results indicate that UST using inflatable rubber discs attenuates performance improvements in healthy, trained athletes. Such implements have proved valuable in rehabilitation, but caution should be exercised when applying UST to athletic performance and general exercise scenarios.
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Old 09-01-2010, 07:38 AM   #10
Jamie J. Skibicki
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Re: the logic behind unstable surface training

Codnitioning is supposed to increase physical attributes, skill training (practicing what you want to do) teaches you how to apply those physical attributes in the context of your activity.

In addition, I've played many sports and the ground have never moved (might be an issue if you play during an earth quake). If you want stability, in corporate unilateral work and odd object lifting, but don't neglect strength training.
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