T Nation

Roundtable Discussion on Legs

I have been following that thread with great interest, as I am sure many of you have been. I am not as interested in the clash of titams inasmuch as I am interested in what I have learned from the ongoing discussion. Summing things up so far, It has been an ongoing debate on this and many other forums that in training for sport, there is little or no transfer from using instability.

Some of you may remember that I was at one time a big advocate of balance training (a couple of years ago). Since being handed my ass on a thread, I went on a quest to study more on the topic, and have read numerous articles from people like Eric Cressy, Bill Hartman, Dos Remedios, etc, that have led me to conclude that there is little use for it in training for sport.

From what I have learned from Bill and Dos, training for expressing strength relies heavily on “feed-forward” mechanisms, not “feed-back”, which is what balance training essentially trains. In other words, if you were training someone specifically to be faster in the first 200ms of an action, the last thing in the world you would do is plop them on a ball! It doesn’t develop EITHER developing or expressing strength.

Paraphrasing Bill talking about balance training in golf (a big trend for those who ever watch the golf channel), learning to drive a ball while balanced on a wobble board only has transfer if you actually play golf while balanced on a wobble board.

Comments or feedback?

I think that balance training is used to enhance a players ability to preform when balance is lost. I.E when I am golfing and it’s a little wet out, if I really try to rip into a drive, I could have one foot slide some, this would cause imbalance in my swing and if my reaction to that foot slipping was untrained or underdeveloped I would assume the shot would be ruined. However, if I have trained for balance specific situations, I might be able to save the shot into a decent one or possibly even hit the ball just as well.

Also with regards to say a football player, while making a cut if a players foot slips out from under him, there is two options, he either falls, or makes corrections in his body positioning to overcome the slipping foot. I don’t see how extra training in balance will lessen the performance of an idividual but I can see (in my mind) how it could improve their performance.

With regard to balance training and lifting weights, I don’t think it is necessary to lift heavy weights on unstable surfaces, but cretainly hicking on a rocky muddy trail with an x-vest on is going to be good for you. In the post where coach davies referes to lunges in sand, I am quite sure these would’nt be maximal type lifts, but used to facilitate CNS adaptation, weight is added simply to promote greater CNS activation. At least thats what I think. I have no scientific data to back any of this up but if the CNS can adapt to a certain excercise then I fail to see why it cannot adapt to changing force production on an unstable surface.

Anyways, I have very good balance. I contribute this to snowboarding, playing a lot of beach volleyball and running cross country. That being said, when my foot slips out when I am swinging at a golf ball, I still crush the thing. So while the methods of balance training and carry over can be argued all day, if an athlete is involved in a sport, or more importantly getting into a sport where the potential for loss of balance exists, it really can’t hurt to throw balance training in.

my .02

Here is a great chart that I got from Dos along with his quote:

the ballistic group reaches a much higher force development in a shorter time. Since power sport activity usually occur around the 200 millisecond time frame, this is critical. Who cares if the other group reaches a higher force development level later…the play’s already over In fact, the strength training group is barely ahead of the UNTRAINED GROUP at 200 milliseconds! Yup…UNTRAINED

My interpretation in how this applies to the discussion, since instability requires FEEDBACK, there is no way it can train you contract FASTER in a feedforward manner than traditional methods (oly lifts).

I think you have made some excellent observations!

Regarding the balance ball specifically, I always thought that it was way overplayed as a sport fitness tool. Then again, companies make a great deal of money by aggressively marketing them and financing studies that show their value.

chart didn’t show up man…and i’m interested.

“My interpretation in how this applies to the discussion, since instability requires FEEDBACK, there is no way it can train you contract FASTER in a feedforward manner than traditional methods (oly lifts).”

I don’t think the intent of unstable surface training is to facilitate a “faster” contraction. I do think it has to do with CNS reaction to events that take place in an unpredictable environment.

Again, this really should be weighted in importance as to how unstable the likely competition surface could be, and how devastating a loss of balance would be. It would be pointless for a 100m sprinter to train for a rare slip of the foot, at any level, this will cost you the race. longer distance runners may recover very easlily from a slip of a foot and so may wish to minimise the effects.

Unstable surface training to possibly detect a muscular imbalance/and or enhance proprioception, I could see a benefit. But in no way should this take priority over the strength and power lifts unless it is a glaring problem. On several occasions I have closed my eyes during an exercise, due to having no choice of being in front of a mirror (mirrors are bad by the way) and you would easily be able to tell that proprioception is enhanced. But again this does not take precedence over the strength and power lifts. Squatting on a stability ball, as I have seen and heard about many times, no thanks.

As far as an athlete slipping and catching his balance etc., I would say is more of a matter of reflex control. Controlling your center of mass over your base of support or in some cases just outside of your base of support would lessen your chances of losing your balance. In those cases, I would say there are better ways to train than unstable surface training. Just my opinion.

“As far as an athlete slipping and catching his balance etc., I would say is more of a matter of reflex control. Controlling your center of mass over your base of support or in some cases just outside of your base of support would lessen your chances of losing your balance. In those cases, I would say there are better ways to train than unstable surface training. Just my opinion.”

I have to disagree here, if one wants to train to overcome a balance loss due to slippage or other unpredictable surface condition, what better way to train it than by exposing oneself to those situations in the first place. Again, the reason I see for adding weight is to increase CNS activation, thus increasing the rate of adaption. I do agree that squatting on a swiss ball is not a very effective move as far as risk vs carry over. Certainly swinging a golf club off a skateboard, doing jumps or leg scissors with an x-vest in sand can be beneficial addendums to an althetic performance program.

Is it the end all be all? no, has that been claimed? I didn’t think so. Is it useless? I don’t think so. I think the arguments come from people who percive extremists pawning balance training as the new holy grail. Yet there are extremists in all areas and you just have to accept that while it may be a useful tool in the arsenal, some people take it too far. That being said I think some people are focusing on the cooks and discounting the value of the training all together. Thats ok though becuase there will just be more people that I can whip in any given sport.

[quote]Vegita wrote:
“As far as an athlete slipping and catching his balance etc., I would say is more of a matter of reflex control. Controlling your center of mass over your base of support or in some cases just outside of your base of support would lessen your chances of losing your balance. In those cases, I would say there are better ways to train than unstable surface training. Just my opinion.”

I have to disagree here, if one wants to train to overcome a balance loss due to slippage or other unpredictable surface condition, what better way to train it than by exposing oneself to those situations in the first place. Again, the reason I see for adding weight is to increase CNS activation, thus increasing the rate of adaption. I do agree that squatting on a swiss ball is not a very effective move as far as risk vs carry over. Certainly swinging a golf club off a skateboard, doing jumps or leg scissors with an x-vest in sand can be beneficial addendums to an althetic performance program.

Is it the end all be all? no, has that been claimed? I didn’t think so. Is it useless? I don’t think so. I think the arguments come from people who percive extremists pawning balance training as the new holy grail. Yet there are extremists in all areas and you just have to accept that while it may be a useful tool in the arsenal, some people take it too far. That being said I think some people are focusing on the cooks and discounting the value of the training all together. Thats ok though becuase there will just be more people that I can whip in any given sport. [/quote]

There are actually reflex mechanisms that take over and allow you to regain balance when you slip.

Next you plan to add weight to an unstable movement when they can’t even control themselves with just bodyweight and an unstable surface, and in some cases these athletes have a hard enough time remaining stable during a lunge on flat ground with bodyweight or a light external resistance.

Swing a golf club on a skateboard??? Surely you are joking, right? First of all that environment, much less any unstable environment has nothing to with swinging a golf club. Furthermore, how do you plan to produce any force into the skateboard to accurately swing a golf club. The way you recruit the muscles used to balance on a skateboard and swing a club are far different from swinging a golf club the way it is done in competition.

If any athlete would learn to control his/her center of mass over their base of support they would be far better off. You can do this without having to stand on a skateboard. The time you spend training on a skateboard unless you are a skateboarder could be spent doing something else more productive.

it does have something to do with swinging a golf club as it will train your body to be qieut through the swing, your body will force itself to stabalise and remain centered. When you go to swing a club on the ground, your swing will be adapted to swinging on an unstable surface and will thus be balanced. keeping ones balance through a golf swing is very very important. if your muscles are trained to saty balanced on an unstable surface, you will not suddenly lose that balnce when you step onto solid ground. pluse every golf course that I play on has varied surface conditions, even in the fairways. one foot could be lower, you may need to drop one back in a bunker etc…

I have no problem with you not believing it will carry over. Like coach davies said, real world experience sometimes trumps lab data. I have done it personally and my swing is better, more centered and I don’t lose my balance when I swing at 100% of if a foot slips slightly. Did I use to? yes. Do i now? No. So, I would like to hear an explanation as to why I personally have made the transition in specific to my golf swing. What else could have caused my sudden new found stability?

As CT., CW, EC, and others have pointed out in the Think Tank, use the weight room to increase strength and power. IMO, if you want to improve your swing in the rain (in case of slippage), go hit golf balls in the rain. If you wanna control your body when crossing somebody over on the b-ball court, go play hours and hours of b-ball. If you wanna improve your ability to catch a pass down by your feet (football) and continue running w/o losing balance, go out and run routes w/ your QB. This is the best way to improve balance and become more effective in unpredictable circumstances. Am I saying balance training on unstable surfaces are worthless? No. I just think playing the actual sport will have soooo much more carry over.

Danny

[quote]Vegita wrote:
it does have something to do with swinging a golf club as it will train your body to be qieut through the swing, your body will force itself to stabalise and remain centered. When you go to swing a club on the ground, your swing will be adapted to swinging on an unstable surface and will thus be balanced. keeping ones balance through a golf swing is very very important. if your muscles are trained to saty balanced on an unstable surface, you will not suddenly lose that balnce when you step onto solid ground. pluse every golf course that I play on has varied surface conditions, even in the fairways. one foot could be lower, you may need to drop one back in a bunker etc…

I have no problem with you not believing it will carry over. Like coach davies said, real world experience sometimes trumps lab data. I have done it personally and my swing is better, more centered and I don’t lose my balance when I swing at 100% of if a foot slips slightly. Did I use to? yes. Do i now? No. So, I would like to hear an explanation as to why I personally have made the transition in specific to my golf swing. What else could have caused my sudden new found stability?[/quote]

Am I to understand that the only thing you did for an extended training period was swing a golf club on a skateboard?

If a golfer has that much trouble staying balanced through a swing in a competition environment, how is putting him in a more unstable environment completely different from his competition environment going to help him? He certainly is not going to be concerned with where his center of mass is in reference to his base of support, much less his skateboard golf swing resembling anything like his competition golf swing. Specificity of sport.

I play baseball and to maintain balance through my swing I do not swing a bat while standing on a skateboard. If I wanted to get better at swinging a bat while standing on a skateboard I would do it. The acts have nothing to do with each other. If you want to use it, be my guest. I am not going to stop you. I will continue to remain at my position that there are many other ways to teach balance throughout movements.

If you want real world experience, what PGA golfer learned a balanced swing while standing on a skateboard?

I am not trying to discourage you or anything like that, all I am saying is was that the only thing you did for your training or did you improve in several areas by using a multitude of training strategies? I dont know what else I can tell you bro.

“I am not trying to discourage you or anything like that, all I am saying is was that the only thing you did for your training or did you improve in several areas by using a multitude of training strategies? I dont know what else I can tell you bro.”

Did you even read my position on it or did you just skim till you saw, “swing on a skateboard” and begin to rant. Like I have said previously, it is only a fraction of the training I do to improve my golf game. Certainly there is time better spent to improve my score in golf. #1 is learining my swing and making it better, #2 is hours and hours at the range, #3 is hours and hours on the course, #4 is hours and hours on the putting green, chipping and bunker shots. #5 is a good workout routine designed for power and flexibility.

And you say if I want to get better at having my foot slip, go play in the rain? #1 I do occasionally, #2 this increeases my chances of getting sick and thus would be counterproductive to my training, #3 Why play an entire round of golf in the rain to have my foot slip 10 times and risk getting sick when I can spend 30 minutes on an unstable surface at the range and get far more work done?

Truthfully your logic confuses me, you say if I want to get better at playing in an unstable environment then go play in that environment. However it will not work if I simulate that environment?

Well I am not going to keep saying the same thing over and over so If you have a rebuttal again, that is fine. I have said all that I need to say.

where is this roundtable discussion? I’ve not been able to find it

[quote]Vegita wrote:
“I am not trying to discourage you or anything like that, all I am saying is was that the only thing you did for your training or did you improve in several areas by using a multitude of training strategies? I dont know what else I can tell you bro.”

Did you even read my position on it or did you just skim till you saw, “swing on a skateboard” and begin to rant. Like I have said previously, it is only a fraction of the training I do to improve my golf game. Certainly there is time better spent to improve my score in golf. #1 is learining my swing and making it better, #2 is hours and hours at the range, #3 is hours and hours on the course, #4 is hours and hours on the putting green, chipping and bunker shots. #5 is a good workout routine designed for power and flexibility.

And you say if I want to get better at having my foot slip, go play in the rain? #1 I do occasionally, #2 this increeases my chances of getting sick and thus would be counterproductive to my training, #3 Why play an entire round of golf in the rain to have my foot slip 10 times and risk getting sick when I can spend 30 minutes on an unstable surface at the range and get far more work done?

Truthfully your logic confuses me, you say if I want to get better at playing in an unstable environment then go play in that environment. However it will not work if I simulate that environment?

Well I am not going to keep saying the same thing over and over so If you have a rebuttal again, that is fine. I have said all that I need to say. [/quote]

Relax bro. I did read your whole post and know you only use that as a fraction of your game. I made that comment to make my point. As you mentioned, You constantly practice your swing in the environment you play in.

I never mentioned anything about playing in the rain. That was somebody else.

As I said before, I am not trying to discourage you or trash the way you want to train. I expect you to constantly be trying to find the best ways to train that work for you. All I am doing is offering my opinion based on what I have learned through my own training, my training partners, and my education, and make you think.

[quote]Vegita wrote:
And you say if I want to get better at having my foot slip, go play in the rain? #1 I do occasionally, #2 this increeases my chances of getting sick and thus would be counterproductive to my training, #3 Why play an entire round of golf in the rain to have my foot slip 10 times and risk getting sick when I can spend 30 minutes on an unstable surface at the range and get far more work done?
[/quote]

Not an attack, just a question. Why do you feel it is unsafe to train in the rain i.e. unstable environment whereas you feel it is safe(er) to train on a skate board i.e. unstable environment?

On a completely different note. I have trained many people and have found little benefit for unstable surface training except for those that compete in/on unstable surfaces: wrestlers, judo, skate boarders, snow boarders, and Scottish Highland throwers. The place that I train them is the gym. This is where they come to get stronger, bigger, or even faster. They do not come to me to get better balance. Even if they ask me about it I tell them that they already compete in an unstable place and that is where they will get their balance training. Talk about sport specific. Use your sport for the specific stuff. Don’t have them swing a dumbbell in the gym to try to simulate a golf swing. Go golf.
If you are worried about wrestling, skating, throwing, etc. on an unstable plain then go do it. React in a real world situation as it applies. If instability only rarely (or never) comes up in your sport then don’t worry about it.
It was quoted earlier that “anybody can make a person tired” and that doesn’t neccesarily qualify them as a good coach. Well the same thing could apply to balance/unstable training. Hell, I could have trained Barry Sanders at my gym, had him do barbell lunges on wobble boards while biting down on a 2.5 lbs. plate, balancing a swiss ball on his head and closing his left eye. He would not have done well so I could have said, "Boy, you need a lot more training ($) and you must not be a very good running back. Your balance is not as good as it should be. Come on! That is bad ethics and bad training.
Barry Sanders had incredible balance with no “unstable training”. Unless you count the many hours of being nailed from the side by defensive backs. Can you say real world, applicable training.

“Barry Sanders had incredible balance with no “unstable training”. Unless you count the many hours of being nailed from the side by defensive backs. Can you say real world, applicable training.”

Sorry I don’t like that example, if it was the case, all running backs would have as good of balance as barry sanders. Even backs of his size are not as balanced as he is. Genetics does play a role. Also I don’t think you personally know what his upbringing was like. Maybe he really liked to play in the sandbox when he was a kid and all that running around in an unstable environment inproved his ability to function later in life. It’s speculation anyways for either of us so I’ll just keep doing what works for me. Just don’t play me for money. :wink:

Playing in the rain repeatedly will make you sick. Anytime you go out in cold wet conditions you increase your chances of being sidelined by illness.

Generally we are talking about maybe 2-3 tournaments out of the summer that have to be played with wet conditions. still I like to do my best in all areas, not just warm sunny days.

Fair enough. Point taken.

But will doing a couple sets of bench pench on a Swiss Ball improve balance and ability to recover from these situations. I’m not too keen on this. If I was really into improving my balance I’d side with some more of the sport specific training. Like swinging the club on a skateboard, or possibly wetting down some grass and practicing my cuts there… Or wearing smaller cleats to give less footing.

I think it would just be more effective to spend your time in the gym pursuing maximal strength and your time doing GPP on more balance type training.

"But will doing a couple sets of bench pench on a Swiss Ball improve balance and ability to recover from these situations. I’m not too keen on this. If I was really into improving my balance I’d side with some more of the sport specific training. Like swinging the club on a skateboard, or possibly wetting down some grass and practicing my cuts there… Or wearing smaller cleats to give less footing.

I think it would just be more effective to spend your time in the gym pursuing maximal strength and your time doing GPP on more balance type training."

not sure what a bench pench is? :wink: j/k

Well no and thats what I was referring to as far as the extremists go. I want to be doing things related to my sport, with increased resistance to activate more of the CNS, and perform this safely on a variable type surface or condition.

Ok get away from golf for a secong and go to volleyball. If you take a guy who is a great indoor player but has never played on sand, and put him on sand, he will be far less effective that a player of the same level indoor who has played his whole life on sand. Ok so why not just spend 10 years playing on sand to get good at it. Well most of us are looking for the optimal results, not the natural slow progression ones. So if I go out and in excess of all my training do squat jumps, verticle jumps, cone drills etc… with an x-vest or backpack on, or even light dumbells a rock whatever. I will improve my ability to manuever and jump off of sand faster than just playing hours a day on a beach.

So swiss ball sanding barbell curls? No, unless your event is a keg toss on ice skates or something I think a lot of that stuff is merely for show and to be different and make a buck. It still doesn’t discount the real value of the training that involves lower risk and is sport specific or movement specific.