Can Stability Ball Training Really Enhance Athletic Performance?

by Allen Hedrick |   Date Released : 15 Nov 2011
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Allen Hedrick

About the author: Allen Hedrick

Allen Hedrick, M.A., CSCS*D, Registered Coach, FNSCA, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Colorado State University – Pueblo. Prior to being hired at CSU – Pueblo Hedrick worked for three years at the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Before that Hedrick was employed at the United States Air Force Academy for 12 years, the last nine years as head strength and conditioning coach at that institution. Prior to going to work at the Air Force Academy Hedrick worked for three years as the head strength and conditioning coach at the United States Olympic Training Center. Hedrick graduated from Chico State University with a B.A., and from Fresno State University with an M.A. Hedrick has been published numerous times on a variety of topics related to strength and conditioning, has authored a book on training for football, written chapters in two text books, published a number of DVD’s on various topics related to the profession, and has spoken often at both national and international conferences and clinics.

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Comments (6)

Hoogmoed, Guus | 06 Dec 2011, 14:28 PM

For 'heavy' instable weight training look out for the Koji Squat. That will take your water filled keg to the next level.

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Osborn, David | 28 Nov 2011, 16:59 PM

I like the water keg method. I use sandbags for the same thing. I still find value in training athletes to be aware of keeping themselves within their base of support but I do appreciate the article in how it does show how shady "core stability" can be when training. The term can really mean anything and it's important to know the specificity of what you're training people to do.

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Hedrick, Allen | 20 Nov 2011, 23:03 PM

David: You are correct, balance and stability are important in a variety of sports. However, most athletes do not play on an unstable surface, so training on one does not transfer well to improving athletic performance. The instability you mention in football comes not from an unstable surface but outside forces (an opponent) acting on the body. As a result training with free weights in a standing position (think of the outside forces created when you perform heavy squats or cleans) more closely replicates the challenges the body faces during competition. I also like to use water filled kegs to provide an active resistance for the body to train against when performing exercises like squats or lunges. The water moves within the keg and provides an active resistance that the body has to work to stabilize and balance.

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Osborn, David | 18 Nov 2011, 20:23 PM

So balance and stability play no part in athletic training? The stability ball exercises that increase posture and stability when the body is off its COM. This teaches proprioception which is key for any athlete. You take a hit in football it is paramount for your body to be able to react to outside forces efficiently in order to maintain stability. Obviously power and strength are not the greatest on an unstable surface but that's not what you train on a stability ball. You train stability against outside forces. It's useless to have endless amounts of power and strength when you've just been rocked and are off you're feet and have no Base of Support. Stability ball training trains one to quickly regain balance and stability

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Hedrick, Allen | 16 Nov 2011, 19:00 PM

Few athletes encounter an unstable playing surface (surfing athletes and skiers are examples of exceptions that come to mind). As a result training on an unstable surface does not train the athlete specific to the challenges they will encounter during competition. Further, any time you train on an unstable surface your ability to generate force is greatly compromised, as a result significant increases in strength and power cannot occur in this environment. The vast majority of training for most athletes should occur on a stable surface.

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Osborn, David | 15 Nov 2011, 22:59 PM

So having athletes perform weighted squats while standing on a stability only trains stability in the core? From the way this reads the exercises performed on the Stability Ball were pretty lackluster and basic. Challenging exercises can be performed with a stability ball beyond doing bicep curls and presses while sitting on it. Knee tucks are not a challenging exercise either. But using two stability balls and doing push-ups and tucks together feet on one end, hands on the other, is a great way to tax balance, proprioception, and muscular strength systems. You just have to think outside the box to make things hard

Yes I agree that the S.Ball is an addition to a program and not the main show, however I highly doubt any challenging exercises were used for this research

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