Thursday, January 22, 2015

Core Work On Stable Or Unstable Surfaces?

Taken by my wife for a talk she did way back in 2005!
Many of my patients engage personal trainers to help them with their workouts regularly. Out of curiosity, I always ask them to tell me what sort of exercise routine they go through with their trainers. Turns out that "core strength workouts" are a very popular choice amongst personal trainers.

Well, here's a post on whether your "core strength" workout is giving you the workout you want.

A group of researchers studied a group of subjects doing core strength workouts. At the start of the study, the subjects performed fitness tests including tests for core muscular endurance, flexibility, balance and a 20 metre sprint.

The subjects trained twice a week for six weeks. Each session was a 30 minute circuit session rotating among three exercises : cross curl-ups, side bridging and bird dogs. One group did the session on a stable surface while group did the same exercises on unstable surfaces.

For example while doing bird dogs (starting on hands and knees and reaching alternate limbs horizontally), a basketball was placed under the supporting hand. As the study progressed, this group added additional elements of instability to each exercise. Example : putting a squishy ball/ balance cushion under the supporting knee and lifting the foot of supporting knee off the floor.

After six weeks, both groups improved significantly.Despite what the researchers thought would be the case, the group who did their exercises on unstable surfaces did not outperform the stable group.

The researchers reported that core strength training is feasible and safe and it produces marked increases in strength, flexibility and skill related components such as balance, coordination and speed.

They concluded that if the goal is to enhance physical fitness, core strength workouts on unstable surfaces has no advantage over the same exercises on stable surfaces.


Granacher U, Schellbach J et al (2014). Effects Of Core Strength Training Using Stable Versus Unstable Surfaces On Physical Fitness In Adolescents: A Randomized Controlled Trial. BMC Sports Sci Med Rehab. 6(1): 40. doi: 10.1186/2052-1847-6-40. eCollection 2014.

Another look - 10 years ago....

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