Using balance gear in your training - How good is it really?

Exercise balls, balance boards, balance balls or vibration plates are all tools that create an unstable surface to train on and is widely used in gyms. The unstable surface helps to practice balance and coordination skills, but it is also often used to provide an extra good workout for the trunk and torso muscles. But how effective is this type of training really?

The theory is that the volatile base is to force a major engagement of the stabilizing torso and trunk muscles during an exercise. But is this really what happens?

According to a study from 2009, a test group performed leg bends, dead-lifts, military presses and biceps curls on both stable and an unstable base, using an exercise ball. The aim of this study was to measure the difference in the torso involvement depending on what surface type was being used, to measure if the exercise ball would give an additional increase in the use of trunk muscles.

The result was that no difference in muscle involvement in the trunk could be measured, and the testers concluded that the above exercises might as well be performed on a solid surface with the same trunk and torso involvement. There are also several other studies that reached similar results.

The balls are still good for balance exercises, they can be used as a comfortable base for bad backs and are fun to practice with. There are also other great benefits to having them around in the gym since they provide for so many different ways to use them. Also, none of the above mentioned tests should be considered as absolute truths.

I used a so-called vibration plate for about four months when I was living in Ireland. I used it about three to thour times a week, for 30 minutes each time. While standing on it I would do all kinds of leg exercises I could think of while at the same time adjusting the intensity of the vibrations in combination with using the side bars to hold on to, or let go. I also did this in intervals and for me, in four months training, the result was great.