I had just become a personal trainer.
Weightlifting, running, and all that jazz had had a profound effect on my life.
I had crushed Mark Wahlberg’s bicep workout, read a copy of Arnold’s encyclopedia of body building, and of course I went through the 300 workout. Obviously, I knew everything about losing fat and building muscle.
I was ready – I got this!
Next step, it was time for the certification. I surveyed the personal trainers that I knew and picked a reputable one – the National Academy of Sports and Medicine. They didn’t have as many curls in the “exercise” section as I thought should be there. There were a whole lot of muscles between the calves and abs that I didn’t know about. Also, lots of words that made me glad they had the definition listed out in the side bar so I knew what the heck they were talking about.
It was MUCH harder than I expected. I know nothing.
I study and cram and memorize the information. I pass the test.
Now I’m a trainer…
However, I feel much less confident at this moment than before I ever opened the text book.
I get my first client. I start them off with the “stabilization” phase of training because that is what my textbook said to do.
Sounds like a single leg balance exercise should fit the bill.
Ok – client “I want you to stand on one foot and poke your toe out in front of you 20 times”.
And they do.
Ok – I know I need to progress the exercise. How can I make it harder?
“Stand on this ½ ball thing, balance, and poke your toe out in front of you 20 times”.
They can do it. We are making progress.
I’m on to something.
Except, now after years of experience I have learned you can have a brand new client do JUST ABOUT ANYTHING and they will get results.
That isn’t hard.
The trick is can you get your client an even BETTER result even FASTER?
What if instead of getting them good at this exercise, I had decided to teach them this other exercise?
Would they have gotten better results?
After training 1,000s of sessions, reading 100s of books, and getting more people results than the New Orleans Saints have Running Backs to not hand the ball off to I am of the opinion that without a doubt I could have gotten a MUCH faster/better result.
Now while my exercise selection at the time wasn’t “bad”, it just wasn’t as EFFECTIVE as it could have been.
The basic mistake I had made was going too far to the “unstable” side of exercise selection.
Now while there is a time and place for that (think rehab) it is not of a benefit to the AVERAGE, relatively healthy, fitness enthusiast.
When any movement is performed there are always two basic brain waves that must be considered. The first is the brain firing to the muscle and saying “Just do it”. The second is the muscle firing back to the brain resulting in you asking yourself “How do I do this?”
We spend 99.9% of our time on a stable floor – In our homes, at our office, or even walking to the car to and from our homes and offices.
Getting better a balancing on a Bosu ball basically makes you better at balancing on a Bosu ball – nothing more and nothing less.
If that is your goal, then awesome for you.
If your goal is to actually move, look, or feel better than you would be better off NOT standing on that thing.
If I were going to program in a “stability” phase of training today it would be based off of exercises that were performed on the ground – in socks or barefoot preferably (the benefits of training barefoot is a blog post for another day though).
I would have the exercise progress from less range of motion to more range of motion.
I would then progress the “Stability” of the exercise by changing the center of gravity of the resistance tool being used.
For example if you were doing a reverse lunge you could simply switch from dumbbells being held by your side to a “front grip” hold. By raising the center of mass of the object you are holding you have now become much more “unstable” yet still can move an appreciable amount of weight to elicit a training effect.
Reverse Dumbbell Lunge
Reverse Lunge with a Goblet Hold
Reverse Lunge with an overhead barbell
These are just a few examples of being able to change one’s center of gravity and elicit a better, longer lasting, safer training effect without balancing on a Bosu ball.
When it comes to “functional” training, most of the time the basics are all the majority of people need.
There is no need to over think it.
We live on the solid ground; we should train on solid ground.
While it is definitely cool to do some fitness tricks on unstable surfaces, at the end of the day they are just tricks.
I am all about results – so it is always solid ground training for me and my clients.