Traditional approaches to core stability training utilize stable bases of support (e.g. floor, bench) however, little is known regarding the efficacy of unstable supports (e.g. swiss ball, suspension cables) for core muscle activation. The authors of the current study sought to determine the surface electromyographic (sEMG) difference of abdominal musculature when comparing athletes completing core exercises on a stable versus unstable surface. In general, it was shown that suspension cable based abdominal bracing noticeably improved the front of the core muscles when compared to stable bracing however showed little difference in the side and back core musculature.
Eighteen “elite” level male athletes were recruited for the study. Surface EMG was utilized to determine the rate of muscle contraction in the core stability muscles of theabdominals: rectus abdominus (Front), external obliques (Sides), and erector spinae (Back).
The findings of the current study show clearly that there is a difference between stable and unstable surface core exercises. The use of an unstable surface such as a swiss ball or suspension system clearly demonstrated that the front core muscles are more active then on a stable surface. Interestingly the authors noted that despite their predictions, unstable exercise failed to activate the side and back core muscles any greater than on the stable surface.
With the increase in popularity of suspension based training methods (such as TRX) this paper provides good validation as to the use of unstable surfaces to train the core muscles.
> From: Atkins et al., J Strength Cond Res 29 (2015) 1609-1615. All rights reserved to National Strength and Conditioning Association. Click here for the Pubmed summary.