FROM THE COACH’S DAUGHTER
My Dad was a Strength Coach for 30 years. We literally live in a gym with furniture. I asked my father why people lift weights on unstable surfaces like exercise balls.
“Get the exercise ball”….he said.
We have a 26 inch exercise ball that kind of rolls from room to room. He handed me one of our fixed barbells, from our fixed barbell set, that was much lighter than I could normally press with. Dad had me sit on the swiss ball and lift the barbell overhead. It seemed hard, though it was light. Hard because I was trying to balance and press the barbell while on a ball. In actuality, more than anything I was worried about my safety. Fortunately or unfortunately I did have a spotter.
Then, my father had me sit on the adjustable bench. He handed me what I told him was my normal weight, and I pressed it overhead.
“The more you have to balance the less weight you can use,….he said
My father then took me to his paper pile and asked me to read the latest study on muscle activation patterns while lifting on stable versus unstable surfaces.
It showed the upper extremity muscle EMG decreased as the stability decreased.
What interested me was that the exercises performed on the stable surface, our exercise bench, required more abdominal activation, just the opposite of what I thought was going to happen.
My father told me the abdominals require greater activation with greater loads during an overhead lift.
The study concluded that exercise balls or unstable surfaces should not be used during the overhead press exercise when the goal is to increase muscle activation of the arms or abdominals.
The authors ended by remarking, “The findings provide little support for training with a lighter load using unstable loads or unstable surfaces.”
Being curious, I asked Dad, “Seriously, why do people lift weights on a ball when you could easily lose your life?”
Well girl, back in the 1920s, a reporter from the New York Times felt that climbing the World’s highest peak might not be the best idea because it was so dangerous. The reporter asked the great mountaineer, George Herbert Leigh Mallory, who by the way died doing it, “Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?”
Mallory replied, “Because it’s there.”
“That’s why they do it Kaylee…because it’s there girl…because it’s there..make no mistake about it ….he said”