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Unstable-surface exercises

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​A majority of exercise and rehab programs take place in a controlled environment. When lifting weights or running, the weights are lifted in one plane and running is performed in a straight line. Although these activities are important, neither replicates sport, which is dynamic by nature.​​​

Athlete training on an balance board

You may play on tattered turf or run on uneven concrete, need to avoid obstacles such as opponents in football or soccer, or round corners or pivot such as in baseball or tennis. These variables require you to adapt and to sense joint position that can cause injury. Incorporating unstable-surface exercises into your practice or workout can help prepare you for an ever-changing sports environment and help prevent sports injury.

Recommended exercises help reduce the time required for your muscles to respond or react to environmental changes and joint position. The exercises train your body to react quickly in an effort to protect ligaments, cartilage, muscles or bones from stresses that can cause joint damage.

Some commonly prescribed unstable-surface exercises for workout or sports-injury rehabilitation include:

  • Balancing on a folded towel (3 repetitions, 30 seconds each)
  • Balancing on a folded towel with eyes closed (3 repetitions, 30 seconds each)
  • Balancing on a “both sides up” (BOSU) ball* (3 repetitions, 30 seconds each)
  • Balancing on a Dyna Disc®** (3 repetitions, 30 seconds each)
  • Balancing on a Dyna Disc® with eyes closed (3 repetitions, 30 seconds each)
  • Lunges onto a BOSU ball (3 repetitions, 10 each; holding for 4 seconds)
  • Lunges onto a Dyna Disc (3 repetitions, 10 each; holding for 4 seconds)
  • Squats on a BOSU ball (3 repetitions, 10 each)
  • Wobble or balance board training (3 repetitions, 30 seconds each)
  • Biomechanical ankle platform system (BAPS) board exercises (3 repetitions, 30 seconds each)

*BOSU ball consists of an inflated rubber hemisphere attached to a rigid platform. The device is often used for balance training and rehab.

**Dyna Disc® is a registered trademark of Dyna Disc. The device is used for lower extremity balance training and rehab.

If you suffer a ligament-related or muscular sports injury, the ability to respond to environment changes and determine joint position is compromised. Restoring this function is a critical aspect to rehab that helps you return to exercise, play or competition. Incorporate exercises that force the kinetic chain (muscles and ligaments from neck to toes) to respond to changes, such as those generated by an unstable surface, to help restore function of those joints.

Unstable-surface exercises retrain the body to respond to environmental changes with a muscular response. As your ability to respond continually improves, muscular and neurologic function is restored and the likelihood of re-injury decreases.

​​​Share comments or questions on this information email: sports.medicine@marshfieldclinic.org​.

 Sports Wrap

Current Issue​​ - May 2013

Unstable surface exercises​​​

Warm wea​ther safety​​

Myositis ossificatio​ns​

Guidance for personal safety equipment​​​​​​​​


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