I’ll admit it: People have called me unstable before. And while I don’t think they always meant it as a compliment when it comes to my workouts, I’ll totally take it! Instability training – the practice of doing certain exercise moves while slightly off balance – has been a hot trend in fitness for a while now. I think it started with exercise balls. Remember this bad boy?
I didn’t think people REALLY did this until I worked out with Paul Moltzan from the US Ski Team. And yeah, this happened:
Swiss balls started showing up in everywhere from gyms to yoga studios to offices with their seductive promise to hone your core, improve your posture and challenge your balance. Next came bouncy BOSU (both sides up) half-balls on which people would stand, bounce, balance and lift weights to add some extra work to their workouts. Then there were wave boards, balance boards, wobble boards, air pads and a whole host of other tools designed to make standing up difficult. Nothing like looking like you came to the gym drunk at 9 a.m. on a Tuesday!
As with anything new, once the shine started to wear off the controversy started. People started getting weird injuries like twisting their ankle while doing biceps curls and fit pros started to question the benefit of working the “small muscles” so much. I remember when I first started working out with Steve, my LifeTime Fitness trainer last year and celebrity trainer (funny how a little white dude is the closest I ever got to Shaquille O’Neal), that he was super into instability training – with a caveat. “This isn’t for everyone,” he warned me. “You have to have a really good level of fitness going into it or you’ll get hurt.” He made me pass a test before I was allowed to stand on one foot, you guys. But I suppose it was good as those workouts were some of the hardest I’ve ever done in my life and I packed on the muscle.
Since then however, some newer ways have come out to challenge your balance by providing instability but without the tripping danger. Slosh tubes (big pipes partially filled with water) were my first intro to this method. And good golly they were HARD. It took us like 10 tries just to get a picture where I wasn’t falling over. Sandbags also operate on this principle as the shifting sand provides the instability.
So I was all over it when Derek Mikulski contacted me about trying out his Hardcore Trainer – a bar that looks very much like a BodyBar or the bars you use in BodyPump but filled with steel balls that roll back and forth while you move it. He explains, ” As you move the bar, the weights inside also move, generating momentum and pulling your body further in the direction you are moving the bar! This causes you to actively engage more core muscles as you attempt to decelerate the weights moving within the bar!! Your core muscles have no choice but to work, and work they will! In a very short time, you will notice more firmness throughout your midsection and find it easier to move your entire body!”
Harder than it looks!
For the past month I’ve been using to add some extra challenge to traditional moves like squats, curls and sit-ups as well as HardCore specific moves designed to take full advantage of the bar like twists and reaches. While the bar itself doesn’t provide much resistance – mine was only 10 pounds – the instability really ups the intensity! And he was right, I could feel my core engaging more during every single move.
While I don’t have the abs of steel of the fitness models on his site, I did really enjoy using the HardCore trainer. I loved the challenge and the variety it provided to otherwise “normal” weight routines. (And you KNOW how important variety is to me!). Derek would love to provide one of you with your own HardCore Trainer package including a bar, an instructional DVD and a booklet to try it for yourself!
To enter, just leave me a comment below telling me if you’ve ever tried any kind of instability training and what you thought of it! FTC disclosure: I did not receive any money or other compensation for this post other than one free core bar to try out.
P.S. This is Day 5 of my week of giveaways! Don’t forget to enter to win your own copy of T25, $100 from Walgreens, $100 to Body Language clothing. The $100 giveaway from Tide will be coming back shortly – again, so sorry about the confusion there.