Saturday, June 9, 2012

Squats on Stable or Unstable Surfaces: Which is better?

A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research investigated the force output and electromyographic (EMG) activities of the leg and core muscles during squats on a stable or unstable surface.  Fifteen healthy, male volunteers performed isometric squats on a flat surface, power board, BOSU ball, or balance cone.  Activity from the following muscles were analyzed: quadriceps (middle, inner, and outer head), hamstrings (outer head), calf (soleus), abs (rectus abdominis), external obliques, and lower back (erector spinae).

Squats on a stable surface produced the greatest force output.  While power board squats produced forces that were lower than stable squats, this difference was not statistically significant (7% decrease, P = 0.320).  Squats on the BOSU ball (19% decrease) and balance cone (24% decrease) produced forces that were significantly lower than stable surface squats. 

EMG activities were similar in each muscle on all surfaces, except for the middle head of the quad (rectus femoris).  EMG activity during a stable squat was significantly greater than that activity during any unstable squat.

The results of this study suggest that squats on a stable surface are more effective than squats on unstable surfaces for building strength and muscle mass.  The use of unstable surfaces are still a great way to change up your workout, but the majority of your mass and strength building exercises should be performed on a stable surface!


Dr. Dozie
"I don't live to eat...I eat to live!!"

1.  Saeterbakken, AH and Fimland, MS, Muscle force output and electromyographic activity in squats with various unstable surfaces. J Strength Cond Res, 2012 Mar 24. E-published ahead of print.