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Effectiveness of an abdominal training protocol on an unstable surface versus a stable surface Brovender, Samuel Joshua

Abstract

Background and Purpose. Control of the trunk musculature is essential for maintaining stability of the lumbar spine. Training the abdominal mechanisms on a stable surface is a well-established intervention. The clinical use of unstable surfaces when training the transversus abdominus is common, however, little is known regarding the effectiveness or added value of an unstable environment. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the clinical and subjective levels of improvement of the deep trunk muscles, following training, on an unstable versus stable surface under an abdominal pre-setting condition. Subjects. Volunteer subjects (n=25, 10 males and 15 females) from the Vancouver Dolphins Swim Club, between the ages of 14 and 19 years were randomly assigned into one of two groups: a group instructed on abdominal setting and then performing exercises on an unstable surface and, a second group also instructed on abdominal setting but performing the same exercises on a stable surface. Methods. Three commonly used trunk stability exercises were assigned to each subject and were progressed one per week over a period of six weeks. All subjects in the study were taught the proper abdominal setting action prior to beginning the study. Subjects met once per week with an instructor to ensure that proper exercise technique was maintained as well as to receive proper exercise progressions. Three testing sessions were conducted over the course of the study, at the zero, three and six-week marks. Baseline measures were taken using the Stabilizer™ pressure biofeedback unit and the Sahrmann testing protocol. A questionnaire and a logbook with follow-up data were also collected at the three and sixweek testing sessions. Results. Significant within group differences were seen in each of the two groups throughout the entire length of the study as the abdominal training progressed. Between group differences were significant during the second half of the study when adjusting for the three-week score proving the unstable surface to be more effective than the stable surface as a measure on the Sahrmann scale using the pressure biofeedback unit, with a z-score of -2.2 and a p-value of 0.014. Discussion and Conclusions. As subjects learn to control their abdominal musculature, improvements in trunk stability are noted. Training on an unstable surface will improve the activation of the abdominal mechanism greater than training on a stable surface. With a baseline of neuromuscular activation following training on a stable surface progression to an unstable surface may result in even greater improvements. Subjective improvements in strength and power were noted upon analysis of questionnaires and log books, following a core training program.

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