Unstable Load and Odd Object Training: Functional and Effective

ULOO - Unstable Load and Odd Object Training


As the fitness industry continues to evolve in both training concepts and equipment development, a much more robust and readily accessible pipeline of goal specific fitness programming is at our fingertips via local and commercial retailers, social media, and downloadable applications.  With so many training trends, equipment gadgets, and “online” trainers, it is often difficult for the average consumer or fitness enthusiast to make informed choices on what types of training such as unstable load training are right for them.

“Functional” training has gained tremendous momentum, over the past decade, earning its very own fitness programming category, and continues to top the American College of Sports Medicine’s coveted annual top ten leading fitness trends in the world.  Social media, internet, and television have all provided tremendous recent exposure of Strongman events, CrossFit competitions, tactical strength and conditioning, and obstacle course races, all proclaiming functional training and functional fitness as a primary training modality. 

Originating in Physical Therapy, Functional fitness is a blend of traditional and unconventional training methods, using a variety of different equipment and movements in preparation to perform any physical activity relative to sport, activity, or occupation.  Similar to sports specific training in its continuum and programming, however, quite polar opposite in that there is no specific sport, event, or physical activity in consideration, but all sports, events, and/or physical activities to remain prepared to competitively perform, including basic activities of daily living. In fact, functional fitness was first born by physical therapists providing movement specific therapy to those patients suffering from occupational injuries most commonly resulting in overuse, imbalances, and/or lack of mobility/flexibility. Today, functional fitness has been reborn is more dynamic, compound movements for the purpose of improving performance whether it be competitive or occupational.

Enter unstable load training:

“The ability to lift or unconventionally move an odd object or unstable, uneven load efficiently and effectively with the intent of improving functional work capacity & performance.”

Most commonly, this resistance is shifting throughout the exercise, forcing the user to not only focus on primary movers, but synergistically engage smaller fixators and neutralizers to stabilize the load in effort to move it effectively through the desired path.  Unless an athlete’s single fitness goal is muscle hypertrophy, as is only a mere 1.8% of all competitive and recreational athletes, it is absolutely vital to training adaptation and translation to include free weight exercises in all planes of movement, as the body physically and neurologically performs as a single unit.  However, the training continuum is not perfect.  Different sports and events share many shades of gray.  That said however, unstable load training is the single most effective training concept to develop neuromuscular and stability adaptations necessary to perform effectively in the other 98.8% of athletes in competitive, tactical, and/or recreational events.

A key core concept of functional training involves unstable/uneven load exercises and equipment. Do not confuse instability exercises with unstable load training, which places the user/athlete on an unstable surface such as a balance disc, Bosu Ball, or balance board.  Unstable load training uses a variety of unconventional equipment such as sandbags, kegs, stones, specialty barbells, or by varying the resistance in either unilateral or bilateral exercises and most commonly placing the user on a stable, firm surface. The intentional training outcome is to move the resistance effectively, efficiently and precisely.  As odd objects, sand, and water are uneven and/or shift, joint, muscular, and neuromuscular activities increase as maximum force of prime movers decrease.  This is considered “inhibitory post synaptic potential” or the need to produce force in an open environment as well as to stabilize the body as force is exerted, necessary in nearly all of sports and tactical occupations. Again, the goal is to effectively perform the unconventional task at hand, training the body as a fully “functioning” unit, not to simply exert maximum force and isolate individual muscle groups.

Nearly all athletes are required to be functional in their sport or tactical occupation. The expectation is to perform their best under all conditions, including high stress, maximum intensities, and treacherous environments. These athletes can dramatically improve performance and functionality through incorporating unstable/uneven load training within their fitness programming. 

Brute Force specializes in providing tactical, functional, and traditional athlete sports performance training by certified, and diversely experienced coaching staff featuring the gold standard in American made unstable/uneven load and odd object gear and equipment offerings. 

Sandbag workouts have become the leader in unstable load and odd object training because of the very nature of the shifting sandbag. Their unpredictability offers a unique experience unlike that you'll get with traditional steel weights. We offer a variety of fitness sandbags in three sizes to suit loads from 5 to 125 lbs. Our 12-pocket weighted vests are also suited for sand or steel shot rather than their uncomfortable plate carrier counterparts, unevenly distributing the weight across your body to give you a different workout each time you put it on.

Shop sandbagskettlebells, and weighted vests here.