Top-down instability training

The Only Natural Product Line in Sports Nutrition

The Only Natural Product Line in Sports Nutrition


Athletes, fitness enthusiasts and those who work out utilizing a CrossFit training-style are always looking for new ways to:

  • Enhance movement mechanics

  • Increase power and strength

  • Avoid injury

You can achieve these benefits as well as keep your workouts fresh and progressive by using top-down instability training. Top-down instability begins with the hands in contact with a reactive/unstable training device such as gymnastic rings, suspension trainers or the Surge® Storm or Surge® Riptide (the smaller version).

These tools can help you improve traditional lifts and change up your usual approach to training. In other words, complementary or accessory exercises are essential to creating a complete approach to training. Using the right kind of accessory exercises can help you enhance training results, avoid plateaus and minimize overuse injuries.

Training with top-down instability has many benefits, and with the water filled Surge® products, you can use several different approaches.

Surge® Front Squat with Water Quiet

Using Surge® products to perform a front squat allows you to focus on mobility, perfect positioning, alignment, and stabilization. Any movement error is magnified by increased water movement, which requires a correcting action. You have to focus on keeping the water still or quiet, with the water giving constant feedback as you equalize the right and left sides of the body. A common movement fault in squats is driving harder with the more dominant hip and leg. This error will cause the Surge® to tilt slightly in the direction of the less dominant side, and you will feel the water shift instead of staying still. Feedback like this leads to “perfect practice,” more core activation, balanced movement patterns, and better total body stabilization.

Key Point: Surge® products offer an unstable training load - water that is constantly shifting and moving - in reaction to the movement pattern being performed.

Surge® Overhead Snatch with Water Crash

Another way to use the Surge® products is to crash the water intentionally - an acceleration of the water with a quick stop that requires end range contraction or deceleration - while performing sport type movements or an Olympic lift like the Surge® Overhead Snatch.

Rather than keeping the water quiet as in the previous example, intentionally crashing the water at the top of the Snatch movement requires you to simultaneously decelerate the crashing movement and stabilize the core and involved joints to a greater degree than when the water is quiet. This exercise can help you burn more calories and enhance your ability to react.

Key Point: Surge® products offer a dynamic training load – moving water that must be quickly decelerated – which requires intense stabilization and body control.

The Science

Before we look at Surge® Water Dumping which is another way to use water as unstable resistance, let’s take a look at the science behind Surge® training.

Improved stability at the joints responsible for complex lifts (e.g., squat, deadlift, clean, bench press) will improve your ability to lift heavier weight. Period.

Unstable Surge® resistance exercises require greater core muscle activation, which translates to greater stabilizing function for the muscles. Instability resistance training (IRT) exercises can also provide training adaptations for coordination and other motor control issues which has positive implications for low back injury prevention. Finally, improvements in postural stability from balance training with no resistance - or with submaximal loading (such as the Surge®) - can help to improve force/power output. This approach can lead to a training paradigm involving a mix of balance training, reactive training and instability resistance training, which can lead to higher load tolerance in traditional resistance training. In other words, by improving your balance and stability, your strength and power can increase exponentially.

An important aspect of accessory training exercises and equipment is to lift or train with submaximal loads to, 1) Off-load the body for recovery from heavy lifting protocols, and 2) simultaneously increase total body stability and practice movement patterns under lighter loading that transfer well to traditional lifts or sports movements.

Surge® Lunge with Water Dumping

Performing an Overhead Lunge with the Surge® requires mobility and stability in the posterior chain (back side of the body), shoulders, core, and lower body. While performing the lunge, focus on keeping the water quiet when the Surge® is overhead. Then, holding the lunge, arc the Surge® and “dump” the water to one side, step together and re-stabilize overhead. Perform another lunge, and repeat the arc and water dump to the other side. Water dumping shifts the water to one end of the Surge® quickly, requiring stabilization at the end range.

Key Point: Accessory training and instability resistance training result in a win-win whether you simply want to get fit or lift heavier weights.