European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 116, Issue 11–12, pp 2247–2256 | Cite as

Resistance-training exercises with different stability requirements: time course of task specificity

  • Atle Hole Saeterbakken
  • Vidar Andersen
  • David G.  Behm
  • Espen Krogseth Krohn-Hansen
  • Mats Smaamo
  • Marius Steiro Fimland
Original Article



The aim of the study was to assess the task-specificity (greater improvements in trained compared to non-trained tasks), transferability and time-course adaptations of resistance-training programs with varying instability requirements.


Thirty-six resistance-trained men were randomized to train chest press 2 days week−1 for 10 week (6 repetitions × 4 series) using a Swiss ball, Smith machine or dumbbells. A six-repetition maximum-strength test with the aforementioned exercises and traditional barbell chest press were performed by all participants at the first, 7th, 14th and final training session in addition to electromyographic activities of the prime movers measured during isometric bench press.


The groups training with the unstable Swiss-ball and dumbbells, but not the stable Smith-machine, demonstrated task-specificity, which became apparent in the early phase and remained throughout the study. The improvements in the trained exercise tended to increase more with instability (dumbbells vs. Smith machine, p = 0.061). The group training with Smith machine had similar improvements in the non-trained exercises. Greater improvements were observed in the early phase of the strength-training program (first-7th session) for all groups in all three exercises, but most notably for the unstable exercises. No differences were observed between the groups or testing times for EMG activity.


These findings suggest that among resistance-trained individuals, the concept of task-specificity could be most relevant in resistance training with greater stability requirements, particularly due to rapid strength improvements for unstable resistance exercises.


Bench press Instability Strength training Electromyography 



Analysis of variance


Bench press






Maximum voluntary contraction


Root-mean square


Resistance training


Swiss ball


Smith machine



We thank the participants for their enthusiastic participation in addition to Alexander Olsen and Eirik Nordgård Strupstad for their participation in collecting data.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

This study was conducted without any funding from companies or manufacturers or outside organizations. There are no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in the study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Atle Hole Saeterbakken
    • 1
  • Vidar Andersen
    • 1
  • David G.  Behm
    • 2
  • Espen Krogseth Krohn-Hansen
    • 1
  • Mats Smaamo
    • 1
  • Marius Steiro Fimland
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Faculty of Teacher Education and SportSogn og Fjordane University CollegeSogndalNorway
  2. 2.School of Human Kinetics and RecreationMemorial University of NewfoundlandSt. John’sCanada
  3. 3.Department of Public Health and General Practice, Faculty of MedicineNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway
  4. 4.Hysnes Rehabilitation Center, St. Olavs HospitalTrondheim University HospitalTrondheimNorway

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