When you make the decision to get (back) in shape, it often includes going to an exercise facility. Some resistance training is usually also part of the program. “Throwing weights around,” doing what everyone else is doing, or trying to figure it out for yourself, is not the best, or safest, way to incorporate resistance training into a workout.
One aspect of resistance training that is often overlooked is the stability aspect. Some parts of the body are supposed to stay still (stabilizers) during an exercise while other parts are moving (mobilizers). What makes this complicated is that one muscle group can be a stabilizer for one exercise, and the mobilizer for another. An example is the rectus abdominous stabilizes the body for most resistance exercises but is the primary mobilizer in abdominal crunches.
There are two basic kinds of stabilization, joint and muscle. For a muscle to perform at its best in a resistance exercise, it has to be isolated. In general terms, this means that some of the joints involved have to hold still while the other joint(s) is in motion. The shoulder, for example, has no fewer than twelve muscles attached to it. If no effort is made to stabilize the shoulder joint for a particular exercise, the body spreads the work around, and several muscles get in on the act. This is not an efficient way to work a specific muscle or muscle group. True, more muscles get worked at the same time, but only the weakest muscle of that group will be challenged. Bottom line? Time and effort wasted for the bigger, stronger muscles.
Learning how to do stability exercises when performing resistance training has some benefits:
Stabilizing a joint helps isolate a muscle so it can work harder. Working harder leads to being able to control more weight, for example, which leads to a larger muscle, which can lead to improved performance in other activities.
Working one muscle at a time is useful when doing resistance exercises. Most of our lives’ activities involve using more than one muscle at the same time. When each of those muscles has been trained up to its best strength and functionality, the entire body benefits.
Stabilizing a joint allows us to work the intended muscle safely. When too many different muscles get involved, the body almost doesn’t know which way to go. More often than we like to admit, we cause injury to ourselves in this way. Sometimes it’s a simple muscle strain, but sometimes we can hurt joints that may take a while to heal if they ever do.
This blog post is not about teaching how to stabilize. There is way too much involved to do that in one short piece. The goal is to raise awareness of the critical need for skeletomuscular stability in resistance exercising.