Integrating Stabilization Exercises into Your Workout
Beginning any exercise program, including a stabilization routine requires you to establish goals. In my previous post, you learned that the core is more than the abdominal muscles. So now let's talk about goals for working your stabilizers.
Stability and Coordination
Healthcare professionals have debated and modified the definition of core stability for years. However, most agree it’s the ability of the muscles to work in a coordinated manner to maintain alignment of the spine and pelvis while the limbs are moving. This is further divided into static and dynamic stability. Static stability is posture and balance. While dynamic involves, flexibility, strength, endurance and cardio-vascular.
This focuses on the awareness of the core muscles and maintaining your posture. Exercises here are typically isometric or small movements and can be challenging. The goal is not building strength, but endurance of the muscles. An example of a static stability exercise is abdominal bracing.
Abdominal bracing or setting is best to begin lying on your back with knees bent. Place hands on your hip bones in order to feel the subtle contraction. Draw your belly button down to your spine without engaging the workaholic muscle the rectus abdominus (six pack abs). Or visualize putting a girdle around your mid-section. If that doesn't work for you, try coughing or deeply exhaling. That deep feeling of a muscle contraction is your transverse abdominus. Now the trick is getting to engage this muscle without the cough or exhaling.
What an abdominal brace is NOT is sucking your belly all the way in or holding your breathe. You should be able to breathe, talk, move or carry on conversation while this muscle is engaged.
Once you master feeling the abdominal brace then practice engaging this muscle. Practice holding the contraction for a count of 10 seconds and repeating ten times. You may need to slowly work up to performing this many repetitions. The most important thing is gaining the awareness of the support and using with all exercises and movement.
Now that you are aware of the core muscles and how they work to maintain posture you can progress to dynamic exercises. These exercises are explosive and work on power and agility. While maintaining posture and abdominal brace you can perform jumping, throwing or sports specific exercises.
Not to be confused with stability, strength is the muscle (hips, shoulders or abdominals) and not the movement of the body. To improve strength you want to work through the muscles available range of motion. Keep the repetitions between 6-12 reps for 2-3 sets. Therefore, when 12 reps are easy don’t do 100 reps, instead increase the challenge of the exercise by adding weights, resistance or medicine balls.
Stabilizing routines all overlap and each has a benefit in your workout. The goal is to do the exercises properly and be aware of the muscles working. This will increase your strength with an activity or sport and prevent injuries.
Remember, you can work your stabilizer muscles a variety of ways so chose exercises that are fun and specific to your goals or sports.