Your muscles are avid team players. When one group fails at its intended function, another group gladly compensates. This usually ends badly. Mother Nature assigns specific purposes to each muscle group. She's not amused when they perform outside their realm of responsibilities. Mess with Mother Nature, and she wreaks havoc on your balance, stability and coordination. Body stabilization exercises put you back in her good graces.
Core Muscles and Beyond
Cooperation between your abdominal core, your hip and gluteal muscles and the muscles that stabilize your shoulders creates total body stabilization. Your core includes nature's girdle, the transverse abdominal muscle, the great spinal vertebra connector called the multifidus, and the pelvic floor, that deep muscle hammock that runs from your pubic bone to the base of your spine. The pelvic floor also acts as a stabilizer. In the hip region, your gluteus maximus and medius help with pelvic and knee stability, and your rotator cuff group takes responsibility for shoulder stability.
Sets, Reps and Safety
The sets and reps question always comes up when discussing any type of exercise, but a one-size-fits-all approach does not suit stability training. Trial and error will probably characterize your first few repetitions. Once things click, you'll get into the groove until your stabilizing muscles fatigue. At this point, you begin to wobble and feel stress and strain in your back, neck and knee joints. This is your body's way of saying "enough already." Additionally, health conditions or injuries that challenges your balance require your doctor's approval before trying stabilization exercises.
Hip Extension Plank
The plank exercise demands support from your core, hip and shoulders. Adding hip extensions increases the stabilization requirements. As a side benefit, a study published in 2011 in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy found that planks with hip extensions trigger the strongest butt muscle contractions, when compared to other exercises. Assume a pushup position, drawing your belly in, neutralizing your neck alignment position and sliding your shoulders away from your ears. Squeeze your butt and lift your leg to hip height. Lower your foot and repeat with the opposite leg. Kick it up a notch by placing your feet on a balance device.
Bird Dog Progressions
The bird dog exercise, performed on all fours, provides a basic total body stabilization exercise. Engage your core, keep a neutral spine and simultaneously lift and extend your right leg and left arm, then your left leg and right arm. Minimize wobbling between movements. This exercise teaches transitional balance, or the balance that occurs when linking movements together. Increase the stabilization challenge -- especially for your shoulders -- by performing this exercise with a balance disc under each hand and each knee.
- Therapistisms.org: Core Stability Exercise Programme Glossary of Terms
- Princeton University: Pelvic Stabilization, Lateral Hip and Gluteal Strengthening Program
- Endurance Magazine: Core Corner – Plank with Alternating Hip Extension
- International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy: Electromyographic Analysis of Gluteus Medius And Gluteus Maximus During Rehabilitation Exercises
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.