Posted by Megan Fischer-Colbrie on Mar 19, 2015 2:52:00 PM
Stability is a critical component of athleticism. No matter what sport you play, good stability enables you to move quickly, fluidly, and safely. Elite athletes develop this trait to protect themselves from injury, improve their technical prowess, and harness their performance potential.
Sometimes, athletes’ familiarity with physical therapy gives stability exercises a bad rap. The exercises can feel repetitive and surprisingly taxing, requiring minor movements or subtle changes in muscle activation that demand attention to detail. Given a little creativity, however, stability exercises can be both fun and challenging. Let’s take a look at 5 ways you can increase your stability.
It’s easy to be stable on both legs, but take one leg away and you reveal the true value of your lower body and pelvic stability. A major strategy with improving stability is to create an unstable environment to challenge you to maintain form in a compromised position—hence the single-leg movements. Try moving through your normal bodyweight squat on one leg and see how different it feels. You will likely notice a discrepancy in strength and balance between your left and right side (this is completely normal). BridgeAthletic has a variety of single-leg bodyweight movements like the ones below to get you started, and many of these can be modified with added resistance once you master the bodyweight variation.
1-Leg Box Squat
Holding a bridge is a whole body effort if you’re doing it correctly. This exercise should activate your shoulders, back, core, glutes, and quads. However, many athletes have weak spots that don’t “turn on” when they’re supposed to. Over time, this lack of activation leads to muscle imbalance and instability. You may not even know you have a weak spot until you attempt an exercise that relies heavily on that muscle group. Bridge variations can really highlight where your weak areas are. For example, a single leg bridge with one foot hovering a few inches off the ground demands a stable pelvic area. Your leg will drop if the posterior leg or glute muscle isn’t activating properly. A side bridge with one leg elevated will challenge your oblique and lateral glute strength, so you can see if those activate correctly with this variation too.
Two Point Bridge
When the surface you exercise on is unstable, you are forced to work harder to keep your balance and activate the proper muscles groups or you risk falling off the surface. If you’ve mastered an exercise on flat ground, try throwing in an unstable surface and see how well you respond. A squat atop the flat side of a BOSU ball (curved side down) is one example, where the surface you stand on can wobble if you don’t maintain stability. Physio or swiss balls are great for stability work. Try a plank with your forearms resting on the edge of the ball to hone your coordination and stability from your shoulders to your toes. These balance-based exercises require mental focus and muscular control to make slight adjustments as you attempt to keep form.
The foundation of any athlete’s stability is core strength. Put simply, the part of your body where all four limbs attach to should be as stable as possible. You can begin with basic abdominal exercises, but to target your complete core you’ll need to work your back and oblique muscles too. The sky’s the limit on these exercises. Back arches and crunches work well, and so do hanging leg lifts from a pull up bar. BridgeAthletic has a vast array of creative core exercises to get you started.
The center of gravity refers to a body’s balance point. The lower the center of gravity, the better one’s stability. When athletes lower into a crouched or squat position, like in many sport-specific movements, they increase their stability. This is why a slight bend in the knees at the start of many strength exercises is desirable, because it creates a more stable base for you to move from. Proper glute activation improves stability because it helps you squat, pivot, and make other adjustments in movement to maintain a stable base. Glute activation also protects the anterior leg and pelvic muscles from overworking, and protects muscle joints from receiving excessive force during high-impact movements.
From single-leg exercises to wobbly surfaces, stability work can be extremely beneficial to your overall athleticism and injury prevention. If you’d like more training or injury prevention tips, check out our strength and conditioning page.
Find other recent articles to maximize your performance at blog.bridgeathletic.com.