What are stabilizing muscles (and do you really need to train them)?

What are stabilizing muscles (and do you really need to train them)?

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You may have heard dumbbell exercises are better than barbell exercises because they work more of your “stabilizers”, or that free weights are better than machines for the same reason. But what are stabilizing muscles? AAre they really neglected with machine exercises, and are they so important to train?

What are stabilizing muscles?

It’s going to get blurry, because there really isn’t agreement on what stabilizing muscles even are. This 2014 study searched the literature for mentions of stabilizing muscles and tried to come up with a definition. Here is what they found:

muscles that contribute to joint stiffness by co-contraction and show an early onset of activation in response to disturbance via a feedforward or feedback control mechanism.

Alright, stabilizing muscles are muscles that, well, stabilize. What muscles are these? This is a more difficult question. You can find many searches on “lumbar [lower back] outriggers” or “trunk [core] stabilizers” or “knee stabilizers”. But these don’t turn out to be specific muscles that only stabilize the joints. For instance, this study on the knee stabilizers names four muscles that are part of the quadriceps and hamstring muscle groups (the large muscle groups in the front and back of the thigh, respectively). Are those stabilizers, where are are they just muscles that move the legs?

Stabilizers in one exercise can be the main movers in another

That’s why I don’t worry too much about machines that neglect the “stabilizing” muscles. If you do a variety of quad exercises and a variety of hamstring exercises, you’re pretty much guaranteed to hit the quadriceps and hamstring muscles that act as knee stabilizers as you run and jump.

Or to use another example: single-leg exercises like the step-Ups and lunges are great for working your abductors (hip muscles) and adductors (inner thigh muscles) as these muscles work to keep your leg stable while you put weight on it. But if a person has never done single-leg exercises, they could still hit those muscles by doing exercises that target them as prime movers, like adduction and abduction machines.

Stability is a matter of coordination, not just strength

If we look again at the research on knee stabilizers, scientists have a theory that it is good to use these stabilizer muscles while running and jumping. It’s not just about the strength of those muscles, but also your ability to activate them when you need them.

So the way you keep your knees stable isn’t just by doing free weight exercises — although those are great — but also by doing running, jumping, pivoting, and cutting exercises. (Think of football players running around cones and rope ladders.)

In other words, practice is important for joint stability, not just strength. If you want to be regular and stable when performing certain movements, you will have to practice your brain to drive those muscles at the right time and in the right order.

Strength and stability are sometimes at odds

So what to do in the gym? You may notice that strong people usually use a mix of exercises. They can squat and bench with a barbell, but end their sessions with a bench press with dumbbells or leg extensions. There is a continuum to work, with force at one end and the stability of the other, and each of themThese exercises are at a different point on this continuum.

Take the example of the bench press. In a dumbbell bench press you should use your legs to stabilize your torso, your torso to create a stable platform for your arms, and your arms to move the weight. Even though you’re training your pecs and triceps as the primary movers, you’re involving a lot of shoulder, core, back, and leg muscles as stabilizers.

We can engage our stabilizers more if we were to do something like a dumbbell bench press with our back on a yoga ball. We had to work harder to keep everything stable, but as a result we couldn’t use as much weight. We would train the stabilizers more, but less the main engines.

We would get the opposite in a chest press. There you don’t need to do much stabilization, just enough to sit on the chair without falling. The pecs and triceps are no longer limited by what our stabilizers can handle, so we can “lift” even more weight. (This of course comes with the caveat that you impossible to compare machine labels to dumbbell or dumbbell weights; the mechanics are different.)

So do you have toform” your stabilizers?

my catch is it: IIf you train every part of your body, no matter how you do it, you will be end up training all your stabilizing muscles. Yes, even if you do an all-machine routine. routine only It is necessary-round.

If you stick to “functional” exercises that require a lot of stabilization, you’re probably doing plenty for your stabilizers without thinking too much about it. The trade-off is that you may not be giving the core drivers of each exercise as much work.

You can easily get the best of both worlds by doing a variety of exercises. If you never do anything that makes you unstable, add some exercises to one leg, gate, or other slightly unstable work to your routine. (No need to standing on a bosualthough you can if you wish, I suppose.) And if you do a lot of stability work, try some machines Where dumbbell exercises from time to time to make sure you build strength too.

#stabilizing #muscles #train

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