Many people don’t exercise their stabilizing muscles and end up with injuries because of an imbalance with their muscle groups or dysfunction of their joints. If you have too much movement in the body, without stabilization, you can cause the back or joints to weaken and have poor biomechanics. Wear and tear to your body, and its joints, is reduced if your stabilizing muscles are strong. Maintaining muscle control of your stabilizers also makes the body more efficient, coordinated, and balanced, which are also critical aspects of fitness. But what are your stabilizing muscles and how can they be strengthened? In Pilates classes, we often discuss the difference between your moving and stabilizing muscles. Your “movers” are big muscles that move your body parts. These muscles are often the focus in typical gym exercises. Stabilizing muscles, on the other hand, act to support the trunk, limit movement in a joint, and/or control balance. Stabilizers are not concerned with moving your body, but rather supporting it. These are often smaller muscles that are engaged for long periods of time to hold your body erect.
In Pilates, we concentrate on stabilizer muscles in order to decrease and prevent pain and to avoid the deterioration of the muscles, tissue, and joints of the body. When stabilizing muscles become weakened it is not only difficult to perform functional movements, but it is often difficult to maintain the correct posture and placement of the body. This can allow for atypical movement of muscles and joints, which can lead to chronic pain and injuries.
Most people, especially those who work out often, believe that they are strengthening a full range of muscles while at the gym. These people, however, are often only focusing on their moving muscles to the exclusion of their stabilizing muscles. An individual may have incredible muscle definition but does not have the ability to stabilize these bulky muscles. In fact, many of these individuals begin to use their overly developed movers to do the job of the stabilizers. This creates and reinforces bad habits wherein the unused stabilizer muscles become smaller and weaker. This is may not be readily apparent as a problem for a healthy individual. But if an injury occurs or activity is decreased, or these bad habits continue over time, the problem becomes obvious. Nothing is stabilizing the body. With the stabilizers not doing their job and the movers injured or weak, you may experience muscle spasms, muscle tears, or joint and back pain. If you continue this course of action untreated, more damage is possible to the nearby joints, muscles, and nerves that may ultimately lead to surgical intervention. It is critical to strengthen both the movers and the stabilizers.
Pilates is a whole-body fitness that, among other aspects, creates strength and endurance of stabilizing muscles. When you use Pilates equipment, such as the reformer, you are training in an unstable piece of equipment: a rolling carriage equipped with springs that are set at different resistances. Training in this manner requires your core to work to keep you steady, which improves its ability to stabilize you. Continued work like this in a class or private Pilates session improves your ability to activate your stabilizers as well as increase their endurance.
With any form of exercise, focus needs to be given to the appropriate form and technique. In Pilates, we focus of proper positioning of your body with every exercise, starting with the stabilization of your trunk. By building strength and endurance in your stabilizing muscles and understanding how these muscles support the body’s movement and keep your joints stable, you will not only isolate and strengthen your moving muscles, but you will train your stabilizing muscles to contract with all of your functional movements. The strength of your stabilizing muscles enhances your ability to produce power to your muscles, keep your body uniformly developed, coordinated and balanced, and reduces the threat of injury.
Join a Pilates class and learn how you can properly strengthen and train your stabilizing and moving muscles to work jointly to help prevent injury and pain. For more information, contact Bodhi Pilates at 303-597-8483.