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May 5, 2010

By Gerard Bochese

Too often, we focus on one particular area we want to target (abs, legs, arms) and don’t give enough attention to the muscle systems that stabilize those areas and help them function optimally. This is a mistake—in order to function, our whole bodies must be strong. So, the next time you’re at the gym, consider targeting these areas:

Spine Stabilizers
We have spoken about the abdominal region, which is important because it protects the spine and connects the upper and lower body. On the opposite side of the abdominal region (surrounding the spine) we have some important muscles that act as stabilizers: Multifidus. These deep spinal muscles are responsible for rotational stability between individual vertebrae.

To exercise the multifidus muscles, rotational stress must be applied to the spine. Exercises that put the body in a 2- and 3-point stance help to create rotational forces and train the multifidus.

Some examples are:

  • Single leg bridge
  • Bridge with march
  • Quadruped with hip extension
  • Quadruped with hip and arm extension

Some of the above exercises are also great for teaching the glutes (butt) to fire.

Our legs (extremeties) originate from our hips and glutes, so it is important that they are coming from a strong foundation. Most of us spend a good part of the day in a seated position. As a result, our glutes neurologically become shut off (the nervous system cannot tell the butt muscles to work). This neurological shut off makes it difficult to recruit our glute muscles when we are working out.

So, we begin to call on other muscles, such as the hamstrings, to do the work of the glutes. This is called synergistic dominance – which simply means a helping muscle is doing the work of the main muscle.  Because the helping muscle is not designed to do these movement patterns effectively we begin to get compensations, postural deviations, and inefficient movement patterns and thus our workouts suffer and the potential for injury becomes greater.

Therefore, from a stabilization standpoint it becomes extremely important that we teach the glutes to fire correctly. The following exercises are a great way to help turn these muscles back on.

  • Cook hip lift
  • Single or double leg bridge
  • Quadruped
  • Glute extension against bench
  • Tube walking – more specifically for the glute medias
  • Single leg squat

NOTE: anyone with back pain will probably find some back relief by getting the glutes to work properly and not causing an overload in the hamstrings.

Scapula Stabilizers
Our arms (extremeties) find their base of support in the scapula.

Throughout the day, we often find ourselves in a protracted position – rounded shoulders, rounded upper back, forward head, sunken chest. This poor posture and scapula weakness creates compensations, tightness, and often muscle spasms and pain as well as shoulder problems, especially in the rotator cuff muscles. (This is why so many people enjoy an upper back and shoulder rub).

In order to strengthen the scapula stabilizers and open up the chest and create better posture we need to participate in stabilization exercises that focus on retraction – pulling the shoulder blades back.

Some exercises that will promote retraction and help with scapula stabilization are:

  • Floor prone cobra
  • Ball letters (Y, T, W, L)
  • Dumbbell scaption
  • Cable or tubing retraction
  • Cable or tubing retraction pulls

If you do not have a strong stabilization system within your core you can potentially hurt yourself while doing mobility exercises such as crunches and leg lifts, bench press and squats, pull downs, and shoulder presses. Therefore, it becomes essential that you take the time to build a strong and stable core.  If you are already involved in a training program that focuses on all the traditional mobility exercises of lunges, bench presses, pull downs, curls, triceps extensions, etc, and have never tried any of the above stability exercises, it would be wise to change your program and include stability exercises for 3-4 weeks.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 5, 2010 10:40 am

    This article is very help i didnt realize how important the core muscles was until reading this thanks very helpful

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