At RFT, we take pride in what we like to call the 4 S’s. Strength, Sweat, Stretch and Stability.
This week I wanted to discuss a very important relationship between two of them, and how getting stronger and more efficient at one, will have a profound effect on the other.
Strength AND stability.
These two go hand in hand. Want to get stronger on your lifts? Increase your stability. Want to increase your stability? Get stronger. The more stable we are and the more stability we can maintain through a range of movement during a particular exercise, the more chance we have of lifting more effectively thus, hitting the target muscle more effectively. And that should be the priority of any good hypertrophy (muscle gain) program.
So what do I mean when I talk about being stable? Is it just the core? No. Now while the core (which is essentially from the backside up to the shoulder blades), plays a huge role in your overall stability, when considering your position during a resistance training exercise, be it squats, deadlifts presses or even push ups, you want to be stable from ground up. Ever heard of the game Jenga? Think of your body like that solid tower right at the start of the game. When it’s at its most stable. Take a piece from the very top and that tower will be fine. However, slide a piece out from the bottom one or two rows and its in all sorts of trouble right away. Same for your body. Get yourself stable from the feet up.
Take the squat for example. Stability starts at the feet and ankles. If they roll in, there’s a good chance your knees will cave in. Now you can have as strong a core as you like but if you’re losing stability at the feet, it’s asking for trouble elsewhere. Like a chain, if one link gets kinked, the other links work harder to compensate. This can lead to injury. Maybe not right away, but at some point down the track, it will catch up to you.
Let’s discuss the ‘meat and potatoes’ of stability which is of course, the core. As I mentioned, the core is pretty much from the gluteals (bum) to the traps (top of shoulder blades) and everything deep deep beneath them. There can sometimes be this thought that the core is purely the ‘6 pack’ abs. It is so much more. And like any muscle group, it MUST be trained and trained hard from various angles, rep ranges and time lengths. If you improve your stability and STRENGTH through the trunk, your lifts will sky rocket!
Another example we could use is the deadlift. A great exercise for building strength, possibly the best, but one that often times can come at a price. There can be a fine line between success and let’s just say, not so much success. For your deadlift numbers to go up, it would be wise to strengthen your core. That means stronger hamstrings, bum, spinal erectors, latissimus dorsi, traps and all the muscles of the upper back, as well as the abdominal wall, obliques (sides of the trunk), and the myriad of deep core muscles that attach to the spine. Improve strength in ALL of those areas and you will reap the benefits that the deadlift has to offer while giving yourself the best chance to remain injury free.
What else can we do? Well, without going into too much detail (because it would be another topic all together), we can pay attention to improving joint stability. Getting stronger at the ankle, knee, hip or shoulder joints themselves, will pay huge dividends in staying injury free during your strength training sessions.
And what else? Your breath! Yep, how you breathe can determine just how effective the exercise will be. Getting a breath in at the right time and letting it out at the right time, will ensure that your core stability is enhanced during the hard portion of the lift (the effort). Try breathing at a normal, rested rhythm with a bar across your back during a set of squats and you may just fold in two. Maybe not but you catch my drift. Breathing correctly through a movement will keep you ‘tight and secure’ and this should not be under estimated! In yoga you ideally breathe correctly into and out of poses, same for your strength training movements. Nail your breathing, nail your lifts!
To wrap it up, work on and improve the small things to improve the big! Spend time tending to your stability. Take part in one of the many RFT Core or Yoga classes available online. These are suitable for all comers and a great place to start and should honestly be in EVERYONES weekly training plan.