You would never try to build a house on loose sand. Or try to drive a car without any wheels. You would not harvest a garden before planting it or teach a child to play tennis before they can run. Everything has an order in which it should be done to achieve the best possible outcome. The Human body is no different!
So lets talk about muscles. More specifically, stabilizing muscles. What do I mean by that?.. Not all muscles are made the same, just as not all people are. Muscles such as the ‘biceps’ and ‘quads’ are knows as prime movers. As you might guess, that means their primary objective is to move the body: Flex the elbow, flex the trunk, extend the knee, rotate the shoulder and so on. It is absolutely important to have strong prime movers; they do so much work on a day-to-day basis. Even if you’re more into aesthetics building than functional movement, the prime movers are usually the ones you can see, the ones that make you look strong on the outside, but not necessarily strong underneath.
Underneath are the unseen, unheard of muscles like the Transverse Abdominis, the Multifidus and the Subscapularis. These unheard of muscles have different jobs to the prime movers. They are less about creating movement and more about stopping movement. Just because they are unseen doesn’t make them unimportant, In-fact its quite the opposite!
Don’t get me wrong, stabilisation is not the only function of these muscles. ‘Stabiliser’ is not a category of muscles, rather, an important function of many deep muscles often forgotten about. Large muscles do stability work as well to some degree during movement to prevent injury. Lets look at the definition of ‘stabilisation’ for a moment.
Thefreedictionary.com: Support or hold steady and make steadfast, with or as if with a brace.
Oxforddictionaries.com: Make or become unlikely to give way or overturn.
If you think about that in terms of anatomy it makes sense that you will become sore or possibly injured if your joints are unstable. If you have no stability say hello to bones rubbing or pinching, cartilage splintering and huge amounts of pressure running through tendons and ligaments during movements that are supposed to be plain and simple. There will be long term consequences if they remain that way!
If you think about it in terms of performance as an athlete it makes total sense that increased joint stability will increase your ability to train with minimal pain and injury as well as improve the quality of your movement. Imagine pitching a ball without that shoulder twinge, squatting without that pressure in your lower back, Jumping to your full potential or running without aches and pains. When every part of your body is working how it should, firing when it should and strong enough to do its job your body will perform beautifully. There are of course other factors but I am addressing the most common issue to the general population.
At the end of the day, everyone wants to be more efficient. They want to perform better at their job or sport, they want to move without pain, we all want to be better. Increased joint stability increases your performance potential and decreases your pain and risk of injury. Over the coming months I will post about individual joint issues I see a lot as an exercise physiologist, how stability plays a role in the cause, progression and prevention of injuries and most importantly some simple ways to improve it.