Are you stable?
If you ask most people that question about me, the answer is a resounding no, but I digress.
The American Council on Exercise defines fitness related stability as: the ability to maintain or control joint movement or position. Stability is achieved by the coordinating actions of surrounding tissues and the neuromuscular system.
Before you start yawning, let me tell you why this is all about you. The more appropriate stability you can demonstrate and achieve, the more of a rock star you will be in the gym. Seriously, I am not even kidding a little! 🙂
In fact, you will never reach your full potential until you have developed your personal optimal stability (and mobility, but that's for another day).
The practical ramifications of stability include being able to control your joints on uneven or unstable surfaces and staying off your butt. Icy driveway in a NH winter anybody?
Postural stability is critical in the controlled environment of the gym as well. Heavy lifts (relative to your current strength, skill and ability) is crucial for proper performance and injury prevention.
In my own training, as well as my programming, working on stability has become a "big rock". In other words it's a consistent focal point. Now that doesn't mean I don't still lift heavy things off the floor, but I am lot more careful to address left to right imbalances and instability on a consistent basis. I know that is what is going to help you and me train hard for the rest of our lives. I learned the hard way that ignoring unilateral instability not only stunted my gains, but it put me in a world of hurt.
For this kind of work I like to program training tools that create a requirement to stabilize through the core and fire the myriads of little muscle we don't even think about.
Let's take the Turkish Getup for example; I can perform them with a 12kg Kettlebell very easily, but a 25 pound sandbag, with it's shifting contents, requires significantly more effort to perform. If you have been training here lately, you know what I am talking about.
We are also starting to implement tools such as Leverbells into our training programs, which are a whole new way to promote and enhance stability. Far from being the latest "fad" tool, these bad boys have been around in some form for a gazillion years (at least). They were introduced to me by Josh Henkin of DVRT fame, and after getting some instruction and training with them, we decided to share the joy with you. You're welcome. 🙂
Here's an easy way to test your stability (and strength), and also to identify left to right imbalances.
Stand on one foot, bring your thigh parallel to the floor and your lower leg perpendicular to the floor. How long can you stand there? Now try the other leg. A baseline time to achieve is 60 seconds per leg. If you can stand for significantly more time on one rather than the other, you have a left to right imbalance, for some reason. Could be mobility, stability, or strength.
Remember strength is relative, no matter if you ever want to lift heavy weights or not. You must have ENOUGH strength to stabilize, so don't ignore strength training. This stuff helps with cardio too. Your joints must be healthy and have the stability required to take the repetitive forces cardio produces. It applies to everyone, so if you are an "everyone", it applies to you!
Let's get stable!