"Stabilize" is a word you're probably familiar with hearing in a fitness class. The instructor says you're stabilizing with your core or working stability in your leg. But what exactly does it mean?
To stabilize is to use muscles to minimize movement, and create stillness or control around a joint that could otherwise have a lot of movement in multiple directions. The most common places we do this is in our spine/trunk (where our vertebrae could otherwise bend) and out knees + hips.
We need build and have stability for functional reasons. Sometimes forces (i.e. gravity, weight, momentum) pull on our bodies and we want our muscles to be able to react + contract to support and protect us.
So are there specific stabilizing muscles? Kind of. Some muscles get called upon mainly to stabilize while other muscles are used a lot to both stabilize and cause movement. And stabilizing muscles come in all sizes...they aren't necessarily 'smaller' muscles.
Here's an example of where working stability as a function can trigger specific muscles to activate.
A study was done in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science testing the use of our quad muscles when doing squats on different surfaces. The healthy subjects performed squats on hard plates, foam, and rubber air discs and the muscle work was measured using electrodes. The results were that the muscle activity of the vastus medialis oblique (the inner portion of your quadriceps muscle on the inner thigh side of your knee) was statistically significantly higher on rubber air discs.
So when placed on an unstable surface that wobbles side to side, the VMO activated significantly more than a stable surface and created stability in the knee. And in doing this, the person performing squats is strengthening the VMO which prevents instability, dislocation and degeneration in your knee. Whoa! A strong VMO will also appear sculpted and toned and give definition to the front of the thigh.
So there's your anatomy and biomechanics lesson! And an explanation for why the disc in Triple Shot was introduced to our studio 18 months ago! So the next time you are in class wobbling on the disc, you can remember how much it is benefiting your body and know that your hard work is not in vain!
See you at the studio!