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Why is Stability Important?

The Importance of Stability

by Dr. Matt McGowan D.C.

 

Mobility w/o Stability = Injury

This is a very important equation to keep in mind when designing your training regimen or when trying to rehab from a musculoskeletal injury.  I have found this to be extremely true in my years in practice and I would like to take a moment to dive into this equation a bit more so that it is more easily understood and hopefully applied.

Let’s take a second to define some terms:

Flexibility:  Refers to the ability of a joint to PASSIVELY move through range of motion.  Passive means that someone else can take that joint and move it from point A to point B.

Mobility:  Is your ability to ACTIVELY move that same joint through range of motion.  

It is easy to think that the two are one and the same, but they are not.  Flexibility and Mobility do not always match up for two major reasons:

  • The first is strength imbalance.  This is when an individual does not possess the strength to move the limb or structure through full range of motion.  A great example would be someone who cannot squat very deeply and they feel like they just can’t get past a certain point. In some scenarios, they are so unstable through their hip joints and core that the brain senses this and “red lights” the movement using other muscles to tighten and stop the movement.  If this individual can strengthen and stabilize some of those less stable areas, they will often gain much better mobility without having to do a single stretch.
  • The second is stability.  Are the supporting structures around the joint or muscle in question stable enough to allow this joint to move freely?  This second principle is often overlooked in training and rehab for musculoskeletal injuries. I’ve seen this in a lot of different sports and “daily living” injuries, but most frequently I’ve come across this problem in Yoga injuries.  Yoga is wonderful for improving one’s flexibility and mobility, but I often see individuals who have reached a high level in the practice yet lacking stability in some of those positions.  It is extremely frustrating to them when they come into the office and they just don’t understand how their muscles get injured when they are so loose and bendy.  

How can you improve your stability?

One of the best ways is through Isometric holds.  This means that you place the unstable joint in a compromised position under mild to moderate load and you hold it there.  Very similar to how a person would try to train balance by standing on a single leg and holding for time.  Some great ways to challenge core and upper limb stability are with weighted carry exercises (i.e. Farmer’s carry, Waiter’s carry, Overhead Carry).  For the core and lumbar spine, there are various Isometric exercises specifically for the deepest layer of the core called the Transverse Abdominis.  

If you think you may be in a similar position and unsure of where to start or what to do, please reach out to us.  We would be happy to help you get to the root of the issue and set you up with the correct exercises. 

 

Single Leg Stability Exercises

Single Leg Stability by Dr. Matt McGowan D.C.

Single Leg Stability
by Dr. Matt McGowan D.C.
January 2019

When I look at patients’ current workout plans, a very common theme is a lack of “unilateral training” especially with regards to the lower body. What I mean by unilateral training is specific work done to one side of the body at a time to address any imbalances you may have side to side. Often patients’ programs will contain a wide variety of squats, deadlifts, lunges, etc. – all wonderful movements on their own. But think about the fact that every time we walk or run we are doing hundreds of thousands of single leg balances. Where is this reflected in our training? And it’s not just my patients. I have seen many accomplished athletes who can barely pass single leg balance tests. Unsurprisingly, patients who ignore unilateral training frequently present with lower back pain or hip problems. How do I test in office to see if you have an imbalance? Two very good screening tests can be done quickly at home to see if you have some issues with single leg balance: 

1. In bare feet, stand facing a mirror; raise one leg up to 90 degrees at the hip so that the top of the thigh is parallel to the ground. When doing so first observe the overall ease of movement. Is it hard to do? Are you wobbling or shaking? Next look at your ankle, does it cave inward? Does it want to roll outward? See how long you can hold in that position with minimal ankle wobbles. If you can hold for 30 seconds and remain pretty still, that would be a passing grade. Then repeat on the other side.

2. The second test is a Step-Out Lunge. Again, do this in front of a mirror and perform three step-out lunges out and back per side. In this test again notice the ease of both the movement stepping out as well as the ease at returning back to a standing position. Next look at the knees, as you lower into the lunge. Does the knee stay in line with the second toe? If it moves medially or inwards then that is a big issue. Lastly look again at the ankle, does it collapse inward? Does it roll outward? If you struggle with any of these tests then you are doing yourself a disservice by not including specific programming for these weaknesses. There are hundreds of corrective exercises out there to work on these issues. Some of the more common ones are:

Single Leg Box Step-Ups

Walking or Step Out Lunges

Single Leg Hinges or Deadlfts

Balance Beam Work

Skater or Heiden Lunges

(A quick youtube search will find hundreds of videos if you are unfamiliar with these.)
If you think you might fall into this situation, feel free to come in and be evaluated. We
can certainly get you on the right path to optimal function.