Your body is composed of many different types of muscles with multiple roles in your everyday life. Your musculoskeletal system has 2 generic types or muscles: movers and stabilizers. In general, the movers are muscles that are primarily known for moving parts of your body. For example, when you flex your bicep your elbow will bend. These muscles are what most people work on when they go to the gym. When one of these muscles becomes weak it may be more difficult and/or painful to perform a specific task such as lifting a box.
Stabilizer muscles support and hold your body upright…
The stabilizer muscles are a little different… they are not concerned with moving your body, but rather supporting it. These are often smaller muscles that are active for long periods at a time to hold your body upright. In physical therapy we often concentrate on these muscles in order to decrease and prevent pain and dysfunction in the body.
When stabilizing muscles become weakened it is not only difficult and possibly painful to perform a task, but it is often difficult to maintain correct posture and positioning of the body. This can allow for aberrant movement of joints which increases tissue stress and can contribute to future injuries and disorders.
Stabilizer muscles are weaker in heavy lifters… ?
Many people, especially those that workout often, believe that they are strengthening a full range of muscles while at the gym. However, all too often when I test a stabilizing muscle it is very weak… even more weak in the heavy lifters. In many individuals the movers become strong enough to do the job of the stabilizers. The stabilizers, now not being used, become smaller, weaker, and soon forgetting their purpose in the body. In a healthy individual this is not so much of a problem. Throw in an injury or decreased activity and the strength of the movers declines.
So who is stabilizing the body? –No One… With the stabilizers not doing their job already and the movers injured or weak, this is where muscle spasms, muscle holding, and pain come in to the picture. As this continues untreated more damage is possible to the nearby joints, muscles, and nerves that may in the end require surgical intervention. The point here is that just because you have big muscles, does not necessarily mean you are strong enough to support your own body. There are several ways you can be sure to strengthen both the movers AND stabilizers.
How to strengthen stabilizer muscles along with the movers:
– do exercises slowly – use low weight and high number of reps – include exercises that require balance or do weight training on a bosu/stability ball – check back soon for some specific stability exercises!