Stabilizer muscles, also called stabilizing muscles, provide support and stability to the prime muscles used for an exercise. The stabilizer muscles help to control and stabilize one joint so the intended movement can be performed in another joint. These muscles usually are not directly involved in the movement but work to keep the body steady so that the primary muscles can do their job. Let’s look at why stabilizer muscles are so important to strengthen.
There are not specific stabilizer muscles in the body. To be clear, the name describes exactly what these muscles do, their job when called upon. An example can be a chest press on an exercise ball. The primary muscles working include the chest and triceps’ muscles. The stabilizer muscles in this example are the abs, back and legs. They are also working to stabilize the body.
Think of some daily activities you might engage in. Carrying groceries, a child, or luggage are some examples. One side of the body is working independently from the other. But the opposite side of the body is needed for stabilization. Arms are being used for lifting but abs, back and other muscles are being used for equalization.
Stabilizer muscles are used for equilibrium, joint stabilization, and motor control. This off set or unilateral use of muscles/training helps to strength the core and promotes balance and coordination.
When thinking of these types of exercises, think of unilateral use of muscles. Some examples are:
Off set kettle bell/ dumbbell carry – carry a 20-pound weight in one hand and a 5-pound weight in the other (25/10, or any variety of weight difference). Walk or do walking lunges keeping the body balanced.
Single leg dead bug – lay on the mat with your lower back firmly on the mat. Bend knees and lift both legs up above hips. Raise arms straight above shoulders. This is the starting position. Lower left leg straight out and down as low as you can go without compromising lower back on the mat. Simultaneously, lower left arm straight out behind head. Return to starting position and repeat with right arm and leg.
Waiters carry – (think of a waiter carrying a tray of food) choose a heavy weight and carry it in right hand, up straight over the head, or elbow bent with hand just above shoulder. Walk or lunge 5-10 steps ahead on each foot. Left arm is down at the side of the body or parallel to the floor out straight at should height.
Pistol squat from chair – (this is a more advanced movement) with hard chair behind you, sit down on chair using one leg (other leg is off ground in front of body). Repeat with opposite leg.
There are many exercises that can be used to strengthen muscles. Stabilizer muscles help to balance the body when stress or movement to one joint or muscle is off set from the opposite muscle. When our body works unilaterally, we need other muscles to come in to support and protect. This is why stabilizer muscles are so important to strengthen.