What is Stability Training and Why is it Important?
There are dozens of reasons why people undertake some form of athletic training. Some people are trying to lose weight and reshape their body. Others are trying to get stronger and build better muscles. Others are in the studio because they’re trying to get better at a particular sport or activity, and others are there because they want to stay in shape and keep their heart healthy and active.
Just like we train a particular set of muscles in order to perform better, it’s critical that we devote the same amount of time -- if not more -- to working on those underlying stability muscles that allow our body to accommodate those movements.
Let’s get a better understanding of stability training, and why it’s so important in reaching our fitness goals.
What Is Stability And Why It’s So Important
Regardless of what your goal may be, there are all sorts of programs and training guides available to help you accomplish whatever you’ve set out to do. But we’d be willing to wager that very few of them, if any, focus on your body’s stabilizing muscles. That’s because most people take their body’s overall movement ability and stability for granted and assume that their body should work the way it's supposed to.
Metaphorically speaking, think of your body as a car. You can have the strongest and most powerful engine, generating the most horsepower for your vehicle. But if you don’t have all the auxiliary components in place to support that much horsepower and torque, your car is going to spend more time in the repair shop than on the road.
Your body is the same way. By developing the core components of our body's mobility and stability systems, it'll allow us to have better control of our movements and process the energy and stress exerted during exercise. This can result in improved fitness and athletic performances, and a reduction in our chances to sustain injuries when we exert our larger muscle groups.
In terms of stability, there are two components on which to focus: active and passive stability.
What Is Active Stability?
Activity stability involves the body's mechanism that allows you to make movements based on the signals sent by your brain. In other words, when you tell your body to perform a particular movement, those signals work with the infrastructure that actually enables that movement.
As you might guess, this largely involves our overall muscular structure, since it's our muscles that allow us to move the infrastructure (i.e., our bones and joints). Improving your active stability gives you the muscular strength and stamina to perform a given exercise for a longer duration and with more force.
What Is Passive Stability?
Passive stability is your body’s ability to perform core movements without physical restriction.
We mentioned that active stability involves the system that allows you to move your body's infrastructure. To continue that comparison, your passive stability is the infrastructure itself. Put another way, it's the physical hardware of your body -- like your bones, and the cartilage and ligaments connecting them-- that govern your physical ability to perform a movement.
Think of it this way: if you're performing a bicep curl, your active stability muscles are engaged when you're trying to lift the dumbbell or barbell to perform a rep. They make sure you're performing the rep with a smooth, controlled movement. Your passive stability muscles are involved with the actual act of moving your elbow, wrist, and fingers during that movement and ensuring they work as they're supposed to.
How Does Stability Play A Role In Boxing?
Anyone who's ever trained in boxing, in any capacity, realizes just how much each movement incorporates every part of your body. The power and force for your punches are generated from the ground up, through your legs and your torso and into your shoulders and arms. Your ability to defend yourself, either by blocking or moving around the ring, comes from your lower body and your torso. Even your basic boxing stance involves something of a slight crouch, which allows you to quickly move in a particular direction, and strike your opponent in a place where they are most vulnerable.
Given all of that, the importance of strengthening your core should make perfect sense. If your body is not able to use these muscles to transfer energy and force as appropriate, your ability as a boxer is going to be greatly curtailed.
How Can Someone Improve Stability?
As your overall stability is dictated by a group of muscles, these muscles can be trained in a manner similar to the way we train other muscles in the body. Keep in mind though, that stability comes first. Otherwise, it’s like we’re trying to suddenly lift a lot of weight with these muscles to make them big and strong without first ensuring they can bear the load.
Rather, we need to train these muscles in a way that optimizes their role in ensuring the mobility, flexibility and overall stability of your body while you’re boxing.
Shadowboxing might not seem like something that strengthens your stabilizing muscles, but it’s quite the opposite.
As shadowboxing involves you simulating boxing movements while striking nothing but air, you’re forcing your body to keep itself stable while you’re making these movements. You don’t have the luxury of being able to lean on the heavy bag to help you stay upright and in place.
A few three-minute rounds of shadowboxing will not only train you to think differently about the way you strike but also challenge your core stabilizers in a way that you might not otherwise get from spending the same time hitting the bag.
Sit-ups and Planks
It’s a staple of virtually every training montage in a boxing movie: the fighter performing countless sit-ups. In this case, it’s one situation where what happens in a Hollywood film is actually an accurate depiction of what happens in real life.
Sit-ups and planks are perhaps the most basic but foundational exercises for strengthening your core muscles and stabilizing muscles. Since they both involve using your range of motion, and because they force you to lift the weight of your torso, you’re naturally engaging and training both sets of muscles in the process.
If doing sit-ups or planks seems boring to you, there are dozens of ways to make these exercises more engaging, if not challenging. You can do these exercises while holding dumbbells or barbell plates or add in some twists or punches at the top of each motion, just as a few examples.
While squats made something of a comeback due to the popularity of CrossFit training programs, the truth is that they’re one of the best exercises available to us as boxers. This is not only because they directly target the largest muscle groups in your lower body (your quads and your glutes), but because they also work those important stabilizer muscles around your pelvis and hips.
Performing deep squats, so that your thighs are parallel to the ground while your back remains perpendicular, can help prevent tightness and increase blood flow through your pelvic muscles. As your form improves, you can also break parallel for an even deeper squat.
Work With Us to Build the Foundation for Your Training
During every Gloveworx training session, we'll perform a variety of exercises designed to help you get your heart rate elevated, strengthen your key muscle groups and help you get into the best shape possible. During our warm-up, cool-down and in-between session exercises, we make sure to spend a lot of time working those stabilizing muscle groups, which will not only help you perform better during every session but improve your progress towards your fitness goals overall.
Whether you’re a new Contender or someone who knows their way around the studio but has that nagging soreness that prevents you from reaching your goal, come in and speak with our Gloveworx coaches. They’re fantastic at identifying ways that they can make tweaks to help improve your current results.
After all, the difference is very often in the little details!