Every athlete has the goal of quickly achieving success in his or her sport and noticeably improving. However, this often does not happen in a direct way, but via side roads. One such "detour" is stabilization exercises. They usually don't bring you anything directly, for example faster times when running, but they still support your performance in the respective sport. Stabilization exercises strengthen your body as a whole. Above all, your body center, the torso musculature, is strengthened by stabilization exercises and thus gives you more stability - which in turn has a positive effect on all movements in everyday life and sports. We'll take a closer look at exactly how this works... and start directly with the first stabilization exercises for your training routine.
What are stabilization exercises?
Let's start with a precise explanation of the term "stabilization exercises". Often these exercises are also referred to as body tension exercises, stability exercises, or stabilization exercises. All four terms refer to exercises whose primary goal is to improve your body tension. But what exactly is meant by body tension? For this we have to go back a little. Both in sports and in everyday life, your body is held upright primarily by your core muscles. These muscles and muscle groups do a lot - and often unnoticed. For example, they compensate for misalignments that can occur on three levels as a result of different movement sequences:
- On the sagittal plane: this plane divides your body into its right and left halves. Movements on this plane are forward or backward as well as upward or downward.
- On the frontal plane: This plane divides your body into its front and back. Movements here are from left to right or from top to bottom.
- On the transversal plane: This plane divides your body into its upper and lower halves. Possible movements here are mainly rotations, i.e. internal or external rotation.
The more intensively you train your body tension through stabilization exercises, the better you can redress your balance in case of imbalances on these three planes. For example, if you are holding a heavy bag in one hand or walking on uneven ground, your core muscles will immediately provide the appropriate balance. We'll now tell you why this is extremely important.
Why are stabilization exercises so important?
You need active body tension and good stability from morning to night. In everyday life and during sports your body is brought out of balance by numerous movements, often you don't even realize it. Or have you ever thought about your internal or external rotation while unloading your shopping onto the checkout conveyor? Certainly not, because these movements are automatic and your torso provides the necessary balance just as automatically. It is therefore all the more important that you support it by regularly strengthening it through stabilization exercises. The following situations will then feel even easier for you in the future:
- In everyday life: carrying, lifting, putting things away, climbing stairs, sitting down and standing up... the list of everyday movements in which body tension plays a role is virtually endless. Even our first impression is based on good trunk stabilization, namely through an upright posture with a straight back.
- In sports: every sport thrives on movement. And every movement requires stabilization. In running, for example, you can improve your running style by combining appropriate stability exercises with technique sessions. On the bike, a stable core and trained legs will give you more power and a smoother ride.
- For injuries: Stabilization exercises are an effective way to prevent injuries because they improve the interaction between deep and surface muscles. When these two are optimally intertwined, you can better control your movements and perform them more fluidly.
- In case of pain: In case of pain, stability exercises help you to build up and strengthen muscles. These in turn actively relieve the pressure on bones, joints and tendons, which can relieve pain in these areas. Especially your knees and ankles will be less stressed. However, we recommend that you consult your doctor to make sure you choose the right exercises.
What exactly do you train with stability exercises?
With stability exercises, you primarily train your body's center, which is often referred to as the core in technical jargon. This center is where numerous muscles converge, the so-called core muscles, which work together to ensure your stability. The core muscles consist of:
- Abdominal muscles,
- back muscles,
- hip muscles,
- gluteal muscles
- as well as the posterior thigh muscles.
These muscles or muscle groups are responsible for keeping your spine upright, bending and stretching your upper body, and rotating it. We have already discussed these three aspects in the different body planes (sagittal plane, frontal plane and transverse plane). In addition, strong muscles in this area can also take pressure off vertebrae and thus alleviate or even prevent back pain. What's more, runners who regularly supplement their training with stabilization exercises cushion their steps better, thus protecting their spine as well as their joints and tendons. Fewer injuries are the welcome result. And those who can call on more strength from a strong core can pass it on effectively to their arms and legs. And that brings us directly to the next topic:
Who should strengthen their core muscles?
We have a clear answer to this question: Everyone should do stabilization exercises! And we are happy to explain why. As a sport muffler, you promote both your neuromuscular and your intermuscular coordination through stability training. This means that you improve the cooperation of your brain with your muscles and the cooperation of different muscles or muscle groups with stabilization exercises. All in all, you'll improve your fine motor skills and coordination, which will definitely benefit you in everyday life and at work. What's more, stabilization exercises help you stay fit and agile well into old age - who wouldn't want that?
As an athlete, you also benefit from stability training, because the exercises for body tension counteract a too one-sided training of the respective sport. This is often the cause of the pain that many athletes accumulate during their athletic careers. For joggers, the knees are usually the weak point, for tennis players the arm or shoulder, and for cyclists perhaps the back. These are subjected to particularly intense stresses during the respective sport - this is where compensation is needed. Through stabilization exercises you strengthen your trunk as well as your body tension, thus effectively relieving these areas and increasing your performance. In addition, you actively prevent injuries with stabilization exercises. By strengthening your deep muscles, you can make the movements of your sport smoother and more efficient, and react more quickly to imbalances.
What core muscle exercises are there?
So, now we get down to the nitty-gritty, namely the stabilization exercises. After the theory comes the practice. But let me give you a general hint so that you can perform the stabilization exercises correctly later on: Stabilization training consists mainly of isometric exercises, i.e. exercises with minimal movement. You will remain in a static position most of the time during these stabilization exercises and must hold this position - without wobbling - which will require a high degree of concentration and body tension. Are you ready? Then let's get started!
When training the core muscles, we now come back to the three planes we learned about earlier. For each level there are the appropriate stabilization exercises, so you can even set a focus for yourself here. For example, if you notice that you have problems with rotation, then you should keep an eye on your transversal plane. If you find horizontal stabilization difficult, i.e. working out of your pelvis, then training the sagittal plane is important for you. In any case, you should start with a holistic stabilization training of all three planes, for example:
For the sagittal plane
With stabilization exercises for the sagittal plane you strengthen your pelvis and thus improve all movement sequences that are controlled from the pelvis - forwards and backwards or upwards and downwards. The focus here is on keeping the pelvis neutral and thereby stabilizing your body in the horizontal plane. A good stabilization exercise for this is the Dead Bug. It doesn't sound that great, but it's extremely effective. Here's how it works:
You lie on your back and extend your arms and legs upward. Keep your arms straight and bend your knees above your hips at a 90 degree angle (table top). Flex your feet and press your pelvis firmly into the floor or mat at your lower back. Feeling your abs yet? Good. Now take a deep breath, slowly extend one arm diagonally over (i.e. behind) your head and the opposite leg diagonally forward. Make sure your pelvis stays in position and doesn't wobble. Exhale slowly, return to your starting position in a controlled manner, and then switch sides. For starters, five repetitions per side will suffice here.
For the frontal plane
More torso stability on the frontal plane is extremely important in everyday life as well as in sports. We often carry weights on only one side. Heavy shopping bags are the classic here, but of course also - attention all moms! - the dear little children. In such situations, your body usually has to withstand a sideways tilt for a long time, which requires a lot of strength and stability. You can train this, for example, with the side support, which, by the way, is also ideal for all sports with a lot of side-to-side movements, such as soccer. And this is how it works:
Lie straight on your mat in a sideways position and position your arm, which is on the floor, facing forward. The elbow should be under the shoulder, the forearm always remains on the mat during the entire exercise. The legs are stretched out one above the other so that the knees touch. Now inhale and then straighten your body in a straight line from the feet to the shoulder, so that you form a right triangle. Sounds complicated, but I'm sure you've seen this stabilization exercise before or even done it yourself. Exhale and hold the position for about 15 to 20 seconds, making three passes per side.
For the transverse plane
In many sports and also in everyday life, tensile or compressive forces act on one side of your body. In this case, you need to remain stable and counteract the rotation, or perform it in a controlled manner to avoid injury. Shoveling snow is a good example, but so is lifting your child into or out of a car seat. Many people have a weak point here, but it can be trained well with the right stabilization exercises for rotation or anti-rotation. How about a round of crawling, for example?
You start crawling in a quadrupedal position with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Your spine is nice and straight and parallel to the floor. Now lift your knees and from now on do not touch the floor with them. Tense your core muscles so that your spine does not wobble uncontrollably during the following movements. Now move forward in a cross motion with small steps, i.e. left arm and right leg forward, then right arm and left leg. Sounds easy at first, but please be careful not to wobble your spine. Can you hold this stabilization exercise for one minute?
Especially important: stabilize knees & ankles
Sports injuries often affect the knee or even the ankle joints. These areas are particularly sensitive if they cannot be properly stabilized. For this reason, it is recommended to strengthen the knee and ankle joints with special stability exercises. As knee stability exercises are especially suitable wobbly exercises, where you have to balance the movements. Use a balance board, for example, to make quick progress in this area. On a balance board you have to resist the wobble in almost every exercise. The advantage of balance board exercises is that they can also be used as strengthening exercises for your legs - two in one, so to speak. And while you're at it: many other stabilization exercises can also be transferred to the Balance Board.
You can do this stabilization training on the Balance Board:
The turbo booster for all stability exercises is, of course, the Balance Board. If you transfer your stabilization exercises to this wobbly surface, you intensify your training by at least one level. Our tip: Start your stabilization training without the balance board and think about which stabilization exercises could also be done on the board during the workout. To make it easier for you, we'll show you three basic stabilization exercises for the Balance Board... the rest is up to your imagination.
- The classic push-up can be wonderfully transferred to the Balance Board as a stabilization exercise, also modified as a forearm support and even in the lateral variant. Our tip for a correct execution: With a slight hump you prevent your back from slipping into a hollow back. This way, your workout will be gentle on your spine.
- You can also perform squats as a stabilization exercise on the Balance Board. They are probably too easy for you on a normal surface anyway. So try the wobbling feeling on the balance board, it will surely make you sweat. By the way, this involves your entire body, which means you get a wonderfully holistic workout.
- For a shoulder bridge on the balance board you put your feet on the board... and you're ready to wobble. Make sure to keep your pelvis straight and your back straightened in a nice straight line as well. Once your butt is up, it's best to hold this position for about 15 seconds - without wobbling, of course. This is one of our favorite balance board stabilization exercises.
Want to do more stabilization exercises on the balance board? We understand - it's just so much fun! Check out our beginner guide and our wahu community. There you will find inspiration without end as well as lots of like-minded people with whom you can exchange tricks, jumps, flips and stabilization exercises.
Bottom line: body tension training will help you in many areas... what are you waiting for?
Finally, we've listed all the positive aspects of stability exercises for you. Here you can see at a glance how much good you do yourself with sufficient stabilization exercises. We are sure that if you integrate stability training into your routine, as a stand-alone workout or as part of your "normal" workout, you will soon notice an improvement in the following areas:
- With stabilization exercises you strengthen your deep muscles and thereby stabilize your joints and tendons. This protects you from injury.
- With stabilization exercises you strengthen your core muscles and optimize your performance.
- With stabilization exercises you improve your posture and your body awareness. Among other things, this counteracts back pain.
- With stabilization exercises you increase your ability to concentrate, fine motor skills and coordination.
- With stabilization exercises you bring your balance to a whole new level and become more agile.
So get started with your exercises for body tension, core muscles and stability. As a supplement to a sport, we recommend one or two sessions per week. This will give your body enough time to regenerate. If you want to start with the stability exercises to improve your posture in everyday life, i.e. without an additional sports training plan, then you can plan two to three stability training units per week. Our tip: Don't make your stabilization training too extensive. For example, start with 15 minutes of stabilization exercises per session and slowly increase the duration and intensity over time. We wish you a lot of fun!