Did you know that there are two different muscle systems? The global muscle system consists of all the large, long, superficial muscle groups, whereas the segmental muscle system includes the small, short muscle groups that are close to the joints. Both must be well trained and perfectly interlocked for optimal stabilization and force conversion. Unfortunately, we neglect the segmental muscle system, which is responsible for many types of back pain. With segmental stabilization we can strengthen it sustainably - will you join us?
What is segmental stabilization according to Hamilton?
The global muscle system consists of all the large, long, superficial muscle groups, whereas the segmental muscle system includes the small, short muscle groups that are close to the joints. The large muscles perform movements, keeping you upright and balanced. The small muscles support them in this, and very extensively, by providing stability very close to the spine as a kind of springs. In this way, they are responsible for the important fine work, for example, when braking movements that are too strong. The problem with this is that we never actively train these segmental muscles - we usually focus on the large muscle groups. This is where segmental stabilization comes in.
Segmental stabilization was developed by Christine Hamilton, a renowned physical therapist with many years of experience, numerous publications and an extensive research history in this specific area. The goal of segmental stabilization is to strengthen the deep muscles through precise training so that they act as positioning and holding muscles to bring the individual vertebrae into the optimal position again and again. In this way, you can use segmental stabilization to protect your intervertebral disc, for example, from incorrect stresses.
Support & protect the spine
The aim of segmental stabilization is to secure the individual movement segments of the spine in order to prevent curvatures or malpositions. Of central importance here are two resonant deep muscles of the segmental system: the transversus abdominis muscle (on the abdomen) and the multifidus lumbalis muscle (on the back). With their help, the deep muscles of the trunk can be activated well through segmental stabilization. However, this does not happen through fast, powerful movements, but through very small, almost invisible movements, which seem a little unfamiliar, especially at the beginning. Especially because segmental stabilization trains these deep muscles in isolation for the time being, completely without the help of the large muscle groups. You will notice right away that this is not so easy. You have to feel well inside yourself and it goes like this...
Segmental stabilization: exercises
Segmental stabilization includes numerous exercises, which we unfortunately cannot cover here. However, it is important to us that you understand the general principle behind segmental stabilization - and perhaps even be able to apply it on your own initiative. If you have already had some experience with Pilates or yoga, for example, some aspects of the segmental training will certainly remind you of it. It is always about minimal movements inside your body, for example actively tensing the pelvic floor or lumbar spine muscles. Segmental stabilization in the lumbar spine and pelvic area can be achieved, for example, through the following exercises:
Activation of the deep abdominal & pelvic floor muscles.
Lie on your back and bend one leg at a time. Place your feet hip-width apart on the mat with your thighs parallel to each other. Your pelvis is in "neutral position", that is, in its slightly hollow cross position. Place your hands on your hips so that you can feel your deep abdominal muscles for training control, i.e. diagonally above the pubic bone in each case.
Now the invisible exercise begins: without moving your spine, tense the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. Imagine the following: Your pubic bone moves upward toward your rib cage while your belly button pulls toward the mat. At the same time, neither your lower abdomen should bulge nor your upper abdomen should retract, and of course your spine remains completely still. Attention: Please continue to breathe evenly! Once you have reached the desired tension, hold it for 15 seconds and then do about 5-10 repetitions.
Activation of the deep back muscles
After the abdomen and pelvic floor, we now turn our attention to the back. To do this, lie on your stomach and place a forehead on the back of your right hand. The left hand controls the deep back muscles, which we are about to activate through segmental stabilization. So reach over your hips slightly in the middle of your back. You'll notice the tension right away, and then you can adjust your grip more precisely.
And again it becomes invisible: Tense the deep back and pelvic floor muscles, of course, as always, without moving. It's best to imagine you're making a hollow back. This really isn't easy and you may have to experiment a bit until you achieve the desired tension. But don't forget to keep breathing calmly. And also make sure that you don't tense the superficial muscles of your back out of habit. Also in this exercise you may hold the tension for 15 seconds and then do 5-10 repetitions.
More variety & fun with the Balance Board
If you succeed in this activation of the deep muscles, then you can transfer it to almost all movement sequences, in everyday life as well as in sports. And this is exactly the goal of segmental stabilization: the deep muscles close to the spine should be strengthened - so that they can strengthen your spine. In combination with a targeted back training of the surface muscles, you can alleviate your back pain in the long term. And so that this holistic workout doesn't get boring, you can - as long as you have mastered deep tension - also gladly transfer your workout to the Balance Board . Through the wobbling and the constantly required balance compensation, your deep muscles in particular are addressed - perfect for segmental stabilization.
Our tip: Just wiggle around relaxed on your balance board and feel exactly inside yourself. For example, try tensing your abdominal and pelvic floor as described above. You can add special exercises or tricks later - in the beginning, the "feeling" is crucial. By the way, this works especially well on a non-slip board mat .
Our conclusion: More stability leads to better movement control, which in turn increases coordination and actively prevents pain. With this in mind, we hope you have fun integrating segmental stabilization into your everyday life or training!