Stabilisation and positioning in weight training

Weight training builds muscle but it may also assist with preventing disease, improving mood and aiding in losing weight. Other benefits of this type of training include increased overall strength, managing weight, building up bone density, helping the heart and better sleeping. However, to completely reap these benefits you need to adopt the correct form. Part of this looks at stabilisation as well as positioning.

Stabilisation in weight training

Stabilisation of any joint can be described as a static (still) demand or dynamic (moving) demand to control all movements of the body in the response to the environment and changes of the centre of gravity.

Balance relies on the activation of specialised reflex actions that vary from a small shifting demand or a large multipoint, and demand to stabilise and balance the body for optimal functioning. Although certain life or exercise movements may require combinations of both types of reflexes, most movements are dominated by one reflex type over another.

Without stabilisation all segments of technique would be compromised. Stabilisation requires an integration of all three systems involved in movement:

  • Passive (skeletal) system relies on the active (muscular) system for holding positions.
  • The active system is reliant on the independent relationship with the control (sensorimotor) system for the reflex actions.

Stabilisation begins with the spine and is first initiated with local spinal stabilisation known as the core. Core muscles are essential for optimal stabilisation and are stimulated at any time stability and balance are challenged. Core and trunk muscles involvement in stabilisation in an exercise is dependent on use of overall technique and specific breathing methods.

Positioning in weight training

When performing resistance exercises it is important to consider every joint of the body from the ground up. The most critical segments are the pelvis and the spine.

The spine is the most primary component of the axial skeleton and, along with the attached ribcage, the pelvis, provides the main support of the central nervous system and is the key communication line from the brain to the rest of the body, including the organs and the glands.

The spine provides not only support but also mobility through all planes of motion. These combined roles make the spine an important consideration in resistance training exercises.

What is the optimal posture in resistance training?

Other than exercises for targeting the outer trunk musculature and movements designed specifically for improving spinal motion, all other resistance training exercises will position the spine in what is called optimal posture.

When the spine is positioned in optimal posture, it appears to be straight, but actually, it maintains all degrees of its natural curvatures. Optimal posture provides for optimal structural and functional efficiency of the entire kinetic chain.

As the spine moves, length-tension relationships between agonists and antagonists change, which further reduce their ability to stabilise or produce force. All loaded spinal movements also decrease the vertebral space and increases disk compression.

This does not mean that all movement or disc compression is bad because, in reality, compression of the vertebral discs and movement of the spine provide nutrients. However, it is important to remember that spinal movement – particularly passive movement under load or at high speeds – often results in exponentially increased degrees of compressive forces on the affected discs, which can dramatically increase the level of risk of the exercise and should be evaluated and compared to the relative benefits of the training exercise in relation to the training goals. Spinal positioning must also be accompanied by pelvic positioning.

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