The Hype About Stabilizing
Pilates is founded on the idea of stabilizing. Our teachers are always talking to their clients about muscles that either mobilize or stabilize. Teachers learn through their certification what these terms mean and which muscles fall into each category. In turn, they want to pass that on to their clients. But, I realized that our clients may be hearing these words everyday and have no idea what they really mean.
The Basics: Each muscle in the body can be categorized as a mobilizer or a stabilizer.
- Create motion of a body part
- They cross 2 or more joints (ex. the hamstring crosses the hip and the knee)
- Located more superficially than stabilizers
- Work quickly, but fatigue quickly
- “Fix” joints and stabilize against excessive mobility
- Cross one joint
- Located deeper in the body
- Work slowly, fatigue slowly
One Versus The Other
Most of us are very familiar with engaging our mobilizers and tend to use them for mobilizing and stabilizing. Pilates focuses on first engaging the various types of stabilizers and then the mobilizers. Here’s where we come in. When your stabilizers fail your mobilizers take over. This comes at an obvious cost, literally. Mobilizers are meant to move joints, so when they stabilize they still move joints. As soon as your mobilizers take over, your alignment fails…and that’s what tips your instructor off to your mobilizer-cheating ways. Hopefully this incurs a slew of corrections (See The Importance of Corrections) and if it doesn’t you may want to examine exactly what kind of teacher you’re paying for.
The ultimate goal is for your stabilizers to be so aware and strong that we can challenge your mobilizers without the possibility of injury.Think about some of the more “spectacular” advanced Pilates exercises that you may have seen. These are targeting and challenging your mobilizers in addition to stabilizers. But, in order to get there you have to start with essential and intermediate. These exercises re-educate your stabilizers and will eventually allow you to move onward and upward. The gist of all this? You need your stabilizers to work and stay engaged to support your body and prevent injury, especially if you’re putting a lot of tension on your mobilizers. Start slow. Build awareness, alignment, and strength in your stabilizers. Challenge your mobilizers.
Each class you take is challenging both types of muscles, but to a degree that your body and joints can truly handle. Pilates isn’t for everyone. Understanding how to engage and maintain stabilizers and alignment is hard work for the brain and the body. But once you get it down, you will be happy, healthy, and injury-free for a long time. Your body is your forever home. Fortify it. Don’t throw rocks at it. The hype is real.
Here’s to your strength and stability!