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“Stability”….a misunderstood concept: Why ‘stability’ does NOT mean ‘rigidity’

May 8, 2012

[VIDEO BELOW] An extremely popular concept discussed in the world of both manual therapy as well as physical conditioning is that of joint stability.  The most popular  topic of all regarding this concept is that of “core stability.”  Currently, exercise regimens focus efforts on the strict maintenance of ‘neutral spine’ during physical activities and training efforts insisting that this position be held at all times with the help of things like abdominal ‘bracing’ and postural cueing (“sit up”…”back straight”…”shoulders back”).  However does a joint have to be rigid in order to be stable?  NO.

The truth of the matter is that during activities of daily living, and even more so during athletic activities, our spines are frequently demanded to come out of ‘proper alignment,’ ‘proper posture,’ and neutral spine position….it’s a fact.  Need some examples?

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Thus the question is, “why do we continue to associate the concept of stability with the concept of rigidity?”  A joint can have a large range of motion, while simultaneously being ‘stable’ so long as the nervous system is able to control the entire range.  This is the big difference between “flexibility” = the ability to passively achieve a range of motion, and “MOBILITY” = flexibility + strength.  Joints/people can definitely be too flexible which can lead to loss of stability…but they can never be too MOBILE – this is a concept central to FUNCTIONAL RANGE CONDITIONING (FRC)™  — stay tuned for future posts expanding on this concept.

TAKE HOME POINTS:

1.  Being stable does not mean being stiff or rigid

2.  Our bodies are consistently forced out of “proper alignment”….then why do we only train in neutral spine postures.

3.  The current concept of CORE training strengthens the spine in the one position that we need it the least….neutral spine.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. David Urness permalink
    May 15, 2012 7:35 pm

    I don’t believe for a moment that a healthy functional body “freqently is forced out of alignment”. The key issue here is a healthy musculoskeletal system maintains excellent joint centration, regardless of position, direction and velocity of a given task. Centration is excellent alignment of all joint complexes as is a direct biproduct of mobility (strength and flexibility) as well as stiffness of variable degrees and coordinated efficient neural drive.

    Alignment perhaps is not the best of terms to use to describe the point being made above.

    • May 15, 2012 8:57 pm

      Hi David

      I actually agree with you, however the way that you are defining alignment is under a stronger microscope that the definition used in the post. By ‘alignment’ here I am using a more general term to combat the notion that body regions are held in certain positions…as are the ones demanded by therapists and trainers. For example the maintenance of ‘neutral’ spine during exercise. In ‘finer terms,’ ie. defining the alignment of individual joints – the ability to maintain ‘stability’ does rely on the ability to maintain centralization during movement of body segments. This allows great feats of mobility to occur while maintaining safety throughout the ROM

      thanks for the comment

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