The first level of training that we take you through at La Habra CrossFit is stabilization training (or anatomical adaption) and is designed to prepare the body for the demands of higher levels of training that may follow.
The human body is an amazing machine, with many sensory capabilities that allow it to carry out proper motor function. These sensory capabilities all fall under the term proprioception. Proprioception involves the sensation of joint movement and joint position. It contributes to the motor programming for neuromuscular control required for precise movements and contributes to muscle reflex, providing dynamic joint stability.
Receptors are all over the body in the skin tendons, and muscles- and will react when they sense a change to the tissue. This change is computed by the central nervous system and after the brain decides how to react, the proper signals are sent to the muscles via the spinal cord and nerve for the muscle contraction and hence movement.
The focus of stabilization-endurance training includes:
- Correcting muscle imbalances
- Improving stabilization of the core musculature
- Preventing tissue overload by preparing muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints for the upcoming imposed demands of training.
- Improved overall cardiorespiratory and neuromuscular condition
- Establishing proper movement patterns or exercise technique
The above goals are accomplished by a program of low-intensity, high volume training in our La Habra facility that emphasizes core and joint stabilization. This will incorporate exercises that progressively challenge the body’s stability requirements (or proprioception), as opposed to how much weight is being lifted.
Therefore, the primary means of progressing (or increasing the intensity of training) in this period is by increasing the proprioceptive demands of the exercises. This form of training has been shown to be extremely effective for increasing neuromuscular efficiency in athletes, de-conditioned and elderly populations.
The Importance of Balance
Balance is an integral component of all functional movements including strength, speed, flexibility, and endurance regardless of which dominates the movement.
An individual’s limit of stability is the distance outside of the base of support that he or she can go without losing control of his or her center of gravity. This threshold must be constantly stressed in a multiplanar, proprioceptively enriched environment, using functional movement patterns to improve dynamic balance and neuromuscular efficiency.
Training functional movements in a proprioceptively enriched environment (unstable, yet controllable) with appropriate progressions (floor /half foam roll/Airex pad/ Dyna Disc) and (balance board/ wobble board/ Indo board/ BOSU).
By training in a multisensory environment, there will be more of a demand on the central nervous system’s ability to activate the right muscles at the right time and in the right plane of motion.
Tools for Improving Balance
One of the most popular tools for providing a proprioceptively enriched environment is the stability ball. Today’s stability ball was developed in the early 1960s as a children’s toy. It was adopted by physiotherapists as a means of improving patients’ proprioception and balance.
One area that has received attention is the research on activation of the core musculature as well as how training the core with stable and unstable devices affects core recruitment. In a study from Memorial University in Newfoundland (Behm et al. 2005), researchers looked at how unstable and unilateral (single arm or leg) resistance exercises affect trunk musculature.
What they found is what many trainers have known for years: Instability generated greater activation of the lower-abdominal stabilizer muscles (27.5%) with the core exercises and all core stabilizers (37.7% to 54.3%) with the chest press. Further, unilateral shoulder press produced greater activation of the back stabilizers, and the unilateral chest press resulted in higher activation of all trunk stabilizers when compared to the bilateral press.
From our experience, the most effective means for trunk strengthening should involve back and abdominal exercises with unstable bases. Furthermore, trunk strengthening can also occur when performing resistance exercises for the limbs, is exercises are performed unilaterally.
The decreased balance associated with strength training on an unstable surface might force limb musculature to play a greater role in joint stability. One strong example involves a person squatting on a wobble board. During the squat, the EMG (electromyographic) levels were compared with those of a standard squat. The EMG levels for several core and leg muscles were significantly higher for the same submaximal load on the wobble board than on a stable surface.
Final Thoughts on Stabilization-Endurance Training
In conclusion, we use stabilization endurance training with our beginning clients who may possess muscle imbalances, lack of postural control, and stability (often from bad at-home workout plans). Although this is the first phase of training for most clients, it will be important for all clients to develop these capacities and to cycle back through this phase of training between periods of higher-intensity training. This will allow proper recovery and maintenance of high levels of stability that will ensure optimal strength and power adaptions.