We talk about it all the time. You’ve heard us coaches mention midline stability in many different scenarios. But do you know what it really means, and more importantly, if you have poor or good midline stability? Most people believe midline stability refers to keeping the spine straight when lifting. That is both right and wrong. The way I like to think about it is that midline stability is the ability to resist movement due to force.
Why have Midline Stability?
This is important not only for safety (we don’t want to put our spine in a position where it’s compromised) but also important for force production. Whenever we do functional movements, which include movements outside the gym, in our everyday life, we generate force that travels through the body. When you throw a ball, the movement starts at your feet go through the hips, up the torso and finally to your arms. Much like a whip cracking, functional movements have to go from base toward extremity. If your core isn’t strong or stable, it doesn’t matter how much force you create in the beginning of the movement because most will be lost when it travels through your “unstable midline”.
“Ability to resist movement” vs “keeping the spine straight”
The difference is most easily seen in real world situations. In the gym it is easy to focus on technique and scale appropriately to maintain good posture. But if you are at home and have to quickly lift something heavy most likely your spine won’t be straight as you pick up that object, which is okay, as long as you can resist any extra movement due to that load.
Another mistake is to think that it only applies when there is external objects involved. If when you raise your arm, your ribcage raises with it, you have poor midline stability. So as we can see, stability is not only dependent on strength, but also on mobility and flexibility as well. That is why it’s important to assess exactly what is keeping you from having a stable midline. You will find that more often than not, it is not what you have been working on.
Lastly, let’s look at the mistakes people do when trying to strengthen their midline. I usually see a lot of sit ups, hanging knee raises, v-ups. For the answer, let’s look back at the definition. “Resist movement when force is applied”. In none of those exercises we are resisting force, but to the contrary, we are creating it. So, if strength is your issue, and you are looking to improve that, there are better exercises you could do: hollow body rocks, pallof presses, pause front squats, L sit holds.
Need to work on your midline stability but doesn’t know what you should be doing? Come chat with one of your Celebration CrossFit coaches today!
by Coach Matt