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Whether you're a competitive runner, a recreational jogger, or just want to feel better on your daily walk, building unilateral stability is necessary. But what is unilateral stability? Why is it so important? What exercises can be added to a fitness program to improve unilateral stability?
What is unilateral stability?
First, what is unilateral stability? "Stability is the ability to maintain the center of gravity on top of support -- a particular way of saying that we can maintain balance dynamically," said Anthony Pavrich of Airrosti, a national healthcare organization. "Unilateral stabilization is the ability to maintain balance in a standing position on one leg or one leg."
This doesn't just refer to when you're standing on one leg (eg, in yoga). "It also means dynamic stability ... [for example], standing on one leg when we walk, run or jump," Pavrich said.
Unilateral stability is important because we spend a lot of time standing on one leg -- "but a lot of times, when we train, we don't train unilaterally," Pavrich said. "[And] if we lack unilateral stability ... we will start to develop compensatory or bad movement patterns, which can lead to fatigue, injury or just poor performance."
What needs to be done to improve unilateral stability?
Obviously, improving unilateral stability is important. But what exactly does this look like? Or in other words, what do you need to work on to improve unilateral stability?
"It's very important when we're talking about unilateral stabilization to strengthen our core and glutes," Pavrich said.
When you have a strong core, it's easier to balance, which plays a key role in unilateral stability. Also, "a lot of our unilateral stability comes from our glute muscles, or the muscles around the hips," Pavley said. So by strengthening the gelatinous muscles, you can improve unilateral stability.
Strengthening your legs is also important; since unilateral stabilization means balancing on one leg at a time, the stronger your leg, the easier it will be to maintain balance—and the better your posture when walking or running.
Exercises to improve unilateral stability
If you're looking for specific exercises to improve unilateral stability, the movements below "reflect the functional movements we do in our everyday lives," Pavrich says. "All three of these exercises challenge our balance while strengthening our core and glutes," he says, making them ideal for building unilateral stability and, in the process, better walkers, runners and almighty enabler.
boost. Stand facing the steps. Put your feet completely on that step, through that heel, squeezing your buttocks as you stand up. (You'll feel it in the glutes, hamstrings, and calves). Keep your movements slow and controlled. Come down and repeat on the other side.
To ensure proper form (and maximum benefit), make sure "you don't bend your back too much and your knees don't protrude forward in front of your toes," says Pavrich.
Pull hard with one leg. Begin in an exercise position with your hips slightly back and place your weight on one leg, keeping the position slightly bent throughout the movement. Learning forward, lift the non-standing leg behind you, keeping your hips at right angles to the ground. Squeeze your glutes as you return to the original position. Repeat with the other leg.
To get proper form, make sure you're "pushing back through your heels so you're using your hamstrings and glutes for the exercise," says Pavrich.
Single-leg hip bridge. Lie on your back with your knees bent, making sure your lower back is level with the ground.
"When you first lie down, you feel a space between your lower back and the ground," says Pavrich. "You want to reduce space by rotating your pelvis back. Now, your back will feel flat on the ground."
Put your hands on the ground for support, then stretch with one leg. Extend your legs, pinch your hips, lift your hips, then lift off the ground and press your heels. Pause at the top, then slowly lower to the floor, keeping your legs straight. Repeat the exercise with the other leg.