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Stability: Stand and Deliver

Updated: Apr 18


Surrealist painting of male and female gymnasts

The first pillar of Fitness is Stability. In this article, I will define Stability clearly, explain why it is important, and detail its two main aspects: balance and the ability to hold a position forcefully. I will also explain how we test for both at StratFit and show you where your Stability stands according to international standards.


In any endeavor, the first step to progress is eliminating chaos and stabilizing the system you're working with. Once things are stable, you can clearly see what needs to be done and begin to act effectively. The principle holds true for quick actions, long-term activities, and small and large-scale projects.


In exercise and sports, this is true for any effective movement. A marksman must first balance on his feet and stabilize his body in the proper position. Only then can he pull back on the bowstring, aim, and fire the arrow.


marksman


The same is true for a basketball jump shot, but it all happens quickly and dynamically here.



Any effective action first requires one to get balanced, then find and hold the appropriate position with the body, and then execute. The process is slower for actions that require extreme precision and faster for less precise ones. Stability is always necessary for a successful action.


So when you begin building your temple of fitness, Stability is the first pillar to erect.  



The Pillars of Fitness


Find Balance


The first component of Stability is being able to balance on your feet. Achieving a balanced position on your feet is a product of your nervous system's effective innervation of some and relaxation of other motor units (a motor neuron ("nerve") and all of the skeletal muscle cells it stimulates). Basically, your nervous system contracts some muscles and relaxes others so that you can get the center of your mass over the center of your foundation (the center and middle of your foot).  


When a ballet dancer goes up on the ball of only one of her feet, achieving balance becomes very difficult. Her foundation point becomes very small (the ball of a single foot), and getting and holding the center of her entire mass over that fine point is quite a task. That is why there aren't very many ballet dancers out there.


Most people can easily stand on their feet, and many can stand on one leg for quite a long time without problem. For this reason, we need to make things more challenging to test your balance.


The Stork Test is the most effective and relevant test of your total-body balance capability.  


The test is easy to set up and doesn't require any equipment. You need a solid floor you won't slip on. At StratFit we test our clients right on the lifting platform.  


The test requires standing on one leg, so pick your best. You perform the test without shoes. You'll need a friend to operate a stopwatch.


Perform a general warmup on a treadmill or with a few movements/stretches so your body is ready to perform.


When you're ready, lift your non-supporting foot and place it on the knee of your supporting leg, then put your hands on your hips.


You then raise your heel from the floor and balance on the ball of your foot. Your friend should start the stopwatch right when your heel leaves the floor.






Your friend must stop the stopwatch when any of the following occurs-


  • Either of your hands comes off the hip

  • You swivel or hop on your supporting foot in any direction

  • You move your non-supporting foot from the knee of the supporting leg

  • Your heel touches the floor.

You should practice for one minute before starting the test. Do three attempts and use the best time in seconds as your result.

You can use the following table to see where you stand according to international standards for balance performance-


Stork Balance Test Standards

Hold your Position


The second component of Stability is the ability to hold a particular position. It is the ability to generate a strong Isometric (not-moving, a static hold) contraction and hold it. A strong trunk is essential to this ability. Even in dynamic (moving) actions, the primary function of the trunk is to stabilize the system between the arms and legs while they articulate to execute an effective movement; this is what people mean when they say you need a "strong core."

The most effective and standard exercise for testing and developing a solid trunk/core is the front plank.


First Responders, Police, and Military Units worldwide consider max front plank time a key indicator of fighting fitness. In fact, the plank is the sole core exercise on the US Army's Combat Fitness Test.


Boxers and wrestlers have used the plank as a core-strengthening exercise since before the Olympics were even a thing.  


Fighters need to stabilize the trunk to efficiently transfer force from the legs to the arms in punches, throws, etc. Boxers must be able to quickly and constantly generate strong core contractions to absorb blows to the body, and wrestlers must maintain strong core contractions for long periods during grueling bouts of grappling.


It's clear- if you want to be a bad man or woman, you should know your plank score and train to improve it.


The test is easy to set up, like the Stork test. You need a solid floor and maybe a good yoga mat for comfort.  


Perform a general warmup on a treadmill or with a few movements/stretches so your body is ready to perform.


 The point of a front plank is to hold your body in an elevated position for as long as possible.  


The position is basically an extended push-up position but with elbows as the support rather than the hands. 


Start with your upper body supported off the ground with your elbows and forearms supporting it, straighten your legs, and put the weight on the toes/balls of your feet. 


Your hip should be off the floor so that your body forms a straight line from head to toe. Your head should face towards the ground, not forward.





Your friend should start the stopwatch as soon as you take this position. The test ends when your body begins to sag because you cannot hold your back straight, and your hip lowers.


The time in seconds is your result. The table below shows your performance level according to international standards-


Front plank standards

At StratFit, our first agenda with our clients is to DEFINE what is important: The Pillars of Their Fitness. 


 Stability is the first determinant of your overall performance capability.  


We want to get you fighting fit, and it starts with developing your balance and ability to hold your ground so you can stand and deliver.


To tackle all those adventures you've dreamed of, we first ensure you're taking off from a stable footing. 


 The other pillars of fitness—strength, Endurance, and Power—can only arise from a solid base of Stability.


With this article, you now know how to measure where you stand for the pillar of Stability. In future articles, I'll detail how we progressively improve this pillar for our clients at StratFit. Stay tuned.

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