Move better, produce greater force, and create more speed by strengthening these key muscle groups with 10 easy exercises. Whether you’re an elite rotational athlete or a human being that stands on one leg - continue reading to learn how!
What is the lateral sling and why is it so important? Maybe you’re a tennis player that wants to protect your low back from those shear loads during your swing without reducing the force? Serge Gracovetsky reasoned that spinal rotation and the muscle systems around the lumbo-pelvic region might be at the base of human movement1. He proposed a theory of human motion which he called “The Spinal Engine” stating that quadruple amputees could “walk” on the bones at the base of their pelvises. This is amazing AND TRUE!!!! These group of muscles keeps us vertical when contracted as a unit providing dynamic and lateral stability consisting of foundational muscles for proper posture in standing.
But isn’t working the core the most important part??? Core core core! This is a common term thrown around many different fitness circles whether group fitness, CrossFit, etc. But it’s more than just the core or the typical plank or crunch and often misinterpreted. You have an inner core and an outer core if you want to simplify it. The inner core can be those tiny muscles around your spine (paraspinals, multifidus, diaphragm, pelvic floor, and the transverse abdominis.) But then you have your outer core which is super important for providing dynamic movement such as walking, throwing, swinging your arm, etc. So, we are going to focus on the outer unit for the purpose of today’s blog.
The lateral sling is the quadratus lumborum, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, tensor fascia latae (TFL) and iliotibial band (ITB) and the adductors combined. These muscles are important for walking and all sports because if they are weak or are not activating in coordination the pelvis will shift or tilt resulting in compensations and imbalance that affects your gait, posture, fitness ability, and overall performance. Think about this, when you walk you spend a great deal of time in a single leg stance. During this time, you must stabilize your pelvis to advance your leg to the next step. If you cannot do this you can shift your spine or put too much pressure on your knees, ankles and essentially affect your whole kinetic chain, the chain responsible for movement. This lateral stability is essential for any rotational movements which occur in most sports buts especially boxing, baseball, golf, tennis, figure skater, volleyball, basketball and many more. Thus, working out these two muscles singularly and in-coordination during functional movements can translate to better movement, force, and speed on the field. Below are some sample exercises to help you. Be sure to always have clearance from your primary care provider before engaging in any new physical activity.
Examples of Exercises to Enhance the Lateral System:
How to assess if you have an imbalance or weakness? Stand on one leg and look at your pelvis. Ideally, it should be neutral in all directions. When you see a shift, there will be a drop in the pelvis or shifting of the upper body called a Trendelenburg sign. During movement, if this occurs, it’s called a Trendelenburg gait. Trendelenburg gait has been linked to many other issues as described above and specifically pain in the hip, poor knee tracking, and possibly issues with ankle sprains and increased ACL incidences in female athletes.
De-conditioned or weak slings have a direct consequence on phasic (dynamic) muscles. Evidence based studies show phasic muscles become inhibited in sedentary individuals, which in turn increases the demand placed on the inner unit to provide joint stability.
So now that you have learned how to stabilize yourself laterally, there are many other slings in the body to learn about, stay tuned! Make sure to follow us on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook for videos, specials, and events in your area. ALSO, if you haven’t visited our website in a while head on over to the member’s section where we have work outs of the day, a new one with a guidance and video instruction.
Peace, love and YOGA.
1. Gracovetsky, S. The Spinal Engine. Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 2008.