With so much emphasis placed on mobility and flexibility, one can lose sight of the overall need to be able to activate and stabilize our structure under load with proper activation and alignment. Stability is key to preventing injury and performing well under physical stress. Our goal with training is an adaptation so we can distribute stress throughout our body equally and ideally back into the ground with absorbing too much of it. When we absorb too much force over time and/or distance we overtrain or get overuse injuries. If we absorb too much force at a weak or hypermobile angle our connective tissues give way. Here are some simple stability exercises I use to make sure I am regularly activating and stabilizing my structure to withstand the demand placed upon them. These are essential for runners, snowboarders and skiers, and backpackers.
Wall Sit: Great for building stamina, muscular endurance, and resolve. Get a baseline time and increase your goal time by 30 seconds to a minute. Be ready for phases of burning, levels of fatigue, shaking, temperature change, and a mental challenge while you push past your limits. The wall sit is also great for adding stability to the knee joint by strengthening the entire quadricep muscle group.
Lunge: Use the lunge pulse as a way to strengthen your hips and legs in a split stance. Maintain pressure on your front heel using your glute to power your and control your body up and down. Keep your core slightly engaged with length through your spine. Aim for 10, 20, and 30+ reps but only with excellent form to avoid excessive knee or ankle tension.
Dead Bug with Block: This core exercise is great for activating the abdominals in an isometric contraction while requiring the legs to move which is functional to the demands everyday movement and athletics. Supine, trap a block in between one elbow and knee on the same side while moving the opposite side leg and arm. Maintain a neutral spine and inhale as you reach long, inhale as you bring the elbow and knee together.
Leg Lifts: These lifts are simple yet highly effective at activating all angle and fibers of the glutes. There are 4 main lifts I use in sequence starting with pure abduction. Make sure to stabilize your body by engaging your core and use a hand on the ground if needed. Ensure you are lifting your leg off your hip and not from your lower back. Next is hip flexion by keeping your knee at the same height as your hip and lifting it to 90 degrees. Try to keep your foot in slight dorsiflexion. Third, is maintaining hip flexion and straightening out your knee with a kick. Last is moving your thigh back to neutral but lifted off of your bottom thigh. Rotate from your hip ball and socket joint to perform internal and external rotation. Start with 10 reps of each leg lift for 2-3 sets before progressing to 12, 15, and 20 reps each set. This exercises series is awesome to balance out the mobility achieved from yoga as well as those who are looking to prepare their weak points for backpacking and long-distance travel.
Front Squat: Use this exercise to reinforce glute, psoas, and core activation while stabilizing your spine under load. This is the most functional squat pattern that we all use on a daily basis. Keep weight centered over your ankles, loading your heels, and chest up.
Deadlift: The deadlift is a powerful movement that required core and hip activation, hamstring flexibility, and proper alignment to perform correctly. Pulling weight off of the ground is great for activating the psoas and ensuring your core is firing when you need it most.
Single-Leg Deadlift: Similar the regular deadlift, the single-leg requires more emphasis on unilateral hip stability and balance while hinging forward. Make sure to press through your heel to activate your glute and maintain a neutral tall spine and a strong core to support your lower back.
Plank: The plank is one of the best core activation exercises when executed properly. Line up your elbows under your shoulders with feet together and hips in-line with your shoulders so you’re in a straight line. Squeeze your glutes, thighs, and press your elbows into the ground while hugging in your core. As long as your core is firing you can sequence through turning on and off other regions of your body to ensure proper alignment of your spine. Once mastered, add in leg lefts up to the ceiling, out to the side, and pulling your knee in toward your shoulder without rocking your pelvis. Also, try rocking your body forward and back over your elbows as seen to the left. 30-60 seconds total time in the plank is adequate.
Side Plank: This variation on the plank is great for hip and core strengthening emphasizing glute support. Line up your elbow under your shoulder and either your knee on the ground under your hip or feet stacked. Both are fantastic ways to challenge the core. Try adding in leg lifts once you’ve mastered 30-60 second holds.
There is no specific order to perform these stability exercises in. Experiment around with what feels right for you and stick to that for a few weeks then do it all in reverse to shock the body. Sets, reps, and weight should be set appropriately for your current fitness level and progressed from there. Practicing correct alignment is most important before completing a certain number of reps. These exercises are great for those who don’t want to add muscle bulk to their frame with heavy weights and who don’t have access to equipment. There are tons of variations from and additions such as pull-ups and push-ups which are all great stability exercises as well. I hope these are useful additions to your porgramming!