Training clients to maintain core stiffness in athletic functional positions will improve performance and reduce injury risks for the spine and lower extremities. This exercise is an effective way to address postural stability, increase core strength and enhance kinetic chain proprioception. It can be coached in such a way that athletes maintain rigidity throughout the exercise or where the client remains relaxed until perturbation is introduced then engaging to maintain position.

Begin in a split squat position holding a stability ball overhead. The client maintains an isometric split squat while the coach/trainer provides directional perturbations in an attempt to disrupt balance and stability.

You may opt for several quick rhythmic perturbations or elect to use more sustained pushes (1-2 seconds in each direction) to challenge the client. Allow the client to reset to the desired position if he/she does lose balance in order to facilitate optimal motor patterning. Perform 30 seconds with the left leg forward, rest 30 seconds and then repeat with the right leg forward. Complete two sets on each side.

Be sure to observe asymmetries or deviations specific to either side as this will allow for better cuing and reveal energy leaks. Marking the desired distance between the front heel and rear foot toes with tape will ensure consistency for each trial side-to-side.

This exercise is very effective in training kinetic chain stability and proprioception. Holding the ball overhead allows the trainer to challenge clients to resist movement in the sagittal, frontal and transverse planes through upper body driven loads and feedback. Additionally, the client must focus on maintaining an upright posture while the lower body musculature remains engaged.

For those with difficulty holding the ball overhead, consider holding the ball at shoulder height at first. Keep in mind the perturbations should be graded and not designed to push the client over or completely off balance.

Brian Schiff, PT, OCS, CSCS, is a licensed physical therapist, respected author and fitness professional. Currently, he serves as the supervisor at Athletes' Performance at Raleigh Orthopaedic. Brian presents nationally at several professional conferences and seminars on injury prevention, rehab and sport-specific training. For more cutting edge training information, subscribe to his monthly Training & Sports Medicine Update at


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