Poor frontal plane stability is often the result of proximal hip weakness. Developing gluteal strength and optimizing closed chain hip stability is integral to reducing injury risk and optimizing movement in the lower extremity. This exercise is an advanced version of lower extremity reaches through the use of elastic resistance.
Execution: Place an elastic loop or mini-band around the ankles. Standing on the left leg with a soft knee (slightly bent 10-15 degrees) slowly reach the right leg directly out away from the left leg. Allow the right foot (toes) to lightly touch the ground just prior to losing balance or beginning to feel the left knee cave inward. Pause for one second and then return to the start position. Repeat for 10 repetitions and switch sides.
This same technique can be repeated in a posteromedial and posterior direction. Advanced progressions include eliminating the toe touch followed by performing consecutive reaches in each direction or rotating through them (medial, posteromedial and posterior). Increasing the cadence and choosing a stronger band will also add difficulty to this exercise.
To regress the exercise, decrease the resistance and/or move the elastic band up to a point above or below the knees based on the client’s ability. Reaching straight back in the posterior direction will offer the least amount of challenge to frontal plane stability, so it may be best to start there for those with diminished balance and neuromuscular control.
Application: This exercise is an effective way to improve gluteal strength, proximal hip stability and dynamic balance. It is essential to provide proper audio and tactile cues to maintain form to ensure proper alignment throughout the movement patterns. Trunk compensations are common, and allowing clients to perform self corrections with the moving foot is encouraged early on until the movements become more fluid and controlled.
Learning to resist unwanted movement (valgus collapse) and fine tune motor control will help clients resist fatigue and maintain more ideal frontal plane mechanics with single limb loading. This will help reduce injury risk for those involved in running, cutting, jumping and pivoting activities, as well as reduce unwanted loads on the knee joint.