Stability Exercises

Stability exercises are very important areas to address especially for anyone involved with sports performance. We may think of core stability (our core stability blog can be found here) when we hear the words stability however there are in fact many different areas where stability is important. For this reason we must consider including shoulder stability exercises, hip stability exercises, knee stability exercises and ankle stability exercises into a stability focused workout.

To get some input into this, we caught up with Fitness Professional and Study Active Assessor Louise Henderson to find out which stability exercises she recommends.

NOTE: All views on stability exercises in this article are that of the author and do not constitute exercise advice. Always contact a qualified exercise professional if you wish to partake in stability exercise as you will need to be screened and obtain medical clearance if necessary.

What are stability exercises?

The role of stability exercises is essentially to control your movement and various postures, basically, holding the body upright. Stability exercises are usually isometric strengthening exercises. This means that whilst performing them, you are not moving or if you are, the movement is very small. It is not just the muscles that play a role in stability, the ligaments, tendons and discs also play a major part too. When stabilisers (muscles, ligament, tendons) are weak, they may not be able to handle unpredictable movements and could result in injury. Standing stability exercises can be performed on an unable surface such as a Bosu ball or balance board. You can also perform unilateral movements such as a single leg squat.

What are the benefits of stability exercises?

The aim of stability training is to target the smaller stabilising muscles, ligaments, and Tendons. Stability training can complement other forms of exercise such as strength training as it will cause a greater amount of stability in supporting and stabilising muscles. Stabilising muscles aid the bigger, prime mover muscles by providing more control in a particular exercise and they can also prevent overuse and injuries. For example, when performing a bicep curl, the core, and the shoulder muscles work to assist in maintaining balance and posture. These exercises will still target major muscles but will recruit the smaller stabilizers too. Stability exercises result in more strength gains and can prevent falls.

Stability exercises can also focus on the core. This may also be known as the trunk – lots of muscles in our mid-section. These muscles are responsible for posture and straightening the spine, as well as twisting (rotating) or bending (forward flexion) the spine. Core stability exercises can also reduce the risks of back problems and in some cases, prevent them. Strengthening your core helps to improve exercise performance and technique which can prevent injuries.

Can you provide some effective shoulder stability exercises?

I would recommend a medicine ball balance. This exercise is very good for building scapular stabilisation. You start in a push up position with both hands on the ball and the feet on the floor. The aim is to keep your balance whilst slightly rounding your shoulder blades, pushing them forward. Once in position, make small circles with the ball. I would also recommend performing rotator cuff exercises. Strong rotator cuff muscles can help prevent injuries following exercises such as throwing or swinging (like a tennis racket or golf club).

Can you provide some effective hip stability exercises?

I believe that hip stabilisation should play a role in any strength or rehabilitation programme. The hips play a very important role in core stability. Our ‘trunk’ sits on tops of the hips, so matter how much core training you do, it won’t be very effective if the base or foundation is weak. The hips do not only need to be strong, but also stable. The hips move in all three planes of motion and is very mobile. So when building our hip stability we need to think about the various movements. Practicing Yoga is a very good way to strengthen your hips. Yoga will also help to improve flexibility. Tight or inflexible hips can be responsible for pain in the lumbar spine (lower back) which can lead into an impairment in performance. Hip stability exercises in Yoga include Warrior, Crescent Lunge and Lord of the Fishes (spinal twist)  

Can you provide some effective knee stability exercises?

The knee is responsible for bending and straightening. Without these flexion and extension movements we would not be able to perform everyday activities like walking or running. Strengthening the muscles that support the knee can reduce knee pain and stress on the knee joint.

A very good exercise to stabilise the knee is a lunge. I really like this exercise because of its versatility. It can be done forward, backwards and side to side. To begin with I would recommend a static lunge. Start with your feet shoulder width apart then step one foot forward. Slowly bend the back need down to a 90-degree angle and let the front knee naturally follow. Keep your front knee in line with your foot and your back need under your hip. Slowly push back up to the start position and repeat.

Can you provide some effective ankle stability exercises?

A very simple exercise to strengthen the ankle is to stand on one leg. I would recommend starting by holding onto something such as the back of the chair before trying it without. Once you have good balance on one leg without support you could try standing on an unable surface such as a rug or cushion then building up to a Bosu or a wobble board. Strengthening exercises will assist in building stronger bones and reduce the risk of degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis. It is also important to work on ankle mobility. Tight or stiff ankles can affect your balance and increase the risk of falling. So stronger and less tight ankles can improve balance and reduce the risk of injury. You can improve ankle mobility and flexibility by performing a towel stretch. Sit down on the floor with the legs straight out in front, wrap a towel around the top on one foot and gentle pull so the toes point backward toward you. Hold for 30 second and repeat 2-3 times more then move onto the other side.

Bosu ball leg stand

How many times per week would you suggest to complete stability exercises?

Stability exercises such as balancing exercises can be done every day or as often as you like. People who are at risk of falling should do balance and stability exercises three times per week. Start with twice per week and build up from there. I would recommend standing near a wall or chair when you first start out in case you lose your balance. When working on strengthening stability exercises such as core stability, I would recommend incorporating these into your workout 2-3 times per week.

Summary of stability exercises

Thank you to Lou for some very interesting input on the best stability exercises to do for shoulder stability, hip stability, knee stability and ankle stability. It has been very interesting to learn more about stability exercises and how these can be applied to a workout focusing on stability. It has been interesting to know that the word stability can mean so much more than just core stability and it has been great to hear the opinions of an expert. Thank you Lou!


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