Boost your body control and protect against injury with these stability-enhancing exercises.
These moves, though they target different areas, are primarily designed to activate your core and teach your body – particularly the less-heralded stabilising muscles – how to handle unstable movement patterns.
This type of stability training may not be sexy or even particularly fun, but consistent application will create coordination, massively reduce your risk of injury and eliminate any overcompensations you’ve built up over the years.
Pick and choose from this list, or throw all the moves together into a once-a-week conditioning circuit.
- Complete the moves as standalone warm-up drills or combine for a full-body workout.
- Aim for 10-15 reps of each exercise, for 2-4 sets.
- Keep rest time between 30 and 90 secs.
1. Reverse Lunge to Front Kick
Main benefits: Unilateral leg strength and stability, as well as hip mobility.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your core stable and weight on your heels.
- Take a large step back with your right foot, planting and then lowering your body until both legs are bent at right angles.
- Exhale as you extend your legs. Lift your right foot, bringing your right knee toward your chest, then kick your front kick out.
- Repeat on the other leg.
2. Bird Dog
Main benefits: Stability and strength through your core.
- Assume a tabletop (all fours) position on the floor.
- Maintaining tension in your core, reach out with one arm in front and extend the opposite leg straight behind you.
- Hold this extended position for a count of three.
- Return and repeat with the other sides.
3. Stability Ball Y Raise
Main benefits: Strengthen your shoulder stabilisers and mid-back muscles.
- Lie prone on a stability ball – your back should be flat and your chest should be off the ball.
- Let your arms hang down directly beneath your shoulders, with feet about hip-width apart and palms facing.
- Raise your arms to form a ‘Y’ shape, with thumbs facing up.
- Hold for two seconds, then return your arms to the start.
- Maintain control on the ball throughout.
4. Bench Pistol Squat
Main benefits: Ankle mobility, unilateral quad strength and full recruitment of the posterior chain.
- Stand in front of a bench or chair.
- Lift one foot off the floor, with the toes of your grounded foot pointing forward,
- Lower yourself down, keeping your weight evenly distributed through your foot, and extend the non-standing leg out in front of you.
- Come down until your bum touches the bench, then drive through your heels to return to standing.
- To begin with, lightly hold a door frame or pole to help you keep your balance.
- Allow a slight lean forward of your torso during the squat, while making sure your back stays straight.
5. KB Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
Main benefits: Hamstring and glute strength, as well as hip mobility and single-leg balance.
- Stand with feet close together and a kettlebell in your right hand.
- Plant your right foot down while slightly bending the knee.
- While keeping it straight, drive the left leg backwards until it’s parallel with the floor as you hinge at the hips and lower the kettlebell to the floor.
- Just before the kettlebell touches down, reverse the movement with control.
- Return your left leg to the starting position and repeat with the other side.
6. Bottoms-Up KB Bench Press
Main benefits: This move teaches tightness in the core and strengthens your shoulder grip – not to mention your forearms, which will be working overtime.
- Lie on a bench or the floor.
- Grip two kettlebells upside down by the handles or ‘horns’, so the loaded sections of the bells are above your hands, and your hands are by your shoulders, with elbows locked into your sides.
- Squeeze the handles hard, tense your glutes, and press the weights above your chest.
- Squeeze your pecs in the top position, then lower with control.
7. Single-Arm KB Z Press
Main benefits: Core strength and control, plus mobility and strength in the shoulders and upper back
- Sit down, legs extended straight out in front of you, and raise a kettlebell above your head.
- Press the weight up so your bicep grazes your ear.
- Return until the weight is level with the top of your chest – racking the kettlebell securely to take the strain off your shoulder joint.
8. Medicine Ball Woodchop
Main benefits: The high-to-low diagonal movement hits your abs from a unique angle, while increasing the rotational power and strength essential to a lot of sports
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding one kettlebell in both hands.
- Twist your torso to one side to position the weight on the outside of one thigh.
- Keep your back flat and core engaged throughout.
- Lift the kettlebell up and across your body with straight arms, rising up onto your toes as you lift the weight up and out to one side.
- Return to the start and complete all reps on that side before switching.
Main benefits: Strengthen your core and stabilising back muscles, while teaching limb engagement.
- Lie flat on your back, with as much of your spine in contact with the ground as possible.
- Raise your arms straight up towards the ceiling and make a 90° bend at the hips and knees to create a ‘reverse table top’ with your shins.
- Without any part of your spine losing contact with the floor, reach your left arm up above your head and extend your right left leg.
- Push your heel away and pull your toes back towards you as you extend – imagine you are standing on that leg.
- Fully exhale as you reach the longest part of the movement.
- Without allowing your heel to touch the floor, slowly return back to the set-up position.
- Repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
10. Speed Skater
Main benefits: Build unilateral leg strength, power and stability, while torching calories.
- Start by standing on one leg.
- Drop into a slight squat position.
- Jump sideways to the right while landing on your right leg and bring the left leg behind your right ankle.
- Then reverse the direction with the opposite actions, swinging your arms side to side to create more momentum.
Photography Eddie Macdonald | Model Alex Crockford