Stability, the glorious foundation for all athletic (and life) activity.

Date: September 5, 2015 Author: James Categories: Latest


When it comes to physical performance, whether in the gym, on the field, or in life, a hierarchy of athletic traits informs our ability. Our goal in movement should always be to move beautifully. It is quality first, not speed, or strength or distance that is the goal. Strength will stem from quality, as will power and endurance. Quality movement is smooth, controlled and executed according to intent. The foundation of all quality movement is stability - the ability to hold a position against outside forces.

I often use the analogy of throwing a ball across a lake. I one instance we are throwing while standing in a canoe. The base of support is weak and unsteady, it’s difficult to generate leverage to throw the ball with any vigour. In the second instance we throw the ball from the rocks on the shore. In this case the base of support is strong and steady, we get a ton of leverage from the ground and can throw the ball a great distance - or at least what I’ll tell all of my friends and family was a great distance when recounting (again) my ball throwing stories later that night.

Our bodies are the same way, if we are weak and unsteady through our foundation at the spine, we won’t be able to generate any strength or power at the arms and legs. And with additional stability at the spine we can generate a lot more strength and power at the arms and legs. Itès the foundation of all athletic activity!

Stability at any joint can be considered as coming from a number of factors:

Passive stability is the stability provided by structural factors like the shape of the joints, ligament support and the integrity of cartilages around the joint.

Active stability is that provided by the strength of specific stabilising muscle groups around the joint. Some muscles (called local muscles) are designed not to provide large movement to the joint, but to compress it and ensure smooth positioning of the joint through range.

Neuromotor control is the ability of your brain and nervous system to control the stabilising musculature in real life situations and to ensure optimal positioning of the joints in more complicated movement patterns. This includes the ability to hold beautiful postures through movement!

While passive stability is not so much under our direct control, active stability (muscle strength)  and neuromotor control can absolutely be trained and improved!

Over the course of the next several weeks, I’ll be presenting a series of videos that will demonstrate some simple ways that you can work on the stability of your spine, shoulder girdle, pelvic girdle and periphery (arms and legs). please enjoy them and if you have any questions about this or any other physiotherapy related topic don’t hesitate to contact me, I look forward to hearing from you!

For further reading, see the following sources:

McGill, S. M. (1997). The biomechanics of low back injury: implications on current practice in industry and the clinic. Journal of biomechanics, 30(5), 465-475.

McGill, S. (2009). Ultimate back fitness and performance. Backfitpro Incorporated.

Panjabi, M. M. (1992). The stabilizing system of the spine. Part I. Function, dysfunction, adaptation, and enhancement. Journal of spinal disorders & techniques, 5(4), 383-389.

Panjabi, M. M. (1992). The stabilizing system of the spine. Part II. Neutral zone and instability hypothesis. Journal of spinal disorders & techniques, 5(4), 390-397.