The Importance of Lateral Stability for Athletes

For the last two years I have worked as an Exercise Physiologist alongside top physiotherapists. I have had the pleasure of working with many athletes, and one of the most common deficiencies I encounter is lateral trunk stability. Think of your torso like can of soft drink. Poor trunk stability means your “can” will crumble under load, leading to poor power transfer and production. Your torso needs to stable in all directions, and lacking stability in one or more parts means less power and increased injury risk.

Some of the major muscles involved in providing lateral trunk stability include the obliques, quadratus lumborum and gluteus medius. They are vital in stabilizing and producing force through your midsection. If they are not trained adequately or with the correct exercises they can fall behind in terms of development to the bigger and more powerful muscles such as the hamstrings, quadriceps and gluteus maximus.

This is a recipe for limiting your strength/power as the underdeveloped stabilizing muscles will quite literally “put the brakes on” force production by sending inhibitory signals to the brain. This occurs as the weaker stabilizing muscles detect force production which they believe is going to cause injury. This limited force production means less power when sprinting, changing direction or going for that max effort squat. The imbalance could also lead to back/hip/knee pain due to muscles such as TFL and Quadratus Lumborum “tightening”/spasming to add extra stability.

Loaded carry variations are a simple and effective way to add in some lateral stability work to your training. They are great for learning how to brace and improve the ability to transfer force through the torso. This includes variations such as:
-Farmers walks with dumbbells, kettlebells, farmers walk handles
-Kettlebell carries in the rack and overhead position.
-If you are lacking equipment you can get creative an use a partner for fireman carries

Loading can be varied by using different weights, implements or positions on each side. For example, carrying a kettlebell in the rack position in the left hand, and overhead on the right. The standard farmers carry is a great level to start, once this is mastered some of the more advanced variations can be used to take your trunk stability to the next level.

This video has some good loaded carry variations you cna implement easily:

This video is of National level Tae Kwon Do athlete Andrew performing some farmers carries. These were added to Andrews program as his initial assessment at The Strength Shed uncovered some lateral hip and trunk stability deficiencies.

Nick M – Head Physical preparation Coach at The Strength Shed

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