How to improve your Core Stability with one exercise

Feb 15, 2021

We’ve talked about core stability plenty of times on the blog, discussing the anatomy surrounding it as well as various exercises that can help to improve our balance and coordination. I often talk about the fact that core stability, unlike core strength, is about muscle timing and smoothness of movement. It’s not how many repetitions of an exercise you can do, but the quality of the movement that is important.

The limitations of training for core stability

When we train for core stability, we are really looking at general principles. This is because core stability is specific to the aspect of sport and fitness we’re doing. Whether we’re running, cycling or swimming, a strong core can help us to balance, maintain the correct position and support the larger muscles to generate the power and consistency we need.

One exercise to help improve core stability

If I had to recommend just one exercise to help you work on these general principles of core stability, this is the one I would go for. It’s one exercise, but there are two parts to it.

The first bit is about balance, the second bit, smoothness of movement. We then bring these two elements together to help work on the timing of the muscles, bringing coordination into the equation as well. It can be a tough one to get right, but it’s worth persevering with. And there are plenty of ways you can change it up to help work on aspects of hip and ankle flexibility too.

The half kneeling halo

Step one is about getting the posture correct. Lower yourself down onto one knee, focusing on keeping both the knee that is on the ground and the one that is out in front of you at a ninety degree angle. That means the knee on the floor is directly under the same-side hip, with the lower leg straight out to the back, while the other knee is directly above its ankle and pointing forwards.

If you were to look from the front you should have a hip width apart from the front foot to the other knee. Your glutes should be working hard, and you should feel a mild brace on your abdominals. Focus on pulling yourself up tall.

It’s vital you get to the point that you can hold this position with stability before you advance any further. Adding in the weight, as we will do in the second part, could cause damage if you do this before you are stable.

TIP: If you want to make the exercise harder, bring your foot across, towards your mid-line, so you have a narrower base. This makes the exercise more unstable, meaning your body needs work harder to re-stabilise. You will also be working your ankle joint harder. Alternatively, open the angle out to greater than ninety degrees to focus on abductor and hip mobility.

Introducing the weight

Next, we’re going to introduce a weight. It doesn’t matter what you have available, you could use a dumbbell, kettle bell, plate weight or anything you can hold and that will keep your hands together in one position.

At this point I suggest you watch the video above to ensure you’re getting the movement correct.

Get yourself in a stable half kneeling position as above. Lift your weight with both hands and hold it just below your chin. Keeping it close to your head, move the weight in a circle past one ear, around the back of your head, past your other ear and back to your chin. It may take a few practise attempts to work out the coordination involved to move your arms. But concentrate on keeping them as close to your head as you can.

This exercise requires good mobility in the shoulders and enough extension in the spine. If you don’t have those you need to be careful you don’t start compensating by arching your back or moving your hips around in a circle.

Focus on locking in your core, keeping those hips completely level and taking your arms through the movement while remaining centred. This one exercise really does challenge every aspect of your stability. Can you get your body in every position you want to be in? While you’re concentrating on coordination, can you also keep your glutes squeezed? And your abdominal braced? Can you keep your hips centred so you’re not moving side to side and back and forth?

Give it a try. There is a lot more to this than you might think.

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