Athletic Therapy, Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Equestrian, Motor Learning, Posture, Uncategorized

Fix It Friday’s: How Stable Are You? 

No, I’m not talking about how much time you spend in the barn, or how you handle stress…. I’m strictly asking about your physical stability. 

There’s a few tests I do for this when assessing a new client, one of which I’m going to share with you today. I truly believe that education is the key to getting every client and athlete to their next level, whatever their goals may be. So sit tight, and get ready to test your core ability in a few simple steps! 

I write lots about the core. The core is basically the area between the base of your skull/and chin to your hips. Common misconception is that it’s your abdominals, but it is so much more! 

The core is important for everything we do. In various athletic endeavours it does one of two main jobs- either stabilizes our trunk so our limbs can move in the most efficient manner and we can balance appropriately (riders, this is you), or it can be used to create power through torque and momentum (think a kicker, pitcher, sprinter, etc). I won’t get too much into the physics of this, but the basics is it helps centre us, allows for the best possible movement, and/or transmits force through the body for power. It literally plays a part in everything we do, and if it’s not used correctly you start to see breakdowns elsewhere or within the core area itself (back pain, hip dysfunction (leading to knee pain), shoulder pain and neck pain). 

I haven’t done the math, but if I could take a guess I would say about 80%-90% of the people I see have some level core dysfunction. That aligns pretty well with the infamous stay that 88% of equestrians have low back pain. It’s all starting to make sense, isn’t it? 

So… How do you know if you need to get better at your core? Well I’ll show you. All you need is a mirror, or an observer. 

We’re going to use one of my favourite exercises as a movement screen (which it actually is..surprise!). 

The Bird-Dog is an excellent way to assess your core body when it comes to stabilization. 

Starting on all fours, with a mirror at your side or your trusted observer watching you, lift and extend OPPOSITE limbs as shown above. Make sure your back is straight and knees are directly under hips with hands under shoulders. Try to form 90deg angles with the ground! 

Here’s what you’re looking for: 

– any unevenness or lift in the hips. 

– any shift in weight bearing forwards or backwards or sideways- or if you try to move your back stance knee inwards (that’s cheating!). 

– any sag in the low back or arch in the upper back. 

– any unbalance, increased shakiness, or falling over (yes it happens!). 

As a clinician I score this movement out of 3. To get a 3/3 technically you should be able to lift and extend SAME SIDE arm and leg, with no deviations in posture. I have yet to find a perfect score. The opposite version shown above is technically an alternate test. So a perfect score here means you have no deviations in stability or form, with no pain. Any PAIN in this test auto drops you to a 0-1/3. Anything less then a perfect score means you have work to do. And believe me, even the fittest and brightest athletes often get surprised with this. Fitness level does not necessarily mean you move well! 

What did you see? Let me know in the comments or email me at 

Interested in building that core ability? Check out these posts on my favourite core exercises: 

Core Concepts

Proper Activation You’re Doing It Wrong

Stay tuned for more Fix It Fridays! 

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