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Brian Schiff’s Blog

Injury Prevention, Sports Rehab & Performance Training Expert

Archive for 'balance'

I like to include exercises on this blog that are useful for rehab and fitness professionals as well as fitness enthusiasts who visit. This is a cool exercise that a colleague taught me.  I also recently shared this as part of my ‘Functionally Fit’ column for PFP Magazine.  It works great when doing partner workouts or if coaching a client.  We used it during our off season training for the Carolina Hurricanes and it is much harder than it looks on the surface.

Training clients to maintain core stiffness in athletic functional positions will improve performance and reduce injury risks for the spine and lower extremities. This exercise is an effective way to address postural stability, increase core strength and enhance kinetic chain proprioception



Begin in a split squat position holding a stability ball overhead. The client maintains an isometric split squat while the coach/trainer provides directional perturbations in an attempt to disrupt balance and stability.

You may opt for several quick rhythmic perturbations or elect to use more sustained pushes (1-2 seconds in each direction) to challenge the client. Allow the client to reset to the desired position if he/she does lose balance in order to facilitate optimal motor patterning. Perform 30 seconds with the left leg forward, rest 30 seconds and then repeat with the right leg forward. Complete two sets on each side.

Be sure to observe asymmetries or deviations specific to either side as this will allow for better cuing and reveal energy leaks. Marking the desired distance between the front heel and rear foot toes with tape will ensure consistency for each trial side-to-side.


This exercise is very effective in training kinetic chain stability and proprioception. Holding the ball overhead allows the trainer to challenge clients to resist movement in the sagittal, frontal and transverse planes through upper body driven loads and feedback. Additionally, the client must focus on maintaining an upright posture while the lower body musculature remains engaged.


For those with difficulty holding the ball overhead, consider holding the ball at shoulder height at first. Keep in mind the perturbations should be graded and not designed to push the client over or completely off balance.
One additional note to consider: you may opt to instruct the client to remain rigid throughout the drill or allow them to be relaxed and then respond with reactive rigidity when the perturbation comes.  Experiment with your clients and programs and see what you think!

Research has shown that strengthening the gluteus medius is clearly an essential way to reduce anterior knee pain and improve pelvic stability and function.  The exercise I am sharing today is useful for improving hip strength and pelvic stability in a closed chain fashion.

In the video below, I demonstrate a very effective way to strengthen the gluteus medius and improve hip stability.

For a full description of the exercise, check out my latest column, Functionally Fit, by clicking here.

Unearthing the cause of anterior knee pain and ridding our patients and clients of it is one of the never ending searches for the “Holy Grail” we participate in throughout training and rehab circles.  I honestly believe we will never find one right answer or simple solution.  However, I do think we continue to gain a better understanding of just how linked and complex the body really is when it comes to the manifestation of knee pain and movement compensations.

We used to say rehab and train the knee if the knee hurts.  It was simply strengthen the VMO and stretch the hamstrings, calves and IT Band.  Slowly, we began looking to the hip as well as the foot and ankle as culprits in the onset of anterior knee pain.  The idea of the ankle and hip joint needing more mobility to give the knee its desired level of stability has risen up and seems to have good traction these days.

Likewise, therapists and trainers have known for some time that weak hip abductors play into increased femoral internal rotation and adduction thereby exposing the knee to harmful valgus loading. So, clam shells, band exercises and leg raises have been implemented to programs across the board.


Single Leg Resisted Hip External Rotation

As a former athlete who has tried his hand at running over the past 5 years, I have increasingly studied, practiced and analyzed the use and importance of single leg training and its impact on my performance and injuries.  As I dive deeper into this paradigm, I continue to believe and see the benefits of this training methodology for all of my athletes (not just runners).

As a therapist and strength coach, it is my job to assess movement, define asymmetries and correct faulty neuromuscular movement patterns.  To that end, I have developed my own assessments, taken the FMS course, and increasingly observed single leg strength, mobility, stability and power in the clients I serve. Invariably, I always find imbalances – some small and some large ones.

What are some of the most common issues I see?

Continue reading…

Many people like to do lunges in the gym.  Many people do them wrong.  Some simply do not know proper form, while others have mechanical issues preventing them from executing proper form.

Unfortunately, many clients struggle to keep the knee in line with the foot, and the knee often caves inward.  Even with verbal, visual and tactile cues, they may still struggle to master the proper form due to flexibility and strength imbalances. This may have to do with limited ankle mobility, but for the purposes of this post, I want to address the hip.  More specifically, people often lack mobility, stability and strength in the hips.

I recently wrote two columns for PFP Magazine featuring two exercises I use to clean up lunge form:

  1. Torso Rotational Lunges
  2. Diagonal Hip Flexor Lunge Step

The torso rotational lunge is great for integrated muscle activation of the gluteus medius, while I utilize the diagonal hip flexor lunge step to address hip flexor tightness and limited thoracic spine mobility.

Torso Rotational Lunge

Torso Rotational Lunge

Diagonal Hip Flexor Lunge Step

Diagonal Hip Flexor Lunge Step

In these columns, I specifically review regressions and progressions.  So, whether you train clients or simply want to take your lunges to the next level, check out the full columns online at PFP below:

Click here for the Torso Rotational Lunges

Click here for the Diagonal Hip Flexor Lunge Step

Looking for more cutting edge training tips and rehab/injury prevention strategies?  Subscribe to my members’ only Training & Sports Medicine Update available at

I think most people involved in health and fitness are up to speed on the move to address mobility and stability at the hip as an integral part of our assessments and exercise prescription.  I know in my practice I see lots of issues with both a lack of hip stability and mobility.

As I learn, practice and evolve as a professional, I find myself looking for more bang for my buck with exercises.  A few themes and trends in my own training include:

  1. Increasing emphasis on body weight exercises
  2. More and more single leg training
  3. Integrated movement patterns versus isolation

So, if you are familiar with Gray Cook and Mike Boyle (I am specifically referring to their writing and discussion on the joint by joint approach) you know that they advocate for increasing mobility at some joints and gaining stability at others.  Ironically, the hip has a need for more of both depending on the movement and individual imbalances.

So, I really enjoy exercises that provide some of each and meet the trends I referenced above.  I just released one such hip exercise in my “Functionally Fit” Column in PFP Magazine.  I call it the RDL Hip Driver.



Click here to read the entire post with a full description of how to perform the exercise and its functional application.