34 moves to build strength and stability
At Athletic Republic, our training programs focus heavily on building strength and stability since these are such a critical aspect of sport performance. They help athletes, particularly female athletes (since they are more prone to knee and ankle injuries) to handle changes in speed and direction, weather crashes or collisions, and manage uneven surfaces without injury. Whether you’re a serious athlete, a “weekend warrior,” or simply want to reduce your chance of injuries during activities like skiing or running, you’re always going to benefit from a program dedicated to building strength and stability.
Following is a progressive program of exercises to incorporate into your workout routine that will improve hip, knee, and core strength, mobility, and stability. They don’t require much specialized equipment aside from a mini band, an inflatable balance disc, and a resistance cord with handles. If you don't have these already, you can purchase a kit here. You don’t need a gym, either; all of these can be done at home.
SET UP YOUR ROUTINE
Start off by picking one exercise from each of the five exercise categories, and rotate through those five exercises three times. Do these daily, picking different exercises on each day. As you get stronger, do two exercises from each exercise category daily and then continue to increase from there.
Mini bands are great for building strength in the hips, and they’re small, lightweight, and inexpensive. They come in a range of resistances; start with a light resistance and as you get stronger, you can progress to a band offering more resistance.
Place band above your knee. Lower into a squat with feet shoulder width apart. Keep your chest and eyes up, and push through your heels. Reps: 15
Place band above knee. Stand with feet shoulder width apart with knees flexed, chest and eyes up. Take a big step to the side, making sure to keep the knees straight over the center of the feet (not collapsing inward). Take 2 steps in one direction, then the other. Reps: 5 sets for 10 steps total each direction.
With band above knees, lower slightly into a squat and then take a big step forward at 45 degrees with your right leg and then bring left foot to meet it. Repeat on left, and then repeat stepping backward. Make sure your knees are not collapsing inward. Reps: 5 sets for 10 steps total on each leg.
With band above knees, lower slightly into a squat with your feet far enough apart that there is tension on the band. Spring up off your toes and then lower back into a squat to absorb your landing while maintaining that band tension. Reps: 10
Place band around feet at the instep. Keeping your upper body as upright as possible, raise your right leg until your upper leg is parallel with the ground. Reps: 10 each leg.
Place band just above ankles. Raise a foot off the ground and then slowly swing it to the front, and then behind you. Reps: 10 each side.
Inflatable balance discs are great for simulating an uneven surface, so they’re ideal for working on ankle and knee stability.
Single leg balance
Stand with one foot on the disc and one in front of you at 45 degrees. Slowly lower into a squat (as far as your knee will allow). For more of a challenge, close your eyes. Reps: 15 each leg.
An advanced version of Single Leg Balance, with your leg farther out in front, and going into a deeper squat. Start with one hand on chair or wall. Reps: 10
Single leg balance with ball toss
Stand with one foot on the disc and off to the side. Toss a tennis ball against a wall, and try not to touch down with your free foot as you catch it. Reps: 15
single foot hops
From standing on two feet, jump onto the ball with one and lower into a slight squat to help stick the landing. Start small. Reps: 5 each foot, 10 total.
Single leg rdl
Raise your free leg slightly behind you, and then slowly tip forward. Keep your head up. Reps: 10 each leg.
These exercices focus on core and glute strength, especially rotational movements that help with changes in direction and sports-specific movement.
Close one handle in a door around chest level. Stand to one side holding the handle in both hands, and step away from the door until you feel tension in the cord. Keeping your torso still (no rotation), straighten your arms out in front of your chest. Reps: 10
Wrap cord around a stable post, such as a bed or table leg. Lie on your back and grab both hand grips, far enough away that there is tension on the cords. While keeping your upper body still and small of back pressed to the floor, extend feet out and then pull knees into chest. Reps: 20
Wrap cord around post. While on your knees, hold the left hand grip on the floor and place your right foot in right hand grip. With a slow, controlled motion, swing the right leg up, pressing your heel towards the ceiling, and then return to starting position. Reps: 15 each side.
High to Low Chops
Close one handle in a door just above shoulder height. Grasp the handle with both hands and, with straight arms, pull the handle towards your opposite hip with a controlled rotation of your torso. Slowly return to starting position. Reps: 10 each side.
Wrap cord around post. Lie on your stomach and grab both hand grips, far enough away that there is a slight amount of tension on the cords. As you lift your feet and shoulders off the floor, slide your elbows back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Reps: 10
Low to High Chops
Close one handle in a door between knee and ankle height. Grasp the handle with both hands and, with straight arms, pull the handle above your opposite shoulder with a controlled rotation of your torso. Slowly return to starting position. Reps: 10 each side.
Wrap cord around post. While on your knees, hold the left hand grip on the floor and place your right foot in right hand grip. With a slow, controlled motion, swing the right leg back to full extension, and then return to starting position. Reps: 15 each side.
No equipment is needed for these simple but effective exercises, aside from a chair. Form is very important on the lunge moves; make sure to keep you upper body upright and that your front knee is not extending past your toe. Also, always try to push or lift through your heel on your forward leg. Start with 10 reps and if you’re comfortable doing more, aim for 20.
single leg glute bridge
Lie on your back with your knees bent, press your heels upward, then raise one leg directly vertical. Pressing through the heel of the foot on the ground, raise and lower your hips.
Get into position with hands and knees on the floor. Lift right leg until thigh is parallel with floor, keeping your back flat and hips square to the floor. Advanced: Add a mini band for extra resistance.
Rest elbows on chair or bench and lower hips nearly to ground, then lift back to starting position.
Lie on your right side with weight resting on your elbow. Pull knees to 90-degree position with ankles stacked. Keeping ankles together, slowly lift and lower the left knee. Advanced: add mini band.
single leg step ups
Stand with one foot flat on a step or box. Pushing through the heel of that foot, lift the opposite leg, lifting the knee as high as you can. Lower that leg slowly in a controlled manner.
Step forward and lower into a lunge position. Bring back leg back into position and step forward with other foot. Advanced: don’t touch back foot down before stepping into next lunge.
Stand with balls of feet on step, and then lift and lower heels. Advanced: lift one foot and do one-legged heel raises.
reverse lunge to knee drive
Step back with one leg and drop into low lunge, then drive that leg forward and lift the knee as high as you can.
Drop one leg back and then drop that knee toward the ground. Visualize squeezing your legs together as you lift back to the starting position.
Step to one side and lower into lunge, making sure to keep your knee from extending past your toe.
These exercises work on agility, core stability, and lower body explosiveness. They require little more than a line on the ground (on a basketball court, field sideline, chalk on the sidewalk, or even a rolled up towel) and a step or box. Do each exercise for 20 seconds or 30 reps, making sure to keep your upper body upright and knees bent in an athletic stance.
Hop over line/towel from side to side. Start with both feet and progress to single leg.
lateral quick steps
Stand on right side of line with right foot forward. Step to the left with your left (back) foot and follow with your right foot. Return to starting side, leading with left foot. As you get better, speed up and lift knees higher. Once you’ve finished reps, switch sides.
Hop over line/towel forward and back. Start with both feet and progress to single leg.
Start with right leg on elevated surface (step/box/chair). Spring off your feet and tap left leg on chair/step, then switch back to right.
forward-back quick steps
Step over line with right foot, and then left. Repeat backward. After completing reps, switch to leading with left foot.
Staying light on the balls of your feet, hop onto elevated surface (step/box) and hop back.
Athletic Republic’s network of 115 training centers provide individualized, sport-specific training, seamlessly combines science and sports to make athletes of all ages and abilities faster, more agile and more powerful. To find an Athletic Republic center near you to schedule a free trial workout, click here.