How to Perform a Core Stability Test On Yourself

I use to do countless amounts of mobility work. I thought it was the ticket to success.

But I could never get it to stick.

I wasn’t getting lasting results because I was putting a premium on mobility work but practically ignoring stability work.

Odds are you might be making a similar mistake. That’s not ideal, so let’s sort this stability stuff out.

In this posts, I go over:

  • Why you need to test your core stability
  • What areas or joints do you need to test
  • How to perform a core stability test
  • What to do with your test results

 

Why You Need to Test Your Core Stability

Once mobility is in place or you have the needed passive range of motion, learning to control that range of motion (stability) is the next step.

Mobility and stability together lay the foundation for quality movement.  Movement is the foundation of strength and endurance.  I go over this in depth in the 7 essential principles of training.

Fitness Qualities

We test stability to make sure it’s not the bottleneck. To ensure it’s not prohibiting you from moving well and in turn affecting strength, power, and endurance.

What Areas or Joints Do You Need to Test

Every joint needs stability. Meaning, you could really perform a countless number of tests on different areas and joints.

But we are keeping things simple.  The most important area in regards to stability is the core. When I say the core, I’m talking about everything between the hips and shoulders.

Looking a few important patterns in this area will give you a great understanding of the quality of your stability.

These patterns are based on the “X” which represents the connection between different areas of the core.

The Core X

The 3 patterns we will be looking at are

  • Ipsilateral – Same side
  • Contralateral – Opposite side
  • Bilateral  – Both Sides

It’s not important that you have a great understanding of these.  Take a look at the visuals below and you should be able to pick up the correlation to the tests. Rest easy, knowing that performing these patterns are the foundation of good stability.

Contralateral Bilateral and Ipsilateral Core Patterns

 

How to Perform A Core Stability Test

Please keep in mind, there are countless ways to test stability. These tests aren’t the end all be all.

In fact, I often just use the functional movement screen to weed out stability issues. These tests were chosen for the simplicity. I wanted something you could do at home, on your own, with minimal equipment and expertise.

Another important note, these tests do require a certain level of mobility to perform them.

Ipsilateral Test

  1. Lie flat with your back pressed against the floor
  2. Raise your legs and arms so they are perpendicular to the floor
  3. While keeping your back on the floor, slowly lower your right leg and right arm
  4. Stop by your arm and leg reach the floor and slowly bring them back to the starting position
  5. Repeat the test with your left arm and left leg

 

Ipsilateral Core Stability Test

Contralateral Test

  1. Lie flat with your back pressed against the floor
  2. Raise your legs and arms so they are perpendicular to the floor
  3. While keeping your back on the floor, slowly lower your right leg and left arm
  4. Stop when your arm and leg reach the floor and slowly bring them back to the starting position
  5. Repeat the test with your left leg and right arm

Contralateral Core Stability Test

Bilateral Test

  1. Lie flat with your back pressed against the floor
  2. Raise your legs and arms so they are perpendicular to the floor
  3. While keeping your back on the floor, slowly lower both arms and legs
  4. Stop as your arms and legs reach the floor and slowly bring them back to the starting position

Bilateral Core Stability Test

What To Look For When Testing

When testing it’s important that you keep all the following in mind

  • Make sure your back stays in contact with the floor throughout the test
  • Don’t hold your breath. Try to breathe naturally. Ideally, you should exhale while lowering the arms/legs and inhale while you come back up
  • Keep your moving limbs straight throughout
  • Non-moving limbs should stay still (you can see, I didn’t do such a great job of this in all the examples!)

If you have problems with any of these keep it in mind when determining where your weak spots are.

What To Do with Your Test Results

Rate your weak areas based on the pattern (ipsilateral, contralateral, bilateral) and side to side.

For example, you may have a problem with the ipsilateral pattern and the left side may need more work.

After that, it’s pretty easy to start cleaning things up.

The tests you perform actually serve as exceptional exercises as well. The exercise is referred to as the deadbug.

If the actual test exercise proves to difficult though,  you’ll need to regress or dial things back a notch. To do so, just use a bent knee setup instead of a straight leg. The rest of the exercise is still the same.

Deadbug Starting Position

If that’s still difficult, do the exercise with legs only or arms only.

There is no shame in regressing. Don’t try to do anything outside of your capabilities. You may just end up compensating and sacrificing progress.

I like to insert these exercises into my warm-up after my mobility work for reps of 8-10.  If you are weak in a particular pattern or side, just do an extra set on that pattern or side. For example, if the ipsilateral right side is particularly difficult for you, throw an extra set of it in.

I also recommend doing these exercise outside of your regular training session as well. This won’t effect your training in any way and will help speed up the process of improving your stability.

If you pass the test with flying colors. Congrats!

You are in a pretty damn good position. I would still recommend throwing some stability work into your warm-up. It will provide as movement prep and get things sequencing properly for the workout ahead.

Conclusion

Core stability is just a piece of the puzzle. Along with mobility it lays the groundwork for good movement.

To determine if it’s a problem area for you, test the 3 major patterns of ipsilateral, contralateral and bilateral.

Find out which patterns or particular sides you are weak in. Adjust your training accordingly by adding needed stability work.

If you have any questions, feedback or suggestions, drop me a line in the comments below. I promise I’ll get back to you.