If I’m not one to utilize core stability in any training routine, the obvious question is, of course, what do I do with my clients instead? My answer to anyone is I prepare an athlete to develop optimum control of his body as he moves, which is why I view core stability a failure as a basic model of athletic training.

While core stability has been a fad for a number of years, my mirror to the issue is simple—what injuries have been reduced through its utilization? In the search to find a better understanding of human movement, emergency rooms across the country with sports injury patients easily demonstrate how much room there is for improvement to conventional training wisdom.

The underlying factor in all athletic training for me is we’re supposed to readily accept that 70 percent of runners injure themselves in any given year and completely ignore that 70 percent of ACL tears are non-contact injuries. Simply trying to stop or change direction on an athletic field in no way should have such failure rates under the guidance of any competent coach or trainer.

My question to clients is if a pilot crashed 70 percent of the time, would you trust them to fly your next plane? Probably not. Yet trainers with the same failure rates sadly receive nowhere near such scrutiny.


Instead, I asked athletes what they wanted to learn. When I was told that it was for the instruction and guidance to be as maneuverable as possible rather than as strong as possible, I took that as my research goal to pursue. So the obvious stands—what principle of balance defines optimum maneuverability skill? If you struggle with an answer, that speaks volumes to anyone’s ability to legitimately claim he knows how to train athletes.

Strength and conditioning training is simply just that. It doesn't have any reference to the word 'maneuverability' in its title, so I fully question sometimes how strength and conditioning coaches are deemed to be even qualified to have athletes as clients. Maneuverability skills and strength development are completely different sciences of study, which is a distinction few trainers know how to make and the foundation for why I write in the first place. However, questioning the differentiation between strength training and movement skills recognizes what the industry fails to bring forward in any legitimate debate or discussion. I feel athletes are shortchanged because of it.

The unspoken story is that while the science of understanding strength development in any muscle has made incredible strides, it also has a dark side that few people want to address. That reality is the evidence of strength training having no measurable impact toward improving anyone’s biomechanical skill at all. In fact, for some sports, science says the introduction of strength training is documented to slow the athlete down, not speed him up. Strength training will increase the endurance and output of a muscle through resistance training. However, at the science level of study, most important to me is that it doesn’t change the way you move. If the question is injured athletes, lacking an understanding to the significance of such distinction openly proves how far many trainers have to go toward understanding performance development.

Even the growing industry of boot camps or sports-specific training programs claiming to teach speed, agility, and quickness are in reality misleading their clients in selling a service and science they don’t fully understand. In the realm of what defines maneuverability in athletics, the discussion simply doesn’t exist. It's the pursuit of better understanding our maneuverability skills as trainers that fuels my world of research.

Building a training routine around that philosophy is what guides my development process with clients. Really, it's all about one word—balance. The skill of maneuverability is defined simply as how refined an athlete is in his balance skills of movement. What I learned with the study of balance specifically in my training models opened up a completely new window of understanding the science of performance development for me. While trainers circle around to discuss balance from the stability perspective, other fields of science have a much broader and bigger picture to the topic for discussion.

Aside from being thoroughly passionate about training athletes in movement skills, I also have a lifelong love of airplanes. While on the surface the two don't have anything in common, it’s the elite “athletes of the sky,” as jet fighters are sometimes called, that provided the model it takes to survive their world of competition as well as those any grounded athlete may face as well. In aerial combat, survival is hinged upon the maneuverability of a pilot’s plane. The balance principles integrated into the best fighters of the sky provide the foundation for the skills I develop in my clients.

In the world of fighting aircraft, all the elite planes utilize a principle of physics in their design  known as relaxed static stability (RSS). This is simply the idea that the more unstable an object is, the less energy it requires to change direction. Odd that the most maneuverable airplanes flying are designed to be unstable rather than stable in function, yet no athletic trainers have taken notice. Google the term 'relaxed static stability' specifically, and you’ll learn how it's integrated into designing jet aircraft. Far more important to me in your search is that you probably won't find any references of RSS as it relates to athletic training.

What makes my world a little different is that beginning with RSS as a functional design goal made it easier to create the training models to enhance such maneuverability skills in athletes. While RSS has a very eloquent description to the goals of every athlete toward improving his athletic ability, including the factor underlying the physics, it doesn't have anything in common with cone running drills.

Speed, agility, and quickness (SAQ) don't teach maneuverability skills. SAQ drills challenge one's maneuverability skill but can't functionally impact in any way how our bodies actually move. In no way does doing any such drill have any measured impact toward preventing injury. We learn to walk and run usually before our first birthday. Most importantly in brain development, these are also skills we gain before we learn to talk. Our lifetime biomechanical skills of locomotion are well established and instinctive long before we even develop a vocabulary to discuss the subject. No SAQ training, as taught, can improve anyone’s actual functional skill ability. So unless a trainer is literally starting from scratch and teaching the athlete how to improve his efficiency to put one foot in front of the other, a trainer can't legitimately claim he's improving an athlete’s performance skills.



Another significant difference in training philosophy is in the trainer's focus on developing strength in the athlete to overcome movement resistance while using RSS to improve an athlete’s mental skills in postural control first to better apply strength toward physical activity. A 'brain down' training philosophy is knowing that improved speed, agility, and quickness will be the natural byproduct of its training goals.

My favorite example is the Bosu ball. While the exercise media describes the device as a way to engage your core through challenging its balance skills, the vast majority of trainers fail to take into account how our bodies accomplish the task as presented. If they did, there wouldn't be any trainers getting near them. Of course, in stepping on the unstable surface, you’ll feel a surge in muscular firing for coordination, but trainers need to know that the client isn’t learning any balance skills at all from the exercise. Unfortunately, the client’s brain gets in the way of any real balance training to use them effectively.

What so many overlook is the reality that for the individual to stand on the ball’s surface, his brain first has to figure out how to step on it knowing how difficult that task will be. So even before positioning the body on the ball, the brain calculates and decides the most efficient posture to develop for optimum stability. Long before the brain figures out how to use its muscles in coordination to maintain its posture, the skeletal system is well positioned to take on most of the balance responsibility. The brain is doing far more work than your muscles, which means that the greatest stress loads to the body to stand on a Bosu ball come through joint friction in our skeletal system, not muscular coordination.

The position of the body chosen by the brain is to eliminate as much as possible any unnecessary postural sway, so it calculates how it will use the skeletal system to compensate in posture, requiring the least amount of muscular energy to stand upright. All these decisions are made before the client even lifts a foot off the ground to stand on the ball. So while the stepping process on the ball may look similar to ascending a set of stairs, what the untrained eye misses are the subtle alterations in joint mechanics that function to assist the brain in muscular control. This is why I describe Bosu ball training as challenging the brain in function, not teaching it any balance skills. How well a trainer can explain that difference to me defines his limitations of biomechanical understanding.

I also find it unique that trainers think the exercise of standing on a spongy surface will develop the skills necessary to execute a 45-degree cut on a sports field and protect the knee from ACL tearing torque loads. A stationary exercise and the functional movement of cutting maneuvers in athletic performance have absolutely nothing in common with each other. Hence, athletes face ACL tear risks.

What an RSS-based training model requires in teaching maneuverability is that it first has to start with the brain to enhance its comprehension of movement. So my exercise routines work to introduce the athlete to balance control through exercises that are conducted on hard surfaces first, long before I‘ll think to put them on an unstable one. I teach balance through the prism of creating and managing the mental skills in an athlete long before I challenge them physically. With maneuverability control the goal, my training introduces the brain to all the muscles utilized in joint control and how best to apply them toward any sport an athlete plays.

What makes that process unique is accomplished in complete contrast to stability training. While a Bosu ball induces joint friction in postural control, RSS training completely eliminates it. RSS is training from the perspective that eliminating natural joint friction in movement allows for quicker application of muscle power development.

Developing the muscular strength, coordination, and endurance required for natural balance control can be better accomplished without an unstable surface. Teaching an athlete how to create his own internal stability control allows for a much more synergistic relationship in movement with the activities the athlete participates in. Because the athlete is better trained mentally first, he will have greater skills for athletic competition as he applies physical power in movement. That’s how I teach balance to athletes.

If improving maneuverability skills is one of your interests, I think the introduction of the RSS training model will make sense. If that’s the case, I’m quite sure it will offer a new way to reflect on the drills you use and how you can adjust them to better reflect a maneuverability-based direction. I know your athletes will appreciate it.