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Practical Application of the ACE IFT Model—Phase 1: Stability and Mobility Training

Practical Application of the ACE IFT Model—Phase 1: Stability and Mobility Training  | Makeba Edwards | Exam Preparation Blog | 6/13/2014


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Once a client’s goal and readiness to engage in physical activity is determined, the next step is program design. How you design and implement your client’s unique program depends on your observations from the postural and movement screens and assessments (described in Chapter 7) you performed with this client. Reestablishing proper stability and mobility in the body is the main focus of Phase 1.

When using the ACE IFT Model, you must first address proximal stability (toward the attached end of limb) via the lumbar spine/core before progressing to the distal (away from the attached end of the limb) extremities or distal joints. Establishing proper core function (i.e., proximal stability) will allow for stable muscles to perform their given functions without compromising the function of the distal joints. Clients should progress through the following sequence only when an improvement in function is seen in the different segments. Improving the function of these segments ultimately leads to the establishment of static balance. Incorporating various strengthening exercises (stability) and stretching techniques (mobility), such as self-myofascial release, static stretching and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, will help address any potential problem areas that you observe in the assessment process. 

Programming components/stages to improve stability and mobility progresses in the following sequence:


The main objective in each component/stage of Phase 1 is to improve the body’s ability to function efficiently by addressing any deviations and compensations observed in your initial screening process of posture and movement. Based on your findings, it is important to progress as the model outlines, for optimal function.
When studying the IFT Model and applying the information from each component/stage of Phase 1 into your client’s program, there are some questions you want to ask:

What is the function of this region of the body?

Each region has a specific responsibility in the kinetic chain with regard to stability and mobility. This is a good time to refer to ACE’s Essentials of Exercise Science Manual for a clearer understanding of muscles and their functions.

For example, the core is made up of three layers of muscles. The inner layer consists of the rotatres, interspinali and intertransversarri; the middle layer consists of the transverse abdominis, multifidi, quadratus lumborum, diaphragm, pelvic floor musculature and the adjoining fasciae; and the outer layer consists of the rectus abdominis, erector spinae, external and internal obliques, iliopsoas and latissimus dorsi. All of these muscles function as a unit to keep the lumbar spine stable during load and movement.

The better you understand how muscles function as a unit in the kinetic chain, the more effective you will be at designing a progressive program that is tailored to your client’s goals and needs.

Which exercises address the findings of your screening?

This is where you connect the dots. The exercises listed after each stage are critical to your programming. They all assist in improving the functions based on your assessment observations. Strengthening exercises are introduced for the weak muscles (to improve stability), and flexibility exercises are introduced for tight muscles (to improve mobility).

For example, in your observation you notice that a client exhibits an anterior pelvic tilt, which can contribute to tightness in the lower back (shortening of the erector spinae). Two exercises that are helpful in improving extensibility or reducing tension the lower back are the supine 90-90 neutral back and the cat camel, both of which are presented in Chapter 9 of the ACE Personal Trainer Manual, 4th Edition.

As improvements are made in one segment you may progress to the next. Although Phase 1 is important when addressing deviations, keep in mind that you may not start every client in this phase. You may have a client ready to start load training (i.e., Phase 3). Even so, there may be some minor deviations that need to be addressed. Do you start from Phase 1? Not necessarily, but you may incorporate some of the elements of stability and mobility training into the warm-up and/or cool-down to improve function before and after adding external loading to the body. Stability and mobility training should be ongoing to improve overall function in the kinetic chain.