Evaluation of trunk movements, trunk muscle activation, intra-abdominal pressure and displacement of centres of pressure and mass was undertaken to determine whether trunk orientation is a controlled variable prior to and during rapid bilateral movement of the upper limbs. Standing subjects performed rapid bilateral symmetrical upper limb movements in three directions (flexion, abduction and extension). The results indicated a small (0.4-3.3 degrees) but consistent initial angular displacement between the segments of the trunk in a direction opposite to that produced by the reactive moments resulting from limb movement. Phasic activation of superficial trunk muscles was consistent with this pattern of preparatory motion and with the direction of motion of the centre of mass. In contrast, activation of the deep abdominal muscles was independent of the direction of limb motion, suggesting a non-direction specific contribution to spinal stability. The results support the opinion that feedforward postural responses result in trunk movements, and that orientation of the trunk and centre of mass are both controlled variables in relation to rapid limb movements.