Exercise balls, also known by a variety of other monikers including stability balls, fitness balls or Swiss balls, introduce an element of instability into your fitness routine, making your core muscles work constantly to control your body position throughout each exercise. As your core muscles strengthen through repeated exertion, your core stability will improve in all activities you pursue.
Drape yourself, stomach down, over your exercise ball. Stabilize yourself with both hands and feet on the floor. Walk yourself forward with your hands; your legs will leave the ground as your body rolls forward across the ball.
Squeeze your abdominal muscles tightly to keep your body in a straight line from shoulders to heels, and keep walking yourself forward across the ball as far as you can while still maintaining good form. Stop when the tops of your toes are balanced on top of the ball or when you can no longer keep your hips from lifting up or sagging downward. Hold this position for a moment, then slowly walk yourself backward on the ball until you reach your starting position.
If you’re ready for a greater challenge, lift one leg off the ball when you’re holding yourself with your hands walked as far away from the ball as possible.
Lie on your back near a stability ball. Bend your knees and position your calves on top of the ball.
Squeeze your abdominal muscles to keep your spine straight throughout the following motion. Next, squeeze with your gluteal (rear end) and hamstring muscles to lift your hips and buttocks off the floor; your body should form a “bridge”, or a straight line that angles upward all the way from your shoulders, which are on the floor, to your heels, which are in the air beyond the ball. You can rest your arms on the floor beside your body as you do this exercise, but resist the temptation to push yourself upward with your arms; this exercise is all about your core muscles.
Continue breathing and hold this bridge position for at least three breaths, then slowly lower yourself back down to the floor in a controlled motion. If you’re ready to make this exercise more challenging, try lifting one left off the ball during the bridge portion of the exercise; make sure to alternate legs.
Squat and Reach
Hold the fitness ball between your hands with your arms extended straight out in front of you, level with your shoulders. Your core muscles are going to stabilize the ball as you move it around you instead of stabilizing your body as you move on the ball.
Squat down as if you were trying to sit in a chair directly behind you; your shoulders should stay directly over your knees and ankles while your bent hips and buttocks protrude behind you, balanced out by the stability ball you’re holding in front of you. Keep your abdominal muscles tight to keep your spine straight throughout this exercise–don’t arch or hunch your back.
Slowly and with control, rotate your upper body and the ball as far as comfortably possible toward your left. Hold this position for three breaths, slowly return the ball to the center position and then rotate to the right. Again, hold for three breaths then return to the front.
About this Author
Marie Mulrooney has written professionally since 2001. Her diverse background includes numerous outdoor pursuits, personal training and linguistics. She studied mathematics at the University of Alaska Anchorage and contributes regularly to various online publications. Print publication credits include national magazines, poetry awards and long-lived columns about local outdoor adventures.