Stability balls come in a variety of sizes and are used for more than just exercise. Using a stability ball as a workout tool will be the focus of this article, but also worth mentioning are the other creative ways they are utilized.
Adding Intensity to Your Workouts
Sure, you can do ab crunches on the ground and get results—but try doing ab crunches while balanced on a stability ball. Not only is it more difficult, it is also more effective. Doing crunches while balancing on a bouncy, spherical object requires the engagement of so many more muscle groups than doing crunches on solid ground. Using more muscles means burning more calories; it means strengthening a larger number of muscles with each movement and therefore makes doing the exercise on the stability ball far more effective and efficient. Yes, it may feel ridiculous at first. You will probably fall off a few times before you get the hang of it. Keep your sense of humor and keep trying – your abs will thank you.
Balancing on a stability ball takes more than mere concentration. It also takes core strength. In fact, core strength is one of the main reasons people use a stability ball to add intensity to their workouts. Not only does your core benefit from these contraptions, so do your back muscles, your obliques, even your glutes. So yes, it’s harder but oh, so worth the effort.
Exercise Ball for Beginners
To select the correct size of ball for your height,
- Sit on the ball and put both feet flat on the floor. If the ball is the right size, your knees should bend naturally at a 90 degree angle. Less than a 90 degree angle means the ball is too small; more than 90 degrees means the ball is too large.
- Stability balls are sized in centimeters, in 10cm increments. The smallest is 45cm (18 inches) and the largest is 85cm (33.5 inches). There are five sizes in all.
Beginner Sit-ups on the Ball
Sit-ups on the stability ball start with learning just to sit on the thing. Be prepared to laugh, as it is harder than it looks.
- Sitting on the ball, place your feet flat on the ground, hip distance apart.
- With your abs engaged, make sure your shoulders are aligned over your hips.
- With your arms crossed at the chest, lean back while walking your feet forward.
- Take steps forward until your lower back is resting on the ball. You’re probably sweating already, but wait—it gets better. Keep stepping forward until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- You may want the help of a workout partner or trainer to make sure your alignment is correct until you learn what the proper positioning feels like. Now tuck your chin, lifting your head and shoulders until you can see your knees. Note: you do not sit up all the way.
- Your aim is to flex the muscles between your rib cage and the top of your hips. Now return to the reclined position and repeat this sit-up a minimum of ten times.
Beginner Leg Extensions
- Sitting on the ball, place your feet flat, again hip distance apart.
- Align your hips directly under your shoulders and engage your abs.
- Once you feel centered, lift one foot by straightening your leg.
- The calf of the lifted leg should be parallel to the floor. Now hold that position for ten seconds using your other leg and your abdominal muscles (all of them) to keep the ball stable.
- Doing these leg extensions with a stability ball will condition your core muscle groups and increase spinal strength and support.
- That was one. Now release your foot, bring it back down to the floor and lift the other foot.
- Repeat these leg extensions 10 times for each leg.
Advanced Level Challenges
To increase the challenge and intensity of the above mentioned exercises, simply increase the time you hold each position as well as the number of reps of each exercise. Remember to keep your arms crossed at chest level; using your arms for balance decreases the work your core has to do to keep yourself stabilized during the exercises.
Finish with Stability Ball Stretches
To reward yourself after a grueling stability ball workout, you can use the ball to aid in stretching as well. Since most of the work was done using your core muscle groups, stretching these muscles post-workout will not only benefit the muscles, it will feel great, too. Sit on the ball again, leaning back. Use the curve of the ball to support your back as if you were doing a back bend. Use your arms and legs to balance yourself, and conform your body to the shape of the ball, rocking gently back and forth. You will feel the most amazing stretch in your abdominal muscles as well as your back, a reward for a job well done.
- Article. (2014). “How to Use an Exercise Ball for Beginners” on Wiki How. http://www.wikihow.com/Use-an-Exercise-Ball-for-Beginners#Beginner_Sit-ups_sub. Internet. Retrieved 08 March 2015.
- Article. (2015). “Side Show: Core Strength Exercises with a Fitness Ball” for the Mayo Clinic. www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/fitness/multimedia/core-strength/sls-20076330. Internet. Retrieved 08 March 2015.