Stability balls are portable workout tools that improve core stability. The unbalanced surface of the ball requires your core muscles, including the transversus abdominis, pelvic floor muscles and multifidi along the spine, to engage more so that you don't lose your balance and alignment while you move. You can do a variety of exercises on the ball to keep your workouts fun.
Supine positions place the least amount of stress upon your spine when doing core exercises with a stability ball because you are lying on your back either on the ball itself or on the floor. If you haven't used a stability ball before, practice supine exercises before doing exercises in other positions. You can do a static bridge by lying on the floor on your back with your calves and heels on the stability ball. A static bridge involves raising your buttocks and lower back off the floor and maintaining your balance for a certain amount of time. A dynamic bridge involves raising and lowering your buttocks and lower back in a rhythmic and controlled motion. Other supine exercises include bridges with your back on the ball, Russian twists and lateral hip and lower back rotations with the ball between your legs.
A prone position is when the front of your body faces the floor. Like the supine exercises, you can perform static or dynamic prone exercises. A sample static exercise would be the ball plank. Dynamic exercises include the ab roller exercise with the ball, ball push-ups and stir-the-pot. To do the latter exercise, put your elbows and forearms on top of the stability ball and extend your legs behind you with your feet together as if you were in push-up position. Carefully move the ball in a clockwise or counterclockwise pattern with your body while keeping your spine and hips in alignment.
Standing positions work the core in the most realistic way because people do many movements in sports and daily activities while upright. These exercises include ball squats, single-leg squats and horizontal torso twists while holding the ball. With a smaller stability ball -- approximately 35 to 45 cm in diameter -- you can even do various throws and tosses with a partner or against a wall.
Since the core works according to a reflex-driven mechanism, you do not need to consciously draw-in or tighten your abs to activate it, says physical therapist Gray Cook. When you focus on how you move, breathe and balance, your core will engage automatically. Check with your health-care provider before starting any exercise program. Work with a qualified exercise trainer if you are new to core conditioning with a stability ball. Check for punctures or severe wear-and-tear on the ball before using it.
- American College of Sports Medicine: Selecting and Effectively Using a Stability Ball
- American Council of Exercise: Stability Ball Wall Squat
- American Council of Exercise: Stability Ball Push-up
- American Council of Exercise: Stability Ball Russian Twist
- Gray Cook: Advanced Core Training Notes
- IDEA Fitness Journal: The Painful Lumbar Spine