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10 Surprising Exercises to Do With a Stability Ball

Conde Nast Digital Studio

Conde Nast Digital Studio

Bari Lieberman, Fit Like Us, SELF Magazine

Did you know that crunches on a stability ball are 38% more effective? Hello summer six-pack! While you've probably seen the stability ball lurking in the corners of the gym, chances are you haven't used it for more than ab crunches.

But the fitness gadget can strengthen more than just your core! New York City-based trainer and owner of TS Fitness Noam Tamir, CSCS, shares 10 stability ball exercises that will tone the entire body, while keeping workouts fun.

"Other then looking like dodge balls for giants the stability ball is a great way to improve proprioception, the sense of your own body relative to outside stimuli and provide a large variety of exercises to challenge both the most physically conditioned and those who are novices to fitness," Noam says. "Along with being fun, research has shown that many exercises performed on a stability ball create a significant increase in muscle activation versus exercises performed on a stable surface."

Related: 12 Ways to Think Yourself Slim

Incorporate these 10 exercises ranging from beginner to advanced for a total-body toner:

1. Plank
The plank is an exercise Noam considers to be one of the "must do" exercises in a fitness program. Its main purpose is to strengthen the core but it challenges the full body as well.
Level: Beginner/intermediate
1. In a kneeling position place your forearms on the ball and extend your legs straight back, balancing on your toes.
2. Make sure your shoulders and elbows are stacked one above the other and keep your back flat.
3. Do 2-3 sets of 30-60 second holds.

2. Plank Pike-Up
A plank pike-up is a progression of the plank requiring the addition of some dynamic movement from the hips. This places even more force on your upper body, challenging your chest, shoulders and triceps along with working all the muscles of your core including the lower back. 
Level: Advanced
1. With your forearms on the ground and your feet on the ball drive your hips straight up as high as you can.
2. Slowly lower them making sure not to hyper extend your back and then repeat.
3. Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps

3. Push-up with stability ball at your thighs/feet
This push-up requires upper body strength and stability.
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
1. In a push-up position with your hands on the ground shoulder width apart, place your thighs/feet on the ball.
2. Lift your body off the ground and keep your core engaged without rounding your back.
3. Slowly lower your chest to the ground by bending your elbows to 90 degrees.
4. Once at the bottom return to the top of the movement and repeat. Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps.

4. Seated Unilateral Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Weight training exercises can also be performed on the stability ball. A seated unilateral shoulder press focuses on working the deltoids, triceps and core.
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
1. Sitting on the stability ball with your core engaged, take one dumbbell hold it at 90 degrees (arm at shoulder height) with your thumb facing inward and your elbow bent 90 degrees.
2. Extend your elbow straight upward your elbow at the top.
3. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat. Do 2-3 sets each side of 10-12 reps.

5. Unilateral Dumbbell Chest Press
The same idea can be used to perform a unilateral chest press, which focuses on the pectorals, anterior deltoids, triceps and core.
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
1. With a dumbbell in one hand lie with your back on the stability ball, neck supported by reseting on the ball, and hips forward, with your elbow bent 90 degrees and in line with your chest.
2. With the thumb facing upward, push the dumbbell straight up fully extending the elbow and shoulder.
3. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat. Do 2-3 sets on each side of 10-12 reps.

See Also: The Truth About Coconut Water

6. T, Y and I's
T, Y and I's are an excellent exercise for the muscles of your upper back and core. These three different positions each work different areas of you back. The "T" position is with your arms out to your sides, the "Y" position is with your arms in the shape of a "Y" in front of you, and the "I" position is with your arms straight forward in front of you. You can choose one arm position or circuit through them all.
Level: Beginner/intermediate
1. Lie face down on the ball with your arms stretched forward. (Just the torso will be on the ball.) Keep toes down and knees bent, but lift your knees slightly off the floor.
2. Tighten your abdominal muscles and try to lift your arms out to the sides of your body (into a T position).
3. Then slowly move your arms forward (into a Y position) and then straight out overhead (into an I position).
4. Maintain a neutral spine with strong abdominals and shoulders out of the ears. Do 2-3 sets of 3-4 circuits of each exercise or 10-12 reps of each exercise.

7. 1.5 Wall Squats
Wall squats are a great and basic exercise to work your lower body including the quads, glutes and core.
Level: Beginner/intermediate
1. Place a stability ball against the wall and the small of your back.
2. Make sure your feet are hip distance from each other and slightly in front or your body so you are leaning against the ball.
3. Slowly bend your knees making sure they do not go past the toes and slide your body down the ball.
Your thighs should be parallel to the floor before you return to your starting position.
4. Now here's the kicker: once you get up half way return to the bottom and then do the full movement to the top. Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.

8. Single Leg Wall Squat
A more advanced version of the wall squat is a single leg wall squat.
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
1. Lean against the ball against the wall and extend one foot out and make sure it doesn't touch the ground while balancing on the standing leg.
2. Slowly bend the knee you are standing on, making sure it does not go past your toes and slide your body down the ball.
3. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor before you return to your starting position. Do 1-2 sets of 10-12 reps.
9. Leg curls
Used to strengthen the hamstrings, glutes and core.
Level: Beginner/Intermediate
1. Lie with your back on the floor and your legs bent with feet on top of the ball.
2. Lift your hips off the ground, pushing down on the ball.
3. Slowly roll the ball out by straightening your legs.
4. Once the legs are straight return the starting position. Keep the hips off the ground until the set has been completed. Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps.

10. Single Leg Bridge
This exercise focused on the hamstring, glutes and core.
Level: Advanced
1. Lie with your back on the floor and one leg bent with the foot on top of the ball while the other leg is straight in the air.
2. Push down with the leg on the ball lifting your hips into the air. The hip should be parallel with the thigh.
3. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat. Do 1-2 sets of 10-12 reps.


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