7 Powerful Stability Ball Core Exercises Most People Aren’t Doing
Our core is much, much more than just a defined six-pack staring back at us in the mirror. In fact, it consist of 29 muscles, located across the abdomen, back, and pelvis – and it provides the foundation of every movement we make.
Strengthening these muscles is crucial if we want to achieve a tight, toned core, and also if we want to improve our overall level of fitness. Unfortunately, most “ab” exercises, such as crunches, have been shown to be some of the least effective exercises for the core (1).
Core exercises that integrate balance challenges and involve full-body movements, however, strengthen the deep muscles of the transverse abdominis and the internal abdominal obliques, which wrap around our entire core and lay the foundation for our “six pack” muscles.
Without this foundation, we will simply have a superficial layer of “abs” atop a not-so-strong core, which doesn’t exactly lead to the defined and streamlined look most people are going for.
Before we begin, here are a few notes to keep in mind as you perform these exercises:
Go Low, Slow. Be sure to move slowly during what is referred to as the “eccentric,” aka, lowering, phase of each movement. This activates slow-twitch muscle fibers and is essential for building lean muscle efficiently.
Average 10 Reps. Perform five reps on each side for 10 total reps of each exercise.
Keep a Straight Line. When performing exercises in the plank position with your feet on the ball, be sure to keep your body in a straight line from head to toe, avoiding letting your hips sink toward the floor.
- Touch Sky Ball
Touch sky ball is perfect for engaging both the lower and upper abdominals, as well as the ever-important stability muscles in the obliques.
Begin lying face-up on your stability ball. Extend your arms in front of you and plant your feet
firmly on the floor. Engage your abs and push up toward the sky, keeping your arms outstretched. Lower to your starting position and repeat.
- Supine Straight Leg Ball Twists
This exercises challenges the entire abdominal region, as you’re using just your legs and abs to twist the ball.
Begin on your back on the floor, with your arms either out to your sides or under your hips (if you need more support). With your legs perpendicular to the ground and on either side of the ball, twist your legs so that your right leg is in front of the ball. Pause, then twist again so that your left leg is now in front of the ball, facing you.
- Straight Leg Ball Deadbug
This exercise is killer for working the obliques and inner stability muscles, as your abdominals have to work overtime to keep you from falling to one side.
Lie on your back with the ball resting between your knees/upper shins and your hands. Being sure to press your legs and hands into the ball at all times, lower your right arm behind your head while simultaneously lowering your left leg to just above the ground. Return to your starting position and repeat on the other side, alternating for 10 reps.
- Stability Ball Twist
The stability ball twist has all of the benefits of the plank and more: it challenges your entire core region, your stability muscles, your obliques, and your upper body.
Begin in a plank position with your hands beneath your shoulders and body in a straight line. Place your feet on either side of the ball. Once you’ve found your center, twist your hips to the right until your foot just touches the floor. Using your obliques, pull your hips back to square, then lower on the other side.
- Stability Ball Hamstring Roll-Ins
Hamstring roll-ins are excellent for targeting the hamstrings, tightening the lower back portion of the core, and engaging the lower abs.
Begin on your back with your heels pressed into the top of your ball. Keeping your hips elevated throughout the exercise, drag the ball toward your glutes, then slowly extend it back out.
- Stability Ball Pushups
This is an extremely challenging exercise for the upper body and stability muscles, and will also get you working up a sweat.
Begin with your hands just above either side of the ball, legs extended out behind you. Keeping your body in a straight line, slowly lower and brush your chest on the ball, then push back up.
- Stability Ball Grasshopper
The stability ball grasshopper is an intense full-body exercise, challenging both strength in the arms and abdominals, as well as core balance.
Begin in a plank position with your hands beneath your shoulders and body in a straight line. With both feet propped on top of the ball, tuck in your right knee toward your chest. Rotating slightly, extend your right foot across the opposite side of your body. Avoid rocking back and forth by engaging your core as you return your foot to the top of the ball. Repeat using your left leg.
Beyond the Crunch
As I mentioned earlier, these exercises are a far cry from crunches, which are some of the worst ab exercises you can perform if you want to protect your spine.
In fact, crunches are not only terrible movements due to being some of the least effective when it comes to abdominal activation, but also due to their negative impact on posture (3).
The above exercises mitigate injury to the spine and spinal disks by using movements that develop the stabilizer muscles that support the spine, rather than “crunching” it with unnatural compression movements. They also remove stress from the hip flexors, unlike leg lift exercises that often strain the flexor muscles.
Performing these stability ball exercises will have your abs zipped up into a corset of lean muscle in no time.
- Anders, Mark. “New Study Puts the Crunch on Ineffective Ab Exercises.” ACE-Commissioned Study. 2001. < http://www.vivaboca.net/library/BestWorstAbExercises.pdf >
- OrthoWell. “Low Back Pain – Part 3 – BEST Evidence-Based Core Exercises.” Retrieved from: < http://orthowellpt.com/low-back-pain-part-3-best-evidence-based-core-exercises/ >
- Gottschall JS. “Integration core exercises elicit greater muscle activation than isolation exercises.” J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Mar. < http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22580983 >