Want to know the secret to strengthening your core, protecting your joints and getting more muscle from every workout? It’s stability. Or, to be precise, a stability ball.
Also known as an exercise ball or balance ball, stability ball exercises can take your workout to the next level.
“Stability ball exercises help teach the body to move as a whole,” explains Beachbody fitness expert Cody Braun.
“When performing stability ball exercises, the muscles that make up the core as well as those around the hips and shoulders must work together to keep the body strong through a full range of motion.”
Increased stability is useful for a number of reasons, both in and out of the gym. Stable joints are less prone to injury because they have enough strength to stay in the right position during strenuous movements.
In addition, Cody Braun says that being able to move your body as a cohesive whole helps when it comes to lifting weights, running and other sports.
Ready to start shaping your muscles and improving your stability? Try these 10 stability ball exercises that can be done in the gym or at home.
- Stability Ball Folding Knife
Benefits: This core exercise does double duty by strengthening the hip flexors and contracting the abdominals.
Keep your hands directly under your shoulders and your calves on the stability ball in a high plank position.
Brace your core to keep your body in a straight line from head to toe. This is your starting position.
Squeeze your core and bend your knees, rolling the stability ball towards your hands until only your toes are on the ball, while keeping your hips down.
Pause, then slowly straighten your legs back to the starting position.
- Stability Ball Hamstring Curl
Benefits: Strengthen your hamstrings and glutes with this seemingly simple movement that also works your core.
Lie on your back on the floor with the back of your calves resting on a stability ball and your legs straight.
Support your core and squeeze your glutes, lifting your hips off the floor so that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your heels. This is your starting position.
Drag your heels so that the ball rolls as close to your hips as possible, or until your knees form a 90 degree angle.
Pause, then slowly straighten your legs while moving your feet away from your hips and back to the starting position.
- Stabilise the ball deadbug
Benefits: Deadbug exercises teach your core to work the way it was designed to – keeping your spine stable while letting your arms and legs do their own thing. This variation kicks it up a notch by requiring an extra abdominal squeeze to keep the stability ball in place, while also targeting your obliques.
Lie on your back on the floor with your arms straight up and your legs bent at 90 degrees, holding a stability ball between your knees and hands. This is the starting position.
Using your right hand and left knee to keep the ball in place and support your core, slowly lower your right leg and left arm to within six inches of the floor (both should be in a straight line with your body). As low as possible, press your lower back into the floor.
Reverse the movement to return to the starting position, then repeat on the other side.
Continue alternating sides, performing the same rep on each side.
- Stability Ball V-Pass
Stability Ball Exercise – V-Up
Benefits: Challenge your entire body with this next level stability ball exercise. It works your core as you pass the ball between your hands and feet, and you must tighten your inner thighs and arms to prevent the ball from falling to the floor.
Lie on your back with your legs straight out on the floor and raise the stability ball over your head with both hands. Brace your core to minimise the arch in your lower back. This is your starting position.
Squeeze your abs, lift your arms and legs and place the ball between your calves to form a ‘V’ position.
Lower back to the starting position, but this time place the ball between your legs.
Repeat the movement, passing the ball back and forth between your hands and legs.
- Stability decline push-ups
Exercise ball training – downward incline push-ups
Benefits: This advanced self-weight movement is a version of the downward incline push-up that challenges your core as much as your arms. You should be able to perform regular push-ups with confidence before performing this exercise. (Here are some tips to make you better at push-ups.) You will find this movement in the Body Beast workout, Beast Up: Chest Shoulders and Tris.
Keep your hands directly under your shoulders and your toes on the stability ball in a high plank position. Brace your core and squeeze your hips to keep your body in a straight line from head to toe throughout the movement.
Bend your elbows and press your chest towards the floor so that your elbows are close to your body. They should be at a 45 degree angle to your torso when viewed from above.
Straighten your arms to return to plank position and repeat.
- Stability Ball Wall Squat
Stability ball exercise – wall squats
Benefits: Strengthens your gluteus maximus, hamstrings and quadriceps while building stability through your hips and core. Perform back to back reps, or hold each rep for as long as possible.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and place a stability ball between the middle of your back and the wall. Your feet should be slightly in front of your body. This is your starting position.
Bend your knees and let your body roll down the ball until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Your knee should be in a straight line with your middle toe
Pause, then press with your heel to return to the starting position and repeat.
Make this move harder by holding a dumbbell in each hand.
- Russian Flavour
Stability ball exercise – Russian twist
Benefits:Improves core stability and rotational strength with a simple movement that really targets the obliques and transversus abdominis.
Place your upper back on the stability ball with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent at a 90 degree angle. Brace your core and keep your hips extended so that your torso forms a straight line from head to knees.
Raise your arms straight up over your chest and press your palms together. This is your starting position.
Rotate your torso, rolling onto one shoulder as far as possible while lifting the other shoulder off the ball. Your hips should remain square to the floor.
Reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
Repeat, rolling onto the opposite shoulder
- Single Leg Stability Ball Hip Thrusts
Stability Ball Exercise – Hip Thrust
Benefits: This advanced hip thrust variation works the glutes and hamstrings by training one leg at a time, helping to correct any muscle imbalances between the legs. Using a stability ball instead of a bench can further improve single leg hip stability. Practice with your feet flat on the floor, then place your feet on the ball before learning this advanced movement.
Lie on your back on the floor with your feet on the stability ball and your legs bent at a 90 degree angle. Place your arms straight out on the floor on either side of your body.
Lift one foot off the ball and straighten it out.
Squeeze your gluteus maximus and push your hips off the floor. Brace your core so that your torso forms a straight line from your head to your knees.
Pause, then slowly lower your hips back to the ground.
Perform all reps, then repeat on the other leg.
- Stability ball “IYT” shoulder lift
Exercise ball exercise – IYT Raise
Benefits: Train your shoulder stabilisers and mid-back muscles with this seemingly difficult exercise to counteract the effects of sitting in front of a computer all day.
Lie face down on a stability ball with your abdominals on the ball and your legs straight out and back with your toes into the floor for support. Support your core so that your body forms a straight line from head to toe.
Let your arms hang straight down towards the floor, fist your hands and raise your thumbs. Squeeze your shoulder blades downwards so that they are away from your ears. This is your starting position.
With your thumbs in the lead, bring your arms straight up and closer to your ears, keeping your shoulders down. This is the “I” formation.
Lower your arms down to the floor and raise your arms again, but this time diagonally, forming a “Y”.
Lower your arms towards the floor and then extend your arms straight out to your sides, forming a “T” with your palms facing the floor.
The “IYT” cycle is a set.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand to make this movement more difficult.
- Stability Ball Push-Out
Exercise Ball Workout – Stability Ball Push-Out
Benefits: This seemingly simple move will make your abs quiver as it tests your core strength and stability.
Place your hands on the stability ball and kneel down with your knees hip-width apart and your toes on the floor for stability.
Keeping your back flat and core supported, without moving your knees, slowly roll forward so that the ball reaches your forearms until your body forms a straight line from your head to your knees.
Pause, then roll back to the starting position.
How do you use the exercise ball?
You can use the exercise ball in a number of ways and because it doesn’t take up much space, it is a great piece of home exercise equipment.
A common way to use a stability ball is as an alternative to a bench. (Many of the movements in the Beachbody On Demand workout can be done with a bench or stability ball.)
Braun explains that if you are used to working out on a stable bench, then using a stability ball will require your core, hip and shoulder stabilisers to be stimulated in a new way.
Remember that due to the extra demands on stability, you should start by using lighter weights than you would use on a bench.
Stability balls also allow movement during exercises such as abdominal or hamstring extensions.
You can use a stability ball as a weight (a very large, light weight) and move it from one side of your body to the other, or pass it between your hands and feet.
What size stability ball should I buy?
Before you use a stability ball from the gym or buy your own, make sure you have the right size stability ball. As with any piece of gym equipment, it is important that the stability ball fits your body.
To find the perfect size, all you need to know is your height.
If you are 5 feet 4 inches or taller, choose a ball with a diameter of 65 cm. If you are shorter, 55 cm is best. (Two sizes of balance balls are available from ZhenSheng).