Full Body Stability Ball Workout With a Core Emphasis
The stability ball is a staple of gyms and clubs around the world. Even apartment gyms will now supply a ball or two for its inhabitants. Let’s take a look at the origin of this hardy tool.
History of the Stability Ball
Originally, the Stability Ball (also known as an exercise ball, Swiss ball, therapy ball or, as a misnomer, yoga ball) was developed in the 1960s as a toy by Italian petrochemical manufacturer, Aquilino Cosani. A puncture-resistant ball sounds like a pretty good idea for kids! That resiliency puts it to great use in the gym. It was promoted by Dr. Susan Klein-Vogelbach in her physical therapy clinic in Switzerland (hence the Swiss reference,) then reached the United States in the 80s thanks to Joanne Posner-Mayer, who popularized the piece of equipment in the fitness world, giving you the variety we see today.
Today many trainers, coaches, and therapists use the ball in varying capacities, but they all come down to two things: core stabilization and mindful core engagement. The ball is an unstable surface to rest upon — it’s up to the user to maintain stillness and prevent a spill. Providing a gliding surface, instability, or a seat, the ball has grown in leaps and bounds since its Italian inception.
One Piece of Equipment for Your Workout: the Stability Ball
Keep it simple and stay with one piece of equipment for the workout: the ball! Be sure to warm up a minimum of 5 minutes to get your heart rate up and stretch any problem areas you have. This workout is intermediate level — modifications will be provided. People with back or shoulder problems should take care with those problem areas and modify as necessary.
Do a circuit with these exercises 2-4 times through. If going for time, which I suggest you shoot for the first couple of times doing this routine, then move to sets of 14. This workout should last 30-45 minutes.
The stability ball setup, 2-4x:
1. Squat to Overhead
2. Backward Lunge
4. Side Lunge
5. Rainbow Arc Squat
Stability Ball Squat to Overhead
The Squat to Overhead incorporates more abdominal engagement than the typical bodyweight squat without overloading the spine. Set yourself behind the ball in a deep squat, apply pressure through the back end of the foot while engaging the glutes on the way up as you do with squats — the challenge is slowly and intentionally bringing the ball up from the floor while keeping the arms soft, only the shoulder joint moving in the upper body. End the movement with the ball directly overhead, the arms still soft but straight. Do the exact same thing on the way down to return to your start position.
Easier: Bend the elbow on the way up, creating a “lazy” bicep curl. This takes pressure off the shoulders and lessens the extra stress added to the core. If your back bugs you and the curl does not help, try the motion without the ball.
Harder: Make it explosive! Turn your squat into a hop on the ascent.
Stability Ball Backward Lunge
Let’s get crazy with balance! This move has a stretch, a squat, and a I-hate-you-Steph on the way back up. Place the top of your back foot and shin on top of the ball while in a “soft” lunge position, standing. Descend into a squat on your front leg, allowing the ball to roll as you push your back leg behind you. On the way up, apply continuous and firm pressure with the back leg to further engage the hip complex.
Easier: Have something like a rail or a wall to hold onto in front of you.
Harder: On the ascent, once you reach standing, continue to roll the back leg’s knee forward and see how far you can get the ball. Ow.
Stability Ball Pushup
Here’s where the core takes the front seat. Once you feel balanced in a plank with your hands on the floor and shins and feet firmly on the stability ball, go for your pushup. I’m a big fan of elbows out around 45 degrees, but doing a big splay or closed arm pushup works just as well. For maximum pec engagement, aim for the 45.
Easier: Do the plank only! That’s the main thing about this move, being able to hold a regular ol’ plank on the ball for 30 seconds is key before moving to pushups. Practice the pushups with your feet on the ground and, in time, you’ll be able to do both at once!
Harder: After you’re back in the plank position, roll the ball in by drawing your knees to your chest. You’re welcome.
Stability Ball Side Lunge
Side lunging with the ball provides a challenge for the squat leg and places more emphasis on the ad- and abductors, located on the inner and outer thigh. Start with your squat leg nearly straight and the ball leg on its side on the ball. As you descend into your squat, allow the ball to roll away from you in a slow, controlled manner, applying firm pressure with your leg. On the ascent, apply more pressure, engaging your inner thigh as you draw the ball back in towards you.
Easier: Have something nearby to hold on to!
Harder: Similar to the backward squat, draw the ball knee in towards your body after your ascent. Try to get the ball to your tip toe.
Stability Ball Rainbow Arc Squat
Feature the obliques in this nutted up squat. Start your squat with the ball at your side, two hands on the ball. As you push up through the back end of your feet, slowly arc the ball up above your head, staying in the frontal plane, aka imagining you’re in between two panes of glass. Arc back to the first side — this completes one rep.
Easier: Do not go into a full squat
Harder: When you get to the top of your arc, do a pop squat to overhead. Do this each direction.
Stability Ball Pike
The most visually impressive of this set, ending with a pike will put all emphasis on the engagement of the core and stabilization of the hips. Start in your plank position as you did with your pushup, feet on the ball. Push through the palms of our hands as you engage your abs, drawing the bellybutton in towards the spine, and push your butt up in the air as you drag your feet, stiff-legged, towards your face. This is hard. Take your time.
Easier: Rather than lifting your butt up and straining your back for all your back pain people, instead draw your knees into your chest. Once you get comfortable with the knee tuck, go for the pike.
Harder: Lift up one foot.
Remember, you want to take this at your own pace at first; those 1 minute sets will help you concentrate more on your form rather than how many reps you can pump out. After two weeks of adding this set into the mix, see how fast you can do your 14 reps of each to keep it interesting. This simple list will annihilate your core, and, if staying consistent, will show results in two month’s time.