Hands down, my favorite piece of exercise equipment is my stability ball. For me, it makes exercise more fun and interesting, not to mention convenient. The ball is always around me in my house, so during a commercial break or even during a moment of boredom, I’ll stretch or do exercises on it. A stability ball has many benefits, including:
• For those who are new to exercise, it helps you build stamina and put a little fun into exercise. On the other hand, the stability ball also makes for an effective workout for intermediate and advanced individuals.
• It helps with balance. Since you need to remain on the ball during an exercise, you work many muscles at once while striving to remain aligned on the ball. For example, using the stability ball to do core exercises like crunches allows you to do the traditional movement, but since you are trying to stay aligned on the ball you also tighten and work on oblique, back and leg muscles.
• Stretch out. While the ball is effective for building muscle through exercise, it also helps you stretch and loosen up muscles. For me, after a day of sitting at the computer, I really enjoy lying on the ball and stretching backwards towards the floor to relieve tension in my back muscles.
If you’re new to the stability ball or are looking for a few exercises to do, here are just a few suggestions:
Push-Ups: Lay down with the stomach on top of the ball, placing your palms flat on the floor in front of your to provide balance. Next, walk forward on your palms so the ball is positioned under the thighs. Suck in the stomach to provide stability and slowly lower your upper body down to the floor. Hold for three to five seconds, and then slowly lift your upper body away from the floor. Start out with a low amount of repetitions, like five to eight, and then increase up to 15 in a set over time. Do two to three sets, with a minute rest between each.
Squats: If you wanted toned thighs and butt, this exercise is a must. While it’s not my favorite exercise, using the stability ball makes it easier to deal with. Find an empty wall, and then place the ball between the lower part of your back and the wall. Position the feet so they are hip-width apart and bend the knees, slowly lowering your butt down to the ground about 10 inches and hold for a few seconds. Slowly lift yourself back up, and then repeat 12 more times. Do three sets total, with 30 seconds to a minute rest between each set.
Hamstring Curls: Laying on your back, place the heels onto the center of the ball. Lift the hips off of the floor, tightening your ab and thigh muscles as you lift off and press the heels into the ball to help keep you balanced. Only lift as high as needed to keep the back straight, since lifting too high can place unwanted pressure on the neck and spine. Slowly release your lower body back to the floor and repeat 12 more times. Do two to three sets, with a minute break in between.
Crunches: One of the best uses for a stability ball is for ab crunches, since you not only work the abdominal muscles, but the need for balance also works the thighs and glutes. Lay on the ball, using it to support your mid and lower back. Place your hands either across the chest or gently behind the head and lift your upper body up and slowly lower down to ‘crunch’ the middle. Try not to pull on the neck and use a slow range of motion to avoid adding any pressure to the spine or neck. Do 15 to 20 repetitions, two to three sets each.
As you can see, you can use a stability ball for a workout that tones the entire body. Use the ball when you want to do light exercises or incorporate it into your current exercise regimen. You can find a stability ball as low as $10 at Target, or opt for more expensive brands depending on your needs.