Stability Ball Exercises—Build Muscle, Balance, & Endurance
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Training on unstable surfaces requires balance and total body strength. Stability ball exercises activate the core muscles, increase body awareness, and improve coordination. They also provide an effective way to build muscle, improve endurance, and increase flexibility.
Explore the benefits of using stability ball exercises and some of the stability ball exercises you can implement into a client’s program. It is important to remember that all clients can benefit from improved body awareness and movement.
Stability Ball Exercises
A stability ball, also known as an exercise ball, a swiss ball, or a yoga ball, can serve as a surface, weight, or apparatus. The unstable surface forces clients to use major and minor muscle groups. These minor muscle groups are not used as much during compound lifts. These muscle groups include smaller stabilizer muscles. Try using the following exercises in a client’s workout program.
Learn more on why clients should engage in unstable surface training.
Upper Body Swiss Ball Exercises
Muscle activity during stability ball exercises exceeds many other workout approaches. You can expect the abdominal muscles to be stimulated in both an upper body and lower body workout. This is why core training is important, as stability ball training requires core strength for any stability ball workout.
Dumbbell Chest Press
Lying face up on the ball, rest each shoulder blade on the exercise ball. Secure two dumbbells, one in each hand and rest them on the chest. The upper back and shoulders should rest on the ball for support. Allow the lower body to hang off the ball, but keep the hips elevated. This engages the glutes and core to help maintain stability. Once in position, press the dumbbells above the body. Fully extend the arms and keep the weight in line with the chest. Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly
Lie face down on the stability ball in a chest supported position. Keep the feet secured on the ground with the legs extended. Grab one dumbbell in each hand and keep them rested on the side of the stability ball. With a slight bend in the arm, raise the dumbbells up and away from the stability ball. Squeeze the shoulder blades together. Once the dumbbells reach max height, lower them to the starting position. Keep the body on the stability ball throughout the entire movement. Avoid raising the chest off the ball or bouncing on the stability ball.
Lie face up on the stability ball and keep the knees bent and hips elevated. Once in position, secure one dumbbell with both hands. Hold the weight directly above the chest. With both arms fully extended, then slowly lower the dumbbell behind the head. Move towards the back of the stability ball opening up and expanding the rib cage. Allow the lats to fully stretch, then return to the starting position. Be sure to contract the lats when pulling the dumbbell forward.
Dumbbell Skull Crushers
Lying face up on the stability ball secure one dumbbell in each hand. Extend the arms raising the dumbbells above the body. Slowly lower the dumbbells towards the top of the head flexing or bending at the elbow. Allow the dumbbells to come down all the way before touching the head. Extend both arms, pressing the dumbbells back up to the starting position.
Lower Body Stability Ball Exercises
All leg workouts can benefit from stability ball training. Lower body workouts require hip, knee, and core strength. Using the stability ball, you engage these areas including the glutes and all core muscles. Often it is more beneficial than using a bench or piece of equipment.
Learn more about the importance of strong glutes with ISSA Talk: Glute Training—What Trainers Need To Know.
Start by lying on the ground face up. With the stability ball positioned underneath both feet and heels resting on top, raise the hips off the ground. Maintain full hip extension and curl the stability ball into the body. Flex at the knees, contract, and squeeze the hamstrings. Finish by letting the stability ball return to the starting position.
Conventional squats can sometimes be too difficult. Or you may work with clients who have injuries limiting how they can move. The stability ball squat can help teach squat form and alleviate stress on the back and other areas of the body. Place the ball in between the client’s back and wall. Instruct the client to squat down using the ball only as support. Do not allow them to not put all their weight into it and rely on the ball. Squat down slowly and return to the starting position.
Achieve the bottom portion of the stability ball squat and hold for the desired time. Keep the core engaged throughout the duration and avoid putting pressure on the ball. Don't let clients rely on using the ball to hold them up. Instead, use it as needed. If a client needs help with learning how to squat, consider implementing corrective exercises.
Core Stability Ball Exercises
Core training occurs even when performing upper or lower body stability ball exercises. Many exercises specifically target the core. Stability balls provide clients with great exercise options. Check out this ab curriculum and compare some of the approaches used with stability ball training.
Start in a push-up position with both feet elevated on the stability ball. Maintain balance and keep the core engaged. When ready, bring the knees into the chest and then extend the legs back out to the starting position. Repeat for desired reps or time.
Single-Leg Glute Bridge
Start by lying on the ground face up. With one leg resting on top of the swiss ball, keep the opposite leg extended in the air. Start by raising the hips off the ground. Perform hip extension and squeeze the glutes. Lower the hips back down and return to the starting position. Repeat for the desired reps on the right leg and then the left leg.
Stir the Pot
In an elbow plank position, rest both elbows and forearms on the stability ball. Keep the legs and hips stationary while making circles with the arms on the ball moving to the right first. Once your client completes the desired reps, cue them to make circles to the left side. The bigger the circles the more challenging the exercise becomes.
Achieve a push-up or plank position with hands on the stability ball. Drive the knees into the stability ball rotating between the left and right leg. Complete for a set number of reps on each leg. You can switch the position of the body to make stability ball exercises easier or more challenging. For example, place both feet on the stability ball and achieve a pushup plank position on the ground. Then perform the mountain climbers in this position.
In either the elbow or push-up plank position, hold the body up off the ground for time. If performing the elbow plank, rest the elbows and forearms on top of the stability ball. Maintain a neutral spine and don’t let the hips drop while keeping balance. If in a push-up position, place the hands on the stability ball instead of the elbows.
Benefits of Stability Ball Exercises
Stability ball exercises provide program flexibility. These workouts enable clients to perform movements they normally may not be able to. This includes being able to modify and progress each client according to their own unique fitness levels.
You can use the stability ball for bodyweight exercises, yoga, resistance training, and at-home workouts. Exercises can be modified for beginner workouts and advanced for other types of training. This includes training for general fitness and athletic performance.
Stability and balance are critical for both young clients and older clients. No matter the age, one’s ability to control their own bodyweight improves quality of life. Don’t overlook the benefits of replacing a bench or box with a swiss ball. Many of the same exercise movements in the programs you create can be performed using a stability ball.
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