By Alena Hall
With just a wall, a ball and a yoga mat, you can build a low-impact, total-body strength and toning workout like the one below (not to mention work up a serious sweat as you do it).
Far too many people associate stability balls with boring crunches, goofy stretches and childlike bouncing, but this versatile piece of exercise equipment provides some of the best ways to test your balance and work up your core strength. By performing some of your go-to moves (and some you avoid like the plague) on an unstable surface, you’re able to give the bigger muscle groups an added challenge and effectively activate the smaller ones that play a key role in, well, stability.
Check out the stability ball exercises you’re probably not doing. Many of the moves may look easy, but don’t be fooled — you’ll be working that body. And don’t forget to tell us your favorite move in the comments.
Step 1: Find an empty wall space, and place the stability ball between the wall and the middle of your back (just below the shoulder blades and above the hips). Stand with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart and positioned several inches in front of your torso, which should now be leaning on the ball.
Step 2: With your chest tall and hands clasped in front of you, slowly lower into a squat position with the upper thighs parallel to the floor. Make sure the knees do not extend beyond the toes, and keep your posture tall by engaging your core muscles as you press your weight against the stability ball.
Step 3: Slowly roll back to the starting position to complete one rep.
Repeat 15 times.
Single-Leg Wall Squat
If the previous exercise felt comfortable and you’re ready for an additional challenge, give the one-legged version a try.
Step 1: Standing in the beginning position of the first move, lift your right foot off of the floor and extend it in front of you, knee locked, foot flexed and upper thigh engaged.
Step 2: Maintaining that balance, slowly lower into your squat position. Make sure your hips remain aligned with one another, placing the majority of the stress on the left leg.
Step 3:Return to the starting position, but keep your leg extended — that’s one rep.
Repeat 15 times before fully lowering the right leg and switching sides.
Balancing Reverse Lunge
Step 1: Place the stability ball behind you, and carefully lift the right foot and place the toe of your shoe directly on top of the ball. Stand tall with the core engaged and hands on the hips for balance.
Step 2: As you slowly lunge into the left knee, keep it safely behind the toes. Simultaneously, extend your right leg back, letting the ball roll away from you to complete a lunge position. Feel the stretch in your right hip flexor as the leg reaches out as straight as possible.
Step 3: Using the power of your left thigh and core, pull your body back up into the starting position to complete one rep.
Leave your right toe on the ball and repeat 15 times before lowering the right leg and switching sides.
Step 1: Place the stability ball at one end of a yoga or exercise mat. In a way that feels the most comfortable to you (standing, kneeling, etc.), place the tops of your feet and ankles along the top of the stability ball and your hands stacked directly beneath the shoulders, coming into a plank position.
Step 2: Engage the core to keep from rolling off the ball. Quick tip: If you’re struggling to stabilize, widen the feet on the ball to take advantage of a greater surface area.
Step 3: Keeping proper pushup form in mind, slowly lower your chest toward the floor. Your body should maintain that board-like form as your weight shifts onto your hands and shoulders. Keeping that core engaged, return to the original plank position for one rep.
Repeat 10 to 15 times.
This move is all about core strength — your arms and legs are merely there for support.
Step 1: Return the starting position used for the balancing pushup, and roll the ball slightly forward so your shins are resting on it rather than your feet and ankles. Feel free to widen the feet here as well for increased stability.
Step 2: Engage the abdominals, pulling the belly button toward the spine, and drive your hips directly up into the air (with control!) while keeping both arms and legs straight. Once your core has pulled your hips as high as they can go, slowly lower back to the starting plank position for one rep.
Note: If this move feels a little too advanced, try the modified version that instead involves tucking the knees in toward the chest.
Repeat 15 times.
Step 1: Lie flat on the yoga or exercise mat with both your legs stretched out straight and arms reaching straight overhead. Hold the stability ball in your hands.
Step 2: As you engage your abdominals, lift both the hands and feet an inch or two from the floor. Simultaneously reach the ball up toward the torso and lift the legs toward the torso, transferring the ball from your hands to your feet.
Step 3: Lower both hands and feet to an inch or two above the mat, keeping that core engaged. Lift both arms and legs together again, transferring the ball back to the hands. Lower to the original position, both hands and feet still hovering above the mat, to complete one rep.
Repeat 10 to 15 times before lowering the arms and legs completely.
Balancing Oblique Crunch
Step 1: Kneel next to the stability ball, and carefully place it on your left side in the space between your rib cage and your hip. Be sure to stagger your feet on the mat — the more space between them, the more stable you will feel. Either way, this move uses all the smaller muscles in your body responsible for better balance.
Step 2: Engaging the core, place your hands behind your head with elbows in line with the ears, and slowly crunch your upper body up and over toward the right hip, keeping the lower body stationary. Slowly lower to the starting position to complete one rep.
Repeat 15 times before switching sides.
Glute Bridge to Hamstring Curl
This compound move is all about sculpting the back of those legs!
Step 1: Lie flat on the yoga or exercise mat with the stability ball resting directly beneath the calves. Place the arms down by the sides on the mat for added stability. Again, consider widening the placement of the feet on the stability ball for additional balance assistance.
Step 2: Engaging the core and glutes, lift the hips into a bridge position.
Step 3: Maintaining that bridge height, bend the knees and roll the feet in toward your booty by activating the hamstrings.
Step 4: Carefully extend the legs back into the standard bridge position, and lower the hips back down to the mat for one rep.
Repeat 15 times.
Lower Back Extension
End your workout on a strengthening but relaxing note with this move catering to the lower back (where we often feel the most tension from sitting all day).
Step 1: Kneeling behind the stability ball, roll forward so that your abdomen is resting directly on the ball. Aim for the space below the rib cage but above the pelvis. Straighten the legs and flex the feet so the toes are your main point of tension with the mat.
Step 2: Reach arms out into a T position without shrugging the shoulders, and use your core muscles to slowly lift up. As you contract the lower back, allow your arms to pulse backward slightly, engaging the muscles around the shoulder blades.
Step 3: Slowly release, leaving arms in the T formation, and return to the starting position for one rep.
Repeat 15 times.
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