I love to use a stability ball with my personal training clients and in my strength training classes. Stability balls, also called fitness balls, balance balls or Swiss balls, add that extra balance challenge, involving your core muscles in every move. They add fun and variety, they’re affordable and easy to move around, and their uses are numerous!
Pump out a few exercises (like the four below) while watching an episode of Desperate Housewives (did it last night when my daughter and I were watching.) Use the ball for 10 minutes before work or when the baby naps. Or sit on it while catching up on emails. (More at the end of this post on why just sitting on the ball is good for you!)
How to Choose the Right Size Fitness Ball for You
Select a ball based on your height:
45cm ball = under 5 ft tall
55cm ball = 5’ to 5’7”
65cm ball = 5’8” to 6’3”
75cm ball = over 6’3” tall
4 Fitness Ball Moves to Tone Hips, Buns & Thighs
Some of my favorite lower body exercises involve the ball. Here’s how to do four moves I recommend for the tough hips, buns and thighs zone. Get more ideas for fitness ball exercises on GaiamLife.com or check out some fitness ball workout DVDs.
1. Hamstring Roll-Ins
This is one of the best exercises to tighten up the hamstrings and camouflage ever-looming cellulite.
Lie on your back and straighten legs, with heels resting on ball. Press your heels into the ball as you contract the abs, bend the knees and roll the ball in towards the glutes. Then roll back out to the starting position. To increase the difficulty, try lifting your hips off the floor and keeping them up the whole time, using the stabilizing muscles of your core to intensify the hamstring curl. Repeat 10 times, 3 sets.
2. Bun Lifters
Not only good for the glutes, but a core body challenge as well.
Lie on your back with soles of feet on exercise ball, legs bent 90°. Your arms are at your sides, palms down, shoulders relaxed. Inhale and lift hips in air like a drawbridge. Keep hips steady in neutral, and your navel pulled in to the spine, activating your transverse abdominus to protect your low back. Exhale as you lower back down to the floor, as steady and stable as you can be. You can use your hands for balance but try not to use them to push yourself up. Do not arch the spine; keep your bellybutton drawn toward spine throughout and squeeze your glutes.
3. Side Lying Leg Lifts
Targets hips, glutes and core muscles.
Lie on your side with your torso on the ball. Your bottom leg is bent on the mat and your top leg is extended with the foot resting on floor. Rest your top hand on your hip, put your other arm over the ball, and put the other hand on the floor for balance. Keeping abdominals tight to balance and stabilize pelvis, lift your top leg as high as comfortably possible without bending at the hip. Hold for a moment, and then slowly lower. Keep body in one plane with abs tight—don’t let the top hip rotate forward or back. (Imagine that your body is flattened against a sheet of glass). Do 10-15 repetitions on each side, 3 sets.
4. Prone Hip Extensions
Targets hips, glutes and core muscles.
Lie face down on the ball with abs in contact with ball. Place your hands on the floor in a push-up position. Keep your legs hip-width apart with your toes lightly touching the ground. With abs contracted to support the lower back, contract the glutes and lift straight legs up in unison until they are in line with the rest of your body. Bend from your hips to return to starting position. If this is too challenging, start by lifting one leg at a time. Do 10 to 15 repetitions, 3 sets.
Just sitting on a ball offers great benefits, too!
I am sitting on a ball right now as I type. I keep it in my office and on days when I am glued to my computer (like today); I sit on the ball to keep from slumping and going stir crazy. I’m high-energy, and sitting still for hours is tough — but I can move around a little on the ball and it helps me stay focused. It’s funny, because I have a fairly expensive ergonomic, adjustable office chair. But most days, I only sit in the chair for up to an hour and then push it away for the ball. Every so often I just lay back over the ball, stretch all the way into extension, and ohh it feels great!
My kids sit on fitness balls at the table when doing homework. I recently read that several schools are experimenting with replacing desk chairs with stability balls. Skeptics have voiced concern that balls would be disruptive in a classroom setting, but actually it’s quite the opposite. Teachers, administrators and a Mayo Clinic study have found that students, even those with attention deficit issues, are more attentive and productive when they sit on a ball vs. a chair.
So go ahead — have a ball!
ChrisFreytag.com has been updated for 2009!