Everyone loves working out with a balance ball. It doesn’t just look fun, it also adds diversification to most workout routines, and can be used to target most areas of the body. Plus, balance balls utilize balance and body weight, providing a more functional workout for different muscle groups.
With that in mind, here are ten great exercises to start your balance ball routine with:
1. Bicycle Crunches
Bicycle crunches are a great way to work both your abdominals and your thighs, with the ball forcing you to maintain strict form for better results.
Place the inflated side of the ball facing upwards towards the ceiling. Then, sit down firmly in the middle of the ball, and assume a traditional sit up position. With your hands behind your head, extend one leg straight out, while holding your other knee up towards your core. Alternate extending and retracting each leg.
At the same time, lock your fingers behind your head, and crunch from side to side as your legs continue in a “bicycle” type of motion. The two movements together work both the upper and lower abdominals, and also hit the obliques with your side-to-side core twist. Bicycle crunches on the ball are a great way to work up a sweat while targeting stubborn stomach muscles.
2. Single Leg Lunges
A favorite of those looking to shape and tone their quads, hamstrings and buttocks, balance ball lunges are a staple of many workouts, and strongly isolate common trouble areas.
Place the balance ball on the floor with the inflated side facing upwards. Then, with your hands on your hips, place one foot into the center of the balance ball and lower your pelvis until your leg is at a 45 degree angle. Then, maintaining an upright body position, push upwards with the single leg. Do sets of ten with a single leg, or alternate legs with each rep.
3. Balance Ball Push Ups
Everyone knows what a push up is. It’s the standard way to work the pectoral muscles and give the upper body more definition. But balance ball push-ups add an element of core strengthening to this age-old exercise.
Position the balance ball with the inflated side down on the ground. Then, from your knees, grip the outer edges of the ball. After assuming the push-up position, lower your chest to the ball, then push up using your chest and tricep muscles. While this may feel awkward at first, balance ball push-ups force you to maintain a strong core position and perform a smoother, more focused repetition. Perform in sets of ten, or to your physical limits.
4. Balance Ball Squats
Squats are another age-old exercise that balance balls can update and actually improve. It’s a great exercise for your core, as well as your bottom, quads, hamstrings and lower back muscles.
To perform balance ball squats, place the ball on the floor with the inflated side facing towards the floor. Then, place one foot on the far side of the balance ball. And pin that side to the floor. Then, carefully place your other foot on the opposite side of the ball and achieve standing balance. Be sure that you’re stable and well-balanced before beginning your exercise.
With your hands clasped in front of you, slowly bend at the knees with your hips backward and your torso upright. Lower your bottom until your thighs are at a 45-degree angle to your lower legs. Then, slowly rise back up to a standing position. Never move in a jerky or out-of-control fashion. Using the balance ball forces you to maintain strict form, so slow and steady reps will produce great results.
5. Mountain Climbers
Mountain Climbers sound intimidating, but rest assured that they are a great exercise done on the floor, not at some great height.
To get started, position the ball with the inflated side on the ground. Grasping the hard edges of the ball, get down into a traditional push-up position. Then bring one leg up toward your chest, as high as it can safely go, then push that leg back to its original position. Raise and lower the other leg in a similar movement. Alternated in sets of ten, or choose a number that’s comfortable for you.
This movement is great for your core and thighs, and also provides a strong cardio workout as well.
6. Pelvic Lift (also known as the Hip Raise)
While you can perform pelvic lift exercises on nearly any flat surface, the balance ball provides an added layer of comfort and an increased range of motion to this traditional exercise.
Lay the balance ball flat, with the inflated side pointing upwards. Lay down on your back with your legs bent upwards. Place your feet onto the inflated side of the ball and keep your arms by your side. Keeping your core tight, press against the ball to raise your hips toward the ceiling. Go as far as you can comfortably, then slowly lower your hips back to your starting position. Repeat for several reps.
7. Side Lunges
The cousin to the Balance Ball Lunge, side lunges allow you to work your hamstrings and glutes from an alternative angle. Rather than lunging straightforward and pressing backwards, the lunge is to the exterior of the leg.
To begin, place the ball with the inflated side upwards, then stand to the side. Put one foot into the center of the ball, while your other leg remains on the floor. With the leg on the ball, bend at the knee, while keeping the opposite leg remains upright. Be sure to maintain your balance. As the leg you lunge with reaches a 45 degree angle, push up against the ball to complete a single rep.
8. Balance Ball Planks
Traditional planks require nothing more than a flat surface and some perseverance. With a balance ball, planks can be more comfortable and help you to maintain better form and posture throughout the exercise.
To start, place the ball with the inflated side upwards. Then, lay down in the traditional plank position, except that you’ll place your elbows and forearms on the ball itself. Your plank will feel more elevated than the traditional floor-bound plank, but your elbows and forearms will certainly feel more comfortable. Hold the plank for as long as you feel capable. This all-in-one exercise works your core, abdominals, shoulders and even your glutes and thighs.
9. Side Bends
Side bends have been around even longer than yoga pants, and are a staple of many exercise routines. But incorporating a balance ball allows you to focus specifically on hard-to-train oblique muscles, without straining your back or hips.
Place the balance ball with the inflated side up. Then, lay your body down with your hip on the floor, but your body extended sideways over the ball. With your hands entwined over your head, you should be able to slowly lower your torso sideways over the ball. Then, when you’ve lowered as much as the ball will allow, raise your torso back up towards your hip, “crunching” your oblique muscles as you rise.
That completes a single repetition. Continue for as long as comfortable, focusing on letting your stomach and core do the lifting. Then, lay down on your other hip and perform the same exercise to strengthen the obliques on the other side of your core.
This is another example of a traditional exercise that a balance ball can transform into something new. Instead of just sitting on the floor and doing a traditional abdominal crunch, the ball allows you to create a broader, more effective movement, the V-up.
First, position the ball inflated side up. Then, sit down on top of the ball. Extend your feet as you lean back, til your body is nearly horizontal. Don’t let your feet touch the ground. Then, using your core muscles and upper thighs, bring your torso up, while simultaneously bringing your knees toward your chest, giving your body a V-shape on top of the ball. Then, recline your torso, extend your feet, then V-up again. Perform sets of ten, or work to your limits.
Balance Ball Exercises: There are Dozens More!While this has been a good introductory list of exercises for the balance ball, there are literally dozens if not hundreds more. Finer Form will be back with another list of balance ball exercises for advanced users, that will introduce more complex movements for advanced users.