A stability ball is a great and inexpensive piece of fitness equipment to do multiple exercises with! A stability ball (or also called a physio ball) looks like a giant “bouncy” ball; it is filled with air and comes in different diameter sizes. It is important to use the correct size according to your height:
If you are 4’11” to 5’4″: 55cm ball (this is the size I use)
5’5″ to 5’10”: 65cm ball
Over 5’11”: 75cm ball
There are upper, lower, and core exercises that can be preformed on the stability ball. This workout focuses on your CORE and outlines moves for all fitness levels. This includes your abdominals, lower back, obliques, and deep (transverse) abdominals.
Preforming core exercises on the ball is beneficial in two ways: One, the instability of the ball challenges your body to work harder to balance, and thus using your core muscles before you even start! Two, the ball provides more spinal support and a larger range of motion during exercises (more comfort and more results!)
For every exercise, use a slow and controlled form, while really focusing on engaging and tightening your core muscles throughout. Start with 2 sets and work up to 4 sets of each exercise. Feel free to do the exercises in sequence (based on your fitness level) or pick a few to add to your existing core routine!
This workout’s exercises includes:
- Ball Crunches
- Ball Roll-Outs
- Ball Planks
- Ball Cobras
- Ball Oblique Crunches (not pictured)
- Ball Knee Tucks/Pikes
- Ball Decline Planks
- Cool-down: Supine Ball Stretch (not pictured)
Stability Ball Crunch (beginner):
These are much more effective and (comfortable!) than doing regular crunches on the floor. The ball provides low back support and also more range of motion by being able to “stretch” back over the ball.
Sit on the ball and slowly roll your feet out, lowering your upper body onto the ball. Roll out until your legs are at about a 90 degree angle (keep your feet under your knees). Most of your back is against the ball and low back should be supported.
With your hands behind your hand for neck support, slowly crunch up, lifting just your shoulder blades off the ball. Focus on curling up, contracting your abs and driving your low back into the ball. This is not a full sit up! Keep your hips and feet steady the whole time. Slowly lower and repeat. Aim for 10 to up to 25 reps.
Ball Roll-Outs (beginner):
This exercise will strengthen your abs, low back, and also your deep abdominal muscles. Start kneeling upright with your hands resting on the ball. Slowly roll the ball out in front of you, while simultaneously extend your body. Keep your chest over the ball with your back straight and body in a straight line. Be careful to not drop your hips too low, or keep them too high. Once your elbows are on the ball, hold for a count, contract your core, and roll the ball back in to the starting position. Be careful to not let your upper body do the work. Repeat for 10-20 reps.
*Challenge*: Preform this exercise standing up (yes, this is hard). Keep your legs straight and bend from the hips to have your hands on the ball in the starting position. Slowly roll out until you are in the ball plank position (the next exercise described). Be sure to go slow and keep your back nice and straight!
Ball Plank -with leg lifts/knee tucks- (beginner to intermediate):
Take your traditional plank (which is normally preformed on the floor) and take it up a notch on the ball. The ball’s instability makes your core work that much harder to stay steady and in control. The same form as a normal plank applies; start kneeling with your forearms completely on the ball. While keeping your chest over your elbows, raise up and balance on your toes. Keep your feet shoulder width apart and your back in a straight line, and tuck in those abs…you should be contracting your core the entire time. No droopy hips or raising them up too high! Hold this for as long as you can, anywhere from 20 to 90 seconds!
Variations (make it harder!): I like doing a combination of both!
- Knee Tucks (second photo): Slowly alternate crunching one leg into the ball.
- Leg Lifts (third photo): Slowly alternate lifting one leg up (make sure you don’t raise your hips).
Ball Back Extensions/Cobras (beginner to intermediate):
A strong lower back is just as important as strong abs! Strengthening your low back will provide muscular balance, aid in proper posture, and will help prevent injury. These extensions may be preformed face down on the floor, but the ball provides a larger range of motion and more spinal support.
Lay facing the ball with your torso supported. Most of your upper body should be off the ball, and you should be balancing on your toes ( I also keep my hands behind my head for neck support). Lean forward and extend over the ball, feeling a slight stretch on your lumbar spine. Slowly lift your chest up to bring your upper body in line with your hips. Your legs should not move, as you do not need to “overextend” up off the ball. Make sure to keep your neck neutral and not to look up. Repeat for 10-15 reps.
Ball Oblique Crunches (intermediate):
Time to get those lovely obliques working! You will need to do this crunch with your feet supported against a wall or something sturdy. Lay sideways on the ball about a foot or two away from the wall, legs extended and feet braced against the floor (make sure your feet are not crossed). Your midsection and hips should be resting on the ball. Place your hands behind your head and lean your upper body over the edge of the ball, feeling a stretch in your side. Keeping your hips steady, crunch up, driving your elbow down towards your hips and slightly lifting your upper body off the ball. Lower and repeat for 10-20 reps. Make sure to repeat on the other side 😉
Ball Knee Tuck + Pike (intermediate):
This is one of my favorite exercises! I love doing these on the ball or with my Exercise Sliders. This can be a tough one with balance, but it just takes practice!
Start in the same position as you would for the Ball Roll-Out, but then keep rolling forward; walk your hands out on to the floor and let the ball roll onto your shins. You should be in a “pushup” position, with your hands under your chest and back is straight. Your shins should be resting on the ball with your feet hanging off a bit.
Crunch your abs and roll the ball into your chest until your feet are barely touching the ball. Extend your legs straight and repeat. Try to keep the ball rolling in a straight line as much as possible 🙂 Repeat for 10-20 reps.
Pikes are a bit harder and take more control. Assume the same starting position, but instead of tucking your knees, keep your legs straight and raise your hips up as high as possible (Your body should look like an upside down V). Your shoulders should be lined up over your hands the entire time with your feet ending on the edge of the ball. Repeat for 10-20 reps.
Ball Decline Plank -with leg lifts/knee tucks- (intermediate/advanced):
This is much harder than it looks! If you can preform the knee tucks/pikes well, then try this exercise! Start in the same “pushup” position, but keep your shins off the ball. You should be balancing with only your toes on the ball. Slowly raise one leg, keeping your core tight and chest over your hands. Try alternating legs and even try alternating knee tucks (like on the forearm plank).
*Cool-Down*: So you made it through the workout! The best part now is to STRETCH! This stretch will help relax your abdominals and open your chest, shoulders and hip flexors.
Sit on the ball, lean back, and walk your feet out until your spine is supported by the ball. Extend your legs straight and extend your arms out to your side or overhead to further increase the stretch. Hold it here and just relax! Focus on slow and controlled breathing throughout this. This is also great after a long day hunched over at your desk or driving!
I hope you enjoyed your total core workout on the ball! 🙂
You can do this two to three times a week on non-consecutive days. Pair it with a solid clean diet and a proper cardio routine, you’ll be on your way to having some rockin abs! 😉