The Best Core Strengthening Exercises With a Fitness Ball

Stability balls can help you improve core stability.

Stability balls can help you improve core stability.

Core training is not just about working your abdominal muscles or doing planks. It's about moving your body with fluidity and control while maintaining your balance and full range of motion, writes physical therapist Gray Cook in "Athletic Body in Balance." These factors are essential to sports and activities and can reduce your risk of injury. Core training with a fitness ball can be done in a variety of positions, letting you explore how your core works from different angles. The best core exercises have progressions and regressions that adapt to your fitness level and provide the basic fitness ball training positions.

Ball Bridge

This exercise strengthens your hip and torso without placing too much load on your lower spine. It increases stability in the pelvic region to prevent the ball from moving when you lift your buttocks off the ground. Lie on your back on the ground with the calves and heels on the ball. Exhale and lift your buttocks and lower back off the ground so that your hips and legs are in alignment. Hold this position for one deep breath, and lower your buttocks to the ground. To make this exercise easier, bring the ball closer to your buttocks. For an extra challenge, do the bridge with one leg on the ball while keeping the other leg in the air. Perform two to three sets of eight to 10 reps.

Ball Pushups

Ball pushups work on core stability throughout your body from your hip to your neck, which is required to maintain balance and movement control. A strong core allows you to perform pushups on a fitness ball without losing your balance or alignment. Place your hands on the ground and your shins on top of the ball. Your head should be in alignment with your back, hip and legs. Inhale and lower your body toward the ground as far as you can without curving your spine excessively. Exhale and push yourself up. Perform six to 10 reps for two to three sets. You can move the ball closer or away from you to adjust the difficulty.

Ball Squats

Squatting with a fitness ball helps you maintain your balance and center of gravity. It also works all the muscles in your lower body as well as hip mobility and movement control as you move up and down. Core stability is required to help you stand up after you squat. Place the ball against a wall, and lean your lower back against it. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Inhale and squat down as low as you can with your hands in front of you. Exhale and stand up without losing your balance or rounding your spine. Perform 10 to 12 reps for two to three sets.

Ball Cobra

This exercise strengthens your shoulders and opens your chest as you maintain your position and balance. Your core maintains your posture and balance as you breathe and move your arms and shoulders. Lay your lower abs and pelvis on top of the ball with your feet slightly apart on the ground. Extend your arms toward the ground with your palms facing each other. Exhale and bring your hands toward your hip with your palms facing up. Hold this position for one deep breath before returning your arms back to the starting position. Perform 10 to 12 reps for two to three reps.

 

References

  • Athletic Body in Balance; Gray Cook
  • Athletic Development; Vern Gambetta

Resources

  • Movement; Gray Cook
  • The Essence of Program Design; Juan Carlos Santana

About the Author

Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.

Photo Credits

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