Exercise balls come in a variety of sizes. Both the large and small balls can be used in your strengthening routine to help tone and sculpt your hips, abs, and thighs. The balls can offer a larger range of motion, added support and increased resistance, which increase your challenge and help you sculpt deeper, stronger muscles.
Using an exercise ball, large or small, can help you target the superficial abdominal muscles, as well as the deep, underlying muscles that are harder to reach. Exercise balls allow for a wider range of motion and support, which cause you to contract your muscles deeper and more safely. One exercise is the abdominal scoop with a small exercise ball. You place the exercise ball against your lower back as you sit on an exercise mat. The soles of your feet rest on the ground, and your hands hold on to the back of your thighs. You lean into the ball as you pull your belly button into your spine and round through the upper body, pressing into the ball. Then you can lean back about an inch and come back up. Your abs stay constantly contracted but are supported by the ball. Repeat this exercise 10 to 12 times.
Hips and Outer Thighs
Exercise balls can give you more range of motion to help you target the muscles of the hips and outer thighs in exercises such as leg lifts and kicks. The ball, whether big or small, can be placed under the body for support while the leg is lifted. The angle of the body increases the range of motion for the leg, which leads to more toning and lengthening. Lean your right side on the ball and with your arm on the ground for a small ball or draped over a larger ball. Extend your legs out or lower your right knee for extra stability. Lift your hips off the ground. Lift your left leg to hip height. Hold for one count and slowly lower back to the ground. Repeat 10 to 12 times and switch sides. Press your side into the ball for support during the exercise.
Inner Thighs and Quadriceps
Small exercise balls work best to target the inner thighs and quadriceps, because you can place them between the knees during traditional quadriceps exercises and contract the inner thigh muscles to hold onto the ball. The inner thighs are used in many exercises but are often overshadowed or overcompensated for by the rest of the thigh muscles. With the exercise ball, you are forced to engage the inner thighs. Place a small exercise ball between your thighs, right above your knees. Lower your hips, bend your knees and sink into a squat or chair pose. Hold for 10 to 12 counts. Then squeeze the ball, pulsing the squeeze for 10 to 12 more counts.
Back of the Thighs
The back of the thighs are made up of the hamstrings, a set of muscles that runs from the hips and glutes to the knees. These powerful muscles can be toned using a large or a small exercise ball. With a larger ball, lie on your back and place your heel on the top of an exercise ball. Place your hands by your sides for support. Dig your heels into the ball and bend your knees to pull it toward you. Repeat 10 to 12 times. With a small ball, place the ball behind your knee and squeeze your heel toward your glute to hold it in place. Kick your leg behind you to about hip height. Repeat 10 to 12 times, squeezing the ball to keep the hamstrings engaged.
Jessi Andricks is a yoga teacher, personal trainer, and group fitness instructor. Andricks is also a certified green living expert and Health Coach. She combines her expertise in these areas of to help people learn to live healthy, energetic lives.