Most fitness facilities are stocked with exercise balls in various sizes. Whether your gym has a ball or two rolling around the floor or a rack packed with them, exercise balls are usually available for use in your workout. Whether you are working out at the gym or even at home on your own, exercise balls provide great workout options for many muscle groups including those that power your legs.
All exercise balls are not created equal. When it comes to getting the most from a ball workout, finding the right size makes a big difference in safety and effectiveness. The most common way to choose the appropriately sized ball is according to the following height ranges: people who are up to 5 feet tall should use a 45-centimeter ball; those who are 5 feet 1 inch to 5 feet 8 inches tall should use a 55-centimeter ball; those who are 5 feet 9 inches to 6 feet 2 inches tall should use a 65-centimeter ball; and people who are 6 feet 8 inches or taller should use a 75-centimeter ball. Another way to determine if you’ve got the right ball to work with is by sitting on the ball. Your feet should be flat on the floor with the weight distributed evenly across each foot, your legs should bend close to 90 degrees and the tops of your legs should be parallel with the floor or your knees should tilt slightly downward. There will be an element of instability, but an excessive and consistent wobbling motion may mean the ball is too big.
Squats with the ball against a wall are a great way to target your quadriceps muscles at the top of your thigh. With the ball against a wall and your back against the ball, tilting your tailbone back and bending your knees until the tops of your legs are parallel with the floor develops a fabulous burn in your quads. Lunges with your back foot on the ball nail the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes all in one go. The element of instability the ball offers shakes up the movement even more and recruits more muscles to assist with balance throughout the movement.
Using the ball to perform leg curls, with or without raising your hips, isolates your hamstrings intensely and effectively. You incorporate your hips into the exercise when you lie on your back with your legs straight and your feet on the ball. Simultaneously lifting your hips toward the ceiling while bending your knees to draw the ball toward your glutes works the hamstrings and glutes simultaneously. You can target the hamstrings alone by lying on your stomach with your legs bent as you squeeze the ball between your heels and your glutes. Alternatively, sit on a bench or chair with your legs over the ball as you squeeze the ball by bringing your heels toward your glutes.
Inner and Outer Thigh
Squeezing the ball between your legs is a simple but effective way to target your inner thigh. You can target the outer thigh by placing one foot on top of the ball and using that foot to roll the ball away from you by extending your leg out to the side or by standing with one side or the other toward a wall, placing the ball between your leg and the wall and pressing your leg toward the wall against the ball.
Jullie Chung writes regularly for various websites. She is a nationally certified fitness trainer and performance enhancement specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and trains regularly in yoga, flatwater kayaking, boxing and mixed martial arts. An avid outdoor fan, she regularly hikes, climbs and trail runs.