The stability ball is an effective exercise tool to tone your muscles and help you gain strength. Although the ball is most notably used for abdominal crunches, it can be used in a variety of ways to target the body's major muscle groups. For a 30-minute workout, choose two or three exercises for the arms, chest, back and legs with short rests between sets. Complete this full-body stability ball workout two to three times per week from the comfort of your own home.
Arms & Abs
Use a stability ball to train the arms as well as the abdominal muscles. The unstable surface of the ball makes simple exercises more difficult by forcing you to contract your abs to stay steady. You may need to use lighter weights when doing arm exercises on a stability ball until you can achieve proper form and balance. Arm exercises on the ball include seated shoulder presses, bicep curls, tricep extensions and shoulder lateral raises. Aim to complete 10 repetitions for a total of two or three sets of each. Don't use heavy weights on a stability ball unless it's properly inflated.
You can skip the bench press and use the stability ball for a chest workout at home or the gym. Resisting the ball's movement will challenge the pectoral muscles in your chest, as well as the abs since you need to keep your body stable as you move. Do a chest press on the ball by sitting with knees bent to 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, start to walk your feet out until the ball is securely positioned below your mid to lower back. Bring the weights down close to your shoulders with your palms facing forward. Press the weights up towards the ceiling by extending your arms. Pause at the top before returning to the start position. Repeat 10 to 12 times for a total of two to three sets. Do a variation of this exercise to target the outer chest muscles by placing your arms wider than hip-width apart.
Train your upper and lower back muscles with the stability ball. As shown on Oprah.com, Adam Campbell, author of "The Women's Health Big Book of Exercises," recommends using the ball for an L-raise exercise, targeting the upper back. Do this exercise by lying over a stability ball facedown with legs straight and toes touching the floor. Your chest should be off the ball as you maintain a straight back. Drop your arms straight down, underneath your shoulders, and point your palms behind you towards your feet. Bend your elbows as you raise your arms straight up towards the ceiling, squeezing the shoulder blades together. Keep your elbows in the same position as you rotate your forearms up towards your ears. Pause for a second before reversing the movement to return to starting position. Repeat 10 to 12 times. Other back exercises include back extensions on the ball and dumbbell rows to target the mid-back and lats.
Increase leg strength with stability ball exercises. Start with seated leg exercises such as knee extensions using a resistance band. Extending one leg at a time works the quadriceps but also the abdominals as you work to avoid rolling off the ball. Other exercises include hamstring curls, leg lifts and hip adduction and abduction while lying on your side. You can also use the stability to do wall-squats by placing the ball between your back and a wall. Keep your abdominal muscles contracted as you lower yourself into a squatting position with knees aligned over your toes. Repeat 10 to 12 times.
Jennifer Andrews specializes in writing about health, wellness and nutrition. Andrews has a Master of Science in physical therapy from the University of Alberta as well as a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. She teaches yoga and pilates and is a recent graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.