If you buy just one piece of exercise equipment for your home workouts, make it an exercise ball. This handy -- and inexpensive -- fitness tool can be used for dozens of moves to target every muscle from your shoulders down to your calves, making it ideal for people who don't have the budget or the space for most exercise equipment. Add fitness ball exercises to your usual routine to challenge your muscles and shake-up your workouts.
Standing about three feet from a wall, place the ball between your lower back and the wall. Keeping feet shoulder-width apart, squat down as though you're lowering yourself into a chair until your knees form 90-degree angles; the ball should remain in place against the wall, touching your upper back at the bottom of the move and your lower back at the top. Hold the squat at the bottom for three seconds before slowly straightening back up. Finish all reps.
Place the ball on the floor behind you and extend your right leg back, resting your shin and the top surface of your foot on the ball. Step forward with your left leg and lower down into a lunge until your left thigh is parallel with the floor, never letting your knee go past your front foot. Hold the lunge for three seconds and raise back up. Finish all repetitions before switching to the other leg. Because this move will seriously challenge your balance, it's a good idea to stand next to a sturdy chair or railing in case you need support.
Get into a pushup position with your shins resting on the ball and your feet directly below your shoulders. Use your abs to slowly roll forward on the ball, raising your hips into the air and keeping legs straight, until your body forms an inverted V-shape. At the top of the move, your head should be between your shoulders and your feet balanced on the ball. Hold the move for one count before returning to the starting position. Complete all reps.
Lie on the ball in a pushup position, palms under shoulders and shins resting on the ball. Lower your upper body down to the ground by bending at the elbows, not allowing the elbows to flare out too much; stop when your chest is a few inches from the ground. Hold the move for three seconds before pushing back up to the starting position. Finish all reps.
Lie on your back on an exercise mat, holding the ball overhead and on the floor behind you. Raise your legs off the ground and bend them so your knees form 90-degree angles and your shins are parallel to the floor. Lift your shoulders off the ground as though performing a crunch, and bring your arms in front of you, placing the ball between your ankles. With the ball supported there, lower your legs and your upper body down to the ground, returning your arms to the overhead position. Using your abs, raise your shoulders and legs off the ground once again, this time grabbing the ball from between your legs. Lower the legs and shoulders down again and hold the ball overhead. Continue passing the ball back and forth between your arms and legs until all reps are completed.
Sit on the ball with your knees bent, and place your hands on the ball near your hips. Straighten your arms and scoot your hips off of and in front of the ball, moving your feet forward several inches. Bend your elbows straight back behind you until they form 90-degree angles, lowering your butt to the floor. Raise back up by straightening your arms. Finish all reps, keeping your butt off the ball the entire time.
Lie facedown with the ball under your abs and your legs straight behind you, toes on the floor. Cross your arms over your chest, then slowly raise your chest up and away from the ball; the muscles in your lower back should be doing most of the work. Hold for one second before returning to the starting position. Complete all reps.
Inner Thigh Squeeze
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. Place the ball between your knees and squeeze it as you contract your inner thigh muscles. Hold the move for five seconds then release. Finish all repetitions, working up to longer holds if possible.
Overhead Ball Squat
Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding the ball with both hands. Raise the ball up overhead and lower down into a squat as deep as your can go, remembering to keep your upper body upright. Hold the squat for three seconds before standing back up. Complete all reps.
Lie faceup on the ball with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and lower back supported by the ball. Cross your arms over your chest and engage your abdominals as you raise your torso up, chin off your chest and your eyes looking at the ceiling. Hold for two counts then lower back down. Finish all reps.
Kristen Fisher is a freelance writer and editor with professional experience in both print and online media. She has published articles on a wide variety of topics including health, fitness, nutrition, home and food, and her work has appeared in "Connections Magazine" and on Lifescript.com. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in psychology.