The Swiss stability ball has been a gym-floor fixture for some years now, yet many people are unsure of what to do with it and are scared of looking foolish on it or — worse! — falling off it. If you've never tried it, it's time to get on the ball: the stability ball is an amazing exercise tool that amps up everyday exercises and is surprisingly easy to use.
Because the ball creates an unstable, wobbly surface, your body needs to engage additional muscles in order to stay balanced, explains London-based personal trainer and fitness expert Caroline Sandry. This means that, for example, if you perform a bicep curl while sitting on the ball, your body will engage your deep stabilizing abdominal muscles (also known as core muscles), thereby toning your tummy while you tone your arms.
In addition to sculpting and toning the body, balance training is an important part of an exercise regime, as it can improve the quality of your day-to-day living and reduce the risk of injury through falls.
10 stability ball toning exercises:
Stand with the ball between yourself and a wall, with your lower back against the ball and your feet slightly in front of you, shoulder width apart.
Leaning against the ball for support, slowly lower your body down the wall bending the knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
Slowly push yourself back up to a straight position. Repeat up to 10 times. Pelvic clocks
Sit up tall on the ball, feet flat on the floor.
Slowly gyrate the hips and pelvis using your core muscles to create a circling movement keeping the feet still.
Circle three times to the left and three to the right.
Lie on top of the ball with your toes against the wall for stability and your lower back resting on the ball, hands supporting your head.
Inhale and recline head and shoulders back, then exhale and pull your belly in as you lift your head and shoulders crunching forward.
Inhale to return to start position and exhale to crunch forward 10 times.
Lie on the floor feet up on the ball and knees bent to a right angle.
Gently pull your tummy flat to stabilize the ball.
Take your arms up towards the ceiling and, keeping the ball still and the tummy flat, slowly take your arms behind you and make large circles in both directions, using a full range of motion. Repeat four times each way.
Seated single leg raise
Sit on top of the ball, feet flat on the floor and hip width apart.
Pull your tummy in and lift one leg off the floor while trying to keep the ball still and hips level.
Alternate legs, lifting them slightly higher as you gain confidence.
Sit on top of the ball with a weight in each hand, arms down by your sides, palms facing inwards.
Slowly bend your elbows and rotate your palms bringing the weights up to shoulder height — palms facing your shoulders.
Slowly lower the weights back down and repeat 10 times.
Lie on your back with your heels up on the ball, knees bent at 90 degrees and arms along the floor for support.
Squeeze your abs and your bottom to lift your hips up off the floor without moving the ball.
Repeat 10 times.
Kneel on the floor, toes against the wall for support, leaning on the ball which is under your abs (between hips and ribs).
Place the back of your hands flat against your forehead and relax forward over the ball.
Exhale and extend head and shoulders up straightening the spine.
Inhale to lower down and repeat six times.
Lie on the ball with knees bent and a weight or can of food in each hand.
Raise your arms above your chest, palms facing each other, hands above shoulders.
Inhale and open arms out to the side.
Exhale and squeeze the arms back up to position 2. Repeat 10 times.
Sit up tall on the ball with right leg bent and left leg out straight.
Flex left foot (lift toes) and reach your arms up overhead.
Slowly fold forward from the hips bringing your arms down towards your toes to stretch the back of the left leg and hold for 15 seconds.
Repeat with the right leg.