There are so many options for exercise equipment you can use to aid your workout. So why should you consider using an exercise ball?
The main benefit of the exercise ball is this: It helps you exercise your pelvis, back, and abdomen muscles, often referred to as your core. Core exercises are not just about getting a 6-pack or flat tummy—a strong core is important to strengthen and stabilize your whole body.
These 5 exercises for an exercise ball are ranked from easiest to most challenging. For numbers 4 and 5, it can be helpful to do them for the first time under the supervision of a physical therapist or certified athletic trainer to make sure you’re using proper form.
1. Easiest: 30-minute sit
Surprisingly, just sitting on an exercise ball is exercise. It requires subtle yet constant engagement from core muscles to remain balanced and centered on the ball. When you first use an exercise ball, place your feet flat on the floor and just sit on it for 30 minutes.
Keep in mind that beginners may have an easier time balancing on an exercise ball that’s slightly deflated.
2. Easy: Ball marching
Once you feel comfortable sitting on the ball, you can move on to this simple exercise:
- Sit on the exercise ball with your feet in front of you and flat on the ground.
- Lift one heel while keeping your toes on the ground. (To make the impact of this exercise greater, lift your whole foot off the ground.)
- Hold that position for a few seconds and then put that foot back down. Switch to the other side. Repeat for 10 to 15 minutes.
Read more: Simple Exercise Ball Routines
3. Medium: Ball squat
This exercise can strengthen your core and also help train your body about the proper way to lift an object to avoid back strain or injury:
- Stand in front of a wall with your feet facing forward and the exercise ball pinned between the wall and your lower back.
- Put your hands on your hips and slowly bend your knees to squat down toward the floor. The ball should roll up your back as you move down. Stop your squat before your bent knees extend beyond your toes.
- Hold for a few seconds in the deepest part of the squat, then slowly return to standing.
- Repeat the exercise 5 times. For a more advanced exercise, increase repetitions or time at the deepest part of the squat.
4. More challenging: Ball sit-ups
Sit-ups on the ground are already good for building your core, but the added challenge of doing them on an exercise ball can make them even more impactful.
Remember, this exercise and the next one are best done initially under the supervision of a physical therapist or certified athletic trainer.
- Sit on the ball with your feet flat on the floor and your arms crossed over your chest or on your hips.
- Lean back into a 45-degree angle, bending at your hips and raising up on your toes without moving your feet.
- Use your abdominal muscles to pull yourself back up into a sitting position without lifting your feet. Repeat 5 times.
5. Most challenging: Ball leg lifts
Just as with the previous exercise, this exercise takes a traditional core-building activity (leg lifts) and increases the impact:
- Sit on the floor in front of the exercise ball.
- Roll back so your head and shoulders are resting on the ball but your torso and hips are in the air. Keep your feet on the ground. Raise yourself until your body is in a straight line and your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Lift one leg off the floor and straighten it until it’s level with the rest of your body. Hold for 10 seconds, then lower the leg.
- Repeat 5 to 10 times for each leg.
See Advanced Exercise Ball Program for Runners and Athletes
As always when exercising, you should stop what you’re doing if any movement or exercise causes sudden or sharp pain. Seek treatment if pain persists.