The question: Other than using a stability ball for crunches and push-ups, I am at a loss for what to do with it. Any suggestions?
The answer: Most traditional exercises can be modified to involve the stability ball. Here are just a few:
- Sit on the ball while doing upper-body exercises like lateral raises or shoulder presses.
- Try increasing the difficulty of a plank by putting your toes on the ball and your hands on the floor.
- Instead of lying on a bench, do upper-body exercises with your head and shoulders on the ball.
- Try a dumbbell bench press. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor, hips up and shoulders on ball. Hold a free weight in each hand, with both arms straight above your chest. Bend your elbows toward the floor so that your shoulder and elbow form a rough 90-degree angle. Repeat 10 to 15 times. Since the ball adds a significant balance challenge, consider starting with a lower weight than usual.
Don't be discouraged if you feel silly – the instability of the ball can take some getting used to, and I speak from personal experience! I fell off the ball the first time I tried the bridge-rotation exercise I'm about to show you. (It was especially embarrassing because I was at a fitness convention and surrounded by other trainers). Luckily, I am over my initial embarrassment and at ease with the ball. With practice, you'll also become comfortable.
- Bridge rotations: Start with your head and shoulders on the ball, feet on the floor, hips up. Rotate your upper body to the right so your right shoulder is on the ball and your left shoulder is straight up in the air. Slowly control your body and rotate back to the starting position. Rotate side-to-side for 10 reps.
Trainer's tip: The stability ball will challenge your balance and core. If your goal is to increase muscle hypertrophy (i.e. muscle size), make sure you also do exercises on a stable surface so that you can safely lift heavy weights.
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.
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