Have a ball working on your core fitness

If there is a fitness buzzword of late, it’s “core.”

What that refers to is the core of your body… which includes the muscles of the abdominals, back and sides. Basically, everything except your arms and legs and neck are included in this grouping.

It’s a buzzword for good reason: Core fitness, strengthening and conditioning is essential to a well-balanced body, for good balance and to maintain (or reestablish) full range of motion. A strong core usually means a strong back too, and that guards against injury.

While many focus on stomach crunches and plank exercises (an isometric exercise that builds muscle while barely moving) on the floor, there is one piece of equipment that beats them all for dynamic training: the stability ball.

Because the stability ball is round, it moves, and because it is filled up with air, it is not solid or stable. The point of using it is that it forces you to engage many more muscles of your core (and arms and legs) in order to become “stable” throughout the movements. Talk about a good workout — using the stability ball keeps all your muscle firing!

In today’s exercise video, Coach Kevin Kearns shows us a progression of four core fitness exercises on the stability ball. Try 10 reps each and see how it goes. Follow along with the video for correct form and details.

Roll outs – Phase 1 – Bent arms

Knee before the stability ball with feet off the floor and forearms on the ball. Your arms will be bent and your hands together, resting on your forearms for balance.

Simply roll your torso forward and back over the ball arch. You extend your arms forward then contract them back to move your body slightly. This beginning move seems easy, but it is terrific for your core and your back. Because the ball keeps moving and is not stable, it forces your muscles to keep firing to keep you “stable” on it.

Roll outs – Phase 2 – Straight arms

If that wasn’t difficult enough for you, try phase 2. For this, you will again begin kneeling before the ball, this time with arms straight and hands on the ball, as if in the up position of a push-up. You will push yourself forward and pull yourself back with your hands on the ball.

Allow the ball to roll forward with your hands on it at all times. Your body will naturally be pulled forward, so your core will be called on immediately to keep you from collapsing. Do not allow your hips to fall too low and try to keep arms extended throughout.  This simple movement works your core, lats and triceps all at the same time.

Phase 3 – Planks

For this third variation, you will begin with forearms on top of the ball and body in a plank position, balancing on the balls of your feet. You can begin this phase by simply holding yourself in place, isometric ally, like a plank on the ball. It is more difficult than doing a plank on the floor because the ball is not an even surface and it rolls.

You can then hold the plank but do it by raising one foot off the floor for a few seconds and then raising the other.

And lastly with this version, you will do like you did in Phase 1 and move your bent arms forward then back. This offers a ton of dynamic core fitness work.

Phase 4 – Standing

Take your time, and be safe, as you go from standing to an arms locked push-up position on the ball. From here you will roll the ball forward by pushing your hands and then lower to your forearms as you pull the ball back and return to the starting position. This is not as complicated as it sounds, so follow along with Coach Kevin on the video.

Dr. Mark Wiley

By Dr. Mark Wiley

Dr. Mark Wiley is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach. Dr. Wiley has written 14 books and more than 500 articles. He serves on the Health Advisory Boards of several wellness centers and associations while focusing his attention on helping people achieve healthy and balanced lives through his work with Easy Health Options® and his company, Tambuli Media.