Benefits of the Stability Ball, by Lisa Snow

lisa-snow-2Although stability balls have been around for a long time, they are no less useful today than when they were first invented.  The stability ball is simply a large air-filled ball, which is strong enough to support your weight.  Unlike a medicine ball, the stability ball weighs almost nothing.  Yet it allows users to challenge their strength, balance, and core stability.  While advanced exercisers immediately take to the ball, it may not be as obvious how the ball can be used by beginners.  Here are a few simple exercises for those who have never used the stability ball.

Because it’s inherently unstable, many beginners are afraid they’ll fall off.  While your balance will get better with practice (and sitting on the ball will stop being scary), there’s a simple solution you can use today: stay on the floor!  You can still do many powerful exercises with the stability ball without having to sit or lie on it.

Straddle Stretch

Sitting on the floor or a mat, place the ball in front of you.  Sit in a straddle stretch, with your legs as far apart as possible.  Place your hands on the ball in front of you.  If just sitting up tall feels like a stretch, don’t go any further forward.  If that feels too easy, slowly roll the ball straight forward (away from your torso) until you feel a stretch in the adductors (inner thigh muscles).  If you start to feel a stretch in the low back, you’ve gone too far.  If you’re feeling the back, roll the ball back towards your torso until you feel the back release.  Try to hold the stretch for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  If you want a deeper stretch, you can roll the ball out toward your right foot, and hold for at least 30 seconds.  Then roll the ball out to the left foot, and hold for at least 30 seconds.

Wall Squat

Place the stability ball between your lower back and the wall.  Then slowly press your back into the ball.  Then slowly lower yourself into a squat, never losing the ball.  It will look like you’ve sat down in an invisible chair.  Then stand up tall again.  Repeat 10-15 times.

Photos of the Wall Squat

Hamstring Curl

Lay on your back on a mat or towel.  Put both feet up on the ball.  Lift your hips about an inch off the floor, and keep your butt elevated off the mat throughout the entire exercise.  Use your feet to roll the ball towards your torso, then back to straight legs.  Repeat 10-15 times without setting your hips back down on the floor until you finish the set.

Photos of the Hamstring Curl  (Note that beginners do not have to lift the hips as high as shown.)

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