Core exercises to master before getting a ball

Introducing an unstable exercising surface should occur after one has mastered exercises on a stable surface. Core exercises can be learned without a stability ball. Core stability training begins with learning to co-contract the transversus abdominus and multifidus muscles effectively, as this is key to the lumbar-support mechanism. To do this you must perform the 'abdominal hollowing' technique with the spine in the neutral position. Use your fingers for 'biofeedback' on either side of your lower abdomen to feel the tension in the transversus abdominus muscle.
  • It is essential that this is mastered before progressing any further
  • For all core stability exercises a transversus abdominus contraction should be maintained

Several errors are often made when attempting to activate these muscles:

  1. Your pelvis is tilted posteriorly (i.e. your back gets pushed against the floor
  2. You overuse the large lumbar extensor muscles arching your lower back further off the floor.
  3. You activate the more superficial abdominal muscles causing your abdomen to bulge.

Core stabilization should be a low-grade, mild contraction of tonic muscles which can be held for a long time (20 seconds to several minutes), not just a sudden contraction. You need to learn to do this in different positions (lying, kneeling, standing, sitting, etc.) and eventually incorporate this muscle activity during activities of daily living.

Try to master the following core exercises while maintaining neutral position before introducing the exercise ball:

Floor Superman
Maintain tight abdominals through the abdominal hollowing method prior to moving your arm or leg. Click the link to get a full description of this exercise.

Floor Bridging
Be sure to lift your pelvis so that you form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Keep abdominal muscles tight the whole time. For a complete description of this exercise click on the link.

Floor Side Bridging
You should form a straight line from your feet to your head. If you lack strength in your shoulders try bending your knees and performing the side plank from your knees. Don't do this exercise if it causes shoulder pain. Click on the link for a full description.

Floor Plank
A staple in all core exercise workouts is the plank. You should form a straight line from feet to head while keeping abdominal muscles engaged. Click the link for more details.

Single Leg Raise
Perform the abdominal hollowing exercise in lying prior to lifting your leg. If you put your hand behind your back while doing this exercise you should not feel any movement in your back or pelvis. If you find this difficult, do it with both knees bent.

Abdominal Hollowing
You should feel your abdominal muscles tighten as your navel moves up and in while your lower back and pelvis remains stationary. Master this before going any further with any ball exercises. 

Seated Russian Crunch
This is a more difficult abdominal exercise I added. Don't worry if you can't do it at this point. Click above for a detailed explanation of the Russian crunch.

More Information

Find your neutral position
What constitutes the muscles of the core?
What is stability?
What is instability


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