Exercise Ball Instructions

Neutral Position

Any exercise ball instructions must include a description of spinal and pelvic  neutral position. When your spine is in the neutral position, joints are not stressed, ligaments are not stretched, and muscles are at the length to maintain this position most efficiently.

What is "Neutral Position"?
How do I find my Neutral Position?
Activating Transversus Abdominus
Abdominal Strength Test
Related Information

What is Neutral Position?

All joints have a given range of motion. Some joints move more than others, and among people the same joint will move more in some individuals than others. Neutral position is a midway point between one extreme and the other of a joint's range of motion. It is typically at this point that muscles around the joint are the strongest and the joint capsule and supporting ligaments are most relaxed.
Neck - The position of your neck depends on the position of all the intervertebral joints. You don't want some joints hyperextended or hyperflexed while you do your exercises.

Your neck should remain in a neutral position while using the exercise ball.  The position in lying should remain the same as it is in standing relative to surrounding shoulders. If you are sitting up straight with your head balanced over your shoulders, try and touch the ceiling with the apex of your head. This will bring your ears over your shoulders and your chin back. You will feel your neck get longer. This assists in placing your neck in a good posture.

Back - When performing exercises in which the trunk is suspended between 2 points of support (ie. elbows and toes) it is important  that you maintain a neutral pelvic position and that your back does not sag in order to prevent injury.  If you cannot do this, find a more rudimentary exercise for now and progress as you can tolerate. It is imperative to maintain the "neutral position" throughout the exercise ball exercises such that the core stabilizing muscles do not disengage allowing hyperextension or hyperflexion during loading.

The neutral position will not be exactly the same for everyone, but is dependent on any existing pathology, musculoskeletal restrictions, or symptoms. If you are having difficulty finding neutral position consult your physical therapist, or exercise instructor.

How do I find my neutral position?

While lying on your back with knees bent, envision your pelvis as a clock. Your belly button is 12:00 and your pubic bone is 6:00.  Tilt your pelvis so that your belly button (12:00) moves toward the floor, and 6:00 moves away from the floor. Repeat this slowly 10 times. You will find that there is a point within this range that feels most comfortable - this is your neutral position. This position is best maintained during all daily activities and especially when doing exercise ball exercises.

You stabilize your spine in this neutral position by contracting your transversus abdominus.  This is achieved through something called "abdominal hollowing" whereby your navel is pulled in and up toward your spine. Once this is mastered, you are able to try the rudimentary exercise ball exercises.

Exercise ball instructions to activate the transversus abdominus: 

    abdominal hollowing

There are different positions you can assume to achieve this. For our purposes you can start in four point kneeling. Our goal is to isolate the transversus abdominus and internal oblique muscles.  Your lumbar spine should be in a neutral position, head looking at the floor, and ears aligned to your shoulders.  Hips should be above the knees, shoulders directly above the hands. Hands and knees should be shoulder width apart.

While continuing to breath normally, concentrate on your navel area, and pull that region in and up. This movement uses transversus abdominus and internal obliques independent of the rectus abdominus. This exercise is useful for re-educating the stabilizing function of the abdominals when the large rectus abdominus has become the dominant muscle of the group.

This abdominal hollowing skill must be mastered in lying, standing, and bending positions, and controlled in conjunction with a pelvic tilt, and later with limb movements. Only then can you begin more advanced spinal stabilization exercises.

How do I know if I have enough abdominal strength to perform exercise ball exercises?

These exercise ball instructions allow you to  test the strength of your abdominals with the active straight leg raise test. 

Related Pages
Reasons for using a ball.
What size of exercise ball to use.
A little about the anatomy.
What is core stability anyway?
What does it mean if it's unstable?