Exercise Ball Workouts

I've devoted this page to seven different exercise ball workouts. I will add more exercise routines as time permits. For now, here are two stability ball workouts for the beginner, two for an intermediate or someone with some experience with an exercise ball, and two  ball routines for a more advanced individual. Modify them if you want to suit your own training requirements or your fitness level. Each exercise page in the workout will give you suggestions to make it more difficult or easier.

Exercise Ball Workouts
Biasing different muscle groups
Stretch after an exercise ball routine
When to stop an exercise
Factors affecting difficulty of a workout
    Base of support
    Length of lever arm

If you've stumbled upon this page and are just beginning to learn about core stability you should master the core exercises on the floor first before introducing an unstable surface such as an exercise ball.

Biasing Different Muscle Groups

If you decide to modify each program in any way, remember that the fundamental core exercises work the different muscles in an integrated way, each exercise will bias different muscle groups. For example, an swiss ball routine that includes a lot of bridging exercises on your back will emphasize the muscles in your back; likewise, an exercise ball workout that involves many exercises face down will bias the abdominal musculature. Those exercises done in side lying, because of gravity will bias the muscles on the side of your trunk and pelvis.

Stretching afterward

As a physical therapist I can not stress enough the need to warm up prior to exercising to improve elasticity and neuromuscular response, and thereby minimize the risk of injury. The best time to stretch in order to lengthen connective tissues is after a muscle has been warmed up, so be sure to stretch after your exercise ball workout. For more information on stretching click here.

Each individual should stretch according to their specific needs, sports, and posture. If you have any concerns about what muscles to stretch, or if you have a condition that involves any joint instability see your physical therapist of course prior to beginning an exercise ball workout or stretching routine.

When to Stop an Exercise

It is essential that all exercise ball workouts be performed with excellent form and that any exercise is stopped at the point of technical failure. This is the point whereby one can no longer maintain perfect technique. You will recognize this point because your trunk and/or pelvis will start to sag and shake. To work beyond that point would place undue stress on paraspinal connective tissues and articular structures of the spine (ie facet joints, discs, etc). Your exercise ball workout should never cause pain.

Exercise Ball Workouts

The following exercise ball routines are by no means the be-all and end-all. Feel free to modify each to suit your own training needs.

   Basic Workout - Learn some basics first.

1. Beginner Workout I
2. Beginner Workout II

3. Intermediate Workout I
4. Intermediate Workout II

5. Advanced Exercise Ball Routine I
6. Advanced Exercise Ball Routine II

7. The "I have no time to exercise" workout

If you are looking to progress your exercise ball program read this page for some tips and the rationale behind them.

Factors affecting the difficulty of an exercise ball workout:

Base of support
The base of support refers to the area under you over which weight is distributed. For example, if you are leaning on a ball with feet wide apart, your base of support is larger and therefore the exercise is easier. Move your feet closer together and the base of support gets smaller, it becomes more difficult to remain upright and therefore the exercise becomes more difficult. The triangle of support formed by your two legs and the ball is the base of support area. If you were to lift one leg, that would drastically reduce your base of support creating a much less stable support.

Length of lever arm
The longer the lever arm or distance between the end of the limb and the point of support, the more difficult will be the exercise. For instance, when sitting on the ball and raising your foot, if you keep your knee bent, the weight of your leg is closer to your trunk and therefore the exercise is easier. When doing the rollout on your knees the distance between your knees and point of support on the ball is shorter than if you were to do the rollout on your toes; hence, rollout on your knees is easier than the rollout on your toes.

If you are designing your own core training workout, start by using exercise ball exercises that have a large area of support. You can make that area of support larger by letting some air out of your ball making the point of contact of the ball with the floor larger. Also, think about the length of  the lever arm during a given exercise. As your limbs are closer to the point of support it takes less effort to lift them. Crunches with your arms at your sides are easier than crunches with arms over your head as the weight is shifted further from your point of support (your butt on the ball).

Here is more information on exercise progression.

At the time of writing this I had  159 exercise ball exercises on this website. Of course you won't need to do all of them in your core workout, but once you're familiar with the one's I've included in the above workouts you will be able to mix and match exercise ball exercises depending on your goals.

Changing your exercise routine will help your core training program stay interesting and fun, and will also make you fit faster. In order to continue challenging our body we can add new exercises and new exercise ball routines.

Take a look at some exercise ball videos that readers have submitted and feel free to share your own exercise ball videos.