The yoga ball, also known as an exercise ball, Swiss ball, balance ball, or stability ball, is a versatile piece of fitness equipment that can supercharge your workout routine.
Not only does it add an element of fun to your workouts, but it also enhances the effectiveness of a wide range of exercises, especially those targeting your core.
This article provides an in-depth guide to core strengthening exercises using a yoga ball.
Unlocking Your Fitness Potential with a Yoga Ball
The primary benefit of a yoga ball is its ability to engage your core muscles— encompassing your pelvis, back, and abdomen—during workouts.
A solid core is crucial for overall body strength, stability, and posture.
But more than just a tool for chiselling a six-pack or a flat tummy, a yoga ball can help you improve balance, flexibility, and coordination.
Preparing for Yoga Ball Workouts
Before diving into specific exercises, it’s important to choose the right size yoga ball and ensure you’re using it correctly.
When you sit on the ball, your knees should be at a 90-degree angle and your feet should be flat on the floor.
If you’re new to using a yoga ball, you might find it easier to balance on a slightly deflated ball.
Based on your height, here’s a rough guideline for choosing the right size ball:
- 45cm ball — if you’re less than 154cm tall.
- 55cm ball — if you’re between 154cm and 169cm tall.
- 65cm ball — if you’re between 169cm and 184cm.
- 75cm ball — if you’re between 184cm and 204cm.
- 85cm ball — if you’re taller than 204cm.
Yoga Ball Exercises for Core Strengthening
The following exercises are ranked from easiest to most challenging.
If you’re new to these exercises or have recently been inactive, you might find it helpful to work with a personal trainer or a certified athletic trainer to ensure that you’re using the proper form.
Exercise 1: 30-minute sit
Believe it or not, simply sitting on a yoga ball is a form of exercise.
It requires constant, subtle engagement of your core muscles to keep balanced and centered on the ball.
Start by sitting on the ball with your feet flat on the floor for 30 minutes.
Exercise 2: Ball marching
Once you feel comfortable sitting on the ball, you can move on to this simple exercise:
- Sit on the exercise ball with your feet in front of you and flat on the ground.
- Lift one heel while keeping your toes on the ground. (To increase the impact of this exercise, lift your whole foot off the ground.)
- Hold that position for a few seconds and then put that foot back down. Switch to the other side. Repeat for 10 to 15 minutes.
Exercise 3: Ball squat
The ball squat targets your core and also helps train your body about the proper way to lift an object to avoid back strain or injury:
- Stand in front of a wall with your feet facing forward and the exercise ball pinned between the wall and your lower back.
- Put your hands on your hips and slowly bend your knees to squat down toward the floor. The ball should roll up your back as you move down. Stop your squat before your bent knees extend beyond your toes.
- Hold for a few seconds in the deepest part of the squat, then slowly return to standing.
- Repeat the exercise 5 times. For a more advanced exercise, increase repetitions or time at the deepest part of the squat.
Exercise 4: Ball sit-ups
Sit-ups on the ground are already good for building your core, but doing them on an exercise ball can make them even more impactful.
- Sit on the ball with your feet flat on the floor and your arms crossed over your chest or on your hips.
- Lean back into a 45-degree angle, bending at your hips and raising up on your toes without moving your feet.
- Use your abdominal muscles to pull yourself back up into a sitting position without lifting your feet. Repeat 5 times.
Exercise 5: Ball leg lifts
This exercise takes a traditional core-building activity (leg lifts) and increases the impact:
- Sit on the floor in front of the exercise ball.
- Roll back so your head and shoulders are resting on the ball but your torso and hips are in the air. Keep your feet on the ground. Raise yourself until your body is in a straight line and your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Lift one leg off the floor and straighten it until it’s level with the rest of your body. Hold for 10 seconds, then lower the leg.
- Repeat 5 to 10 times for each leg.
Yoga Ball Workouts for Abs
While the exercises above are excellent for core strengthening, the following yoga ball workouts specifically target your abs and will leave you feeling toned and strong.
Exercise 6: Roll-outs
The roll-out is a powerful exercise for sculpting your lower abdominals.
This move also engages your entire core, shoulders, and arms.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and put your hands on the back edge of a yoga exercise ball.
- Push the ball away from your body and roll the ball out, balancing on your forearms in plank position.
- Using your lower abs, roll the ball back toward your body and stand up straight.
Exercise 7: Pike
The pike is an advanced move that targets your core and lower abs.
You’ll also feel your shoulders and chest lighten up with this one.
- Place your feet on the ball with your body in a plank position with your hands directly below shoulders and core engaged.
- Roll your toes onto the yoga exercise ball and bring your hips up. Lower your back down.
Exercise 8: Crunches
The yoga ball crunch strengthens your entire rectus abdominus (abdominal six-pack muscles).
- Lie on the yoga ball to support your back. Make sure your head is placed off the ball.
- Bend your knees in front of you with your feet hip-width apart for support.
- Place hands behind your head and slowly crunch up.
- Use your core, making sure to avoid pulling your neck forward as you do the exercises.
Exercise 9: Mountain Climbers
Mountain climbers target your abs and shoulders, especially so when performed on a yoga ball.
- Begin with your hands placed firmly on the ball with your body in a plank position.
- Keeping your back straight and your core engaged, lift your right knee to your chest and then place it back on the ground.
- Repeat with your left leg.
Exercise 10: Twists
Yoga ball twists sculpt your obliques, which are the muscles on the side of your abdomen that support bending and rotating movements.
- Position your body, so the yoga ball supports your head and upper body.
- Extend your arms above your chest while holding a dumbbell.
- Twist your upper body toward one side. Return to the middle, and then roll to the other side.
Key Tips for Safe and Effective Yoga Ball Workouts
- Take at least one day to rest between workouts.
- Don’t exercise if you’re experiencing pain.
- Pace yourself and don’t overextend yourself.
- If you’re just getting started with yoga, or have been inactive recently, review a “to-do” list from a credible health and wellness source.
The yoga ball is more than just an accessory for your workout routine.
It’s a powerful tool that can help you achieve your fitness goals, particularly in strengthening your core.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced athlete, incorporating yoga ball exercises into your fitness routine can help you unlock new levels of strength, balance, and flexibility.
As always, remember to listen to your body, practice good form, and seek professional advice if needed.
Remember, the key to any successful fitness journey is consistency.
So embrace the yoga ball, stay committed, and enjoy the journey to a stronger, healthier you!