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Core Training with Stability Ball

Posted Jan 05 2010 7:18pm

Core Training with the Stability Ball

Introduction: Also known as the Swiss ball, the physioball the stability ball is the most versatile piece of exercise equipment to enter the fitness field in more than a decade. Was introduced over 90 years ago in the physical therapy arena helping children with cerebral palsy to maintain reflex response as well as improve their balance. Then branched out to help with neurological disorders, orthopedic and spinal injuries.
Made its appearance in the U.S. in the 1970’s and early 1980’s primarily in the PT area.
Came into the fitness field in 1992 when a couple named Mike and Stephanie Morris developed a total-body fitness program around the ball. They are the “resist-a-ball” program. After taking a survey of fitness programming trends in 2000, they found how often that respondents use the ball was 75%. Not just is specific stability ball classes but in the other portions of fitness classes as well. Today, there is a push toward exercising for “functional fitness” because our generation has watched our grandparents and parents struggle with everyday movements.

The benefits with such a valuable tool is:
· Muscular strength, endurance, cardiovascular training and flexibility training for the entire body.
· It reaches out to all skill and ability levels.
· It is challenging, FUN, lightweight, durable and low-tech (user-friendly).
· It integrates involvement of strength, flexibility and balance.
· It is designed primarily to enhance the ability to move without restriction.
· The ball supports and eases the body into proper positions.
· The ball demands any movement to be performed with correct posture. (Neutral alignment is a necessity, the stabilizer muscles of the core work to balance the body on the ball.)
· Performs and improves functional activities of daily life.
· Improves balance.
· Focuses on the core stabilizers: Improves and develops strength and tone in the abdominals, low back, and hips and pelvis.
· Improves motor control.
· Endless variety of exercises available on the ball. (cardio, strength, endurance, and flexibility.
· Can be used with any population.
· The curved surface of the ball allows for positions and movement patterns that aren’t possible on the floor.
· Can be very time-efficient.
· Laughter in class is always present.
· Use of the stability ball helps counteract boredom.
· Researchers have concluded that crunches on the ball arguably are the most effective abdominal exercise overall.

Size of the ball
Height Ball size
Under 4’6” 30 cm
4’6” to 5”0” 45 cm
5’1” to 5’6” 55 cm
5’7” to 6’2” 65 cm
Over 6’2” 75 cm

Resources for stability ball purchase:

Storage and cleaning

Storage racks made of PVC pipe.
Net to hold balls in one area of exercise room.

Use disinfectant wipes or spray regularly since the surface can get dirty from contact with floor.

Space needed to exercise

Guidelines from ASCM state space should approximately 6 feet apart per participant or entire body’s length of space clear in all directions around the ball.

There is no preferred type of floor surface, can be wood or carpet.
However be mindful of knees on the hard surface, be sure to use mats.


1) Avoid bare skin contacting the ball surface, interferes with smooth movement.
Can stick to surface, or when sweating can become slippery. (Short-shorts and jog bras are not recommended.
2) Preferred attire: long leggings, longer shorts, cotton shirts, and tight-fitting
Clothing that is moisture wicking (ex: Nike Dri-fit) or made of materials like
Lycra, spandex or supplex.
3) Loose fitting clothing is discouraged.
4) Athletic shoes are required for proper ball use for stability and strong, safe movements on the ball. Barefoot when doing yoga or flexibility training only.

Definitely needed to make this fun. Generally between 110-130 BPM is comfortable for main workout.

Special Populations: Children
Stability Ball should emphasize fun and cooperation. Simply sitting on the ball and bouncing, performing sit-ups or push-ups can be a “ball” for kids! Just make sure they don’t get out-of-control with the bouncing of them.
Obese participants: Make sure they have more time to change position, and avoid fast or abrupt moves that require shifting of body weight. You can modify by widening their base of support or adjust the ball to their comfort.
Exercisers with Diabetes: No specific movements to avoid, just minimize stress on the feet. Ball cardio is excellent for them. Be aware of signs of hypo or hyperglycemia.
Post re-hab exercisers: “Proceed with caution” as you restore muscle balance.

Core Stability: the word core means “the central or inner part, the essence or most important part of the matter.” While stability means “the capacity of an object to return to equilibrium or to its original position after being displaced.”
(Creager & Creswell, 2000)
Core stability is the ability to stay balanced while being unbalanced, or shifting weight or moving the body from its center of gravity.
The central nervous system is the starting point for balanced movement.
Which begins with the intrinsic or core stabilizing muscles.
They most significant intrinsic muscles are the rectus abdominis, the internal/external obliques, the transverse abdominis and the erector spinae.
All actions should involve the core as the foundation for movements.

Balance: It is extremely important and is a basic skill required to maintain equilibrium and keep the body upright and able to move. It is a function of the nervous system about our body position and the need to make changes if balance is compromised.
Balance training gives exercisers the chance to maintain equilibrium so we will avoid injury, gain a quicker reaction time, respond to a sense of imbalance, and regain balance with proper form and alignment.

Correct posture involves:
Relaxed knees, a neutral pelvis, lifted chest, retracted shoulders, and a neutral head.
The ability to teach a neutral spinal alignment is important when teaching the ball.
Neutral pelvis lies somewhere between anterior and posterior without movement in the lateral direction and places minimal stress on the spine. Natural curvatures in the neck, thoracic and lumbar regions.

Should run between 5-7 minutes.
More vigorous when doing strength training/cardio.
Less vigorous when doing flexibility or yoga.
Peak training:
Based on the goals and abilities of the exercisers.
Focus on exercises to build muscle endurance, training guideline 12-20 reps per set.
Focus on exercises to strengthen muscle, 8-12 re set are recommended for each exercise. 1-3 sets are advised.
For flexibility present stretches for every major muscle group with particular attention to the muscles that tend to be tighter in most participants. Hold 30 seconds and repeat 3 to 5 times.
Segment is 3-5 minutes in length
Core temp and heart rate brought down to normal.
Stretching segment, relaxation and breathing segment.

Resources for Stability Training
1) Stability Ball Training/A Guide for Fitness Professionals from the American Council on Exercise.
2) The Great Body Ball Handbook/A quick reference guide to body ball exercises.
3) Pilates on the Ball by Colleen Craig
4) Get on the Ball by Lisa Westlake
1) ACE’s Healthy Living DVD/Stability Ball
2) Ball Blast with Helen Vanderburg
3) ABC Workout Amazing Ball Choreography by Patrick Goudeau
4) Xxtreme Strength Circuit on the Ball with Gin Miller
5) Stott Pilates Core Balance with Moira and PJ
6) Stott Pilates 3-D Balance with Moira and PJ
7) Stott Pilates Dynamic Balance with Moira and PJ
8) Stott Pilates Ultimate Balance with Moira & PJ

Television Shows:
1) BYUTV—Total Body Workout 6-7 a.m. M-F/ 7 a.m. Saturday
2) KBYU—-Total Body Workout 5:30-6:30 a.m. Saturdays
3) FITTV—-Cable T.V. Cathe Freiderich

Internet Websites:

Techniques and Proper Progression:
1) Wider base of support to increase balance and stability
2) Changing from flat foot to dorsiflexion challenges balance.
3) Intensity can be increased or decreased by changing the position of the ball under or over the body.
4) Changing the tempo of the timing, number of reps or speed of movement can alter the intensity of the exercise.
5) Low resistance until you are comfortable with their technique.
6) Proper spinal alignment, neutral spinal alignment.
7) Added equipment provides extra resistance, but should only be used when participant has mastered the basic ball positions.

1) When exercising beyond a base move, you must be able to cue exercisers back to it if too difficult.
2) Modify by adjusting position on the ball, the closer the ball is to the pivot point of movement the easier.
3) Can modify strength exercises by adjusting the amount and/or type of resistance used.
4) Can modify by widening base of support, putting hands down on to ball or floor.

Contraindicated movements:
1) Fast, ballistic movements are discouraged unless controlled deliberate manner for cardio ball class.
2) Movements that hyperflex or hyperextend a joint, forcing it beyond it’s normal range of motion.
3) It is recommended that knee flexion beyond 90 degrees be generally avoided.

Basic Positions:

Prone over the ball- need for a neutral neck, can have elbows or hands down, legs can fully extend or bent knees, abs engaged.

Supine Incline on the ball- ball is placed under the back, supporting the core and shoulders are not supported. Need for a neutral neck. Abs engaged.

Plank- ball can be placed under thighs, shins, ankles or feet, hands down on floor. Abs engaged, shoulders must be stabilized.

Side-lying- Hand placed on floor, obliques/hips supported by ball, abs engaged.

Seated- neutral spine, knees and hips in 90 degree, feet placed on floor. Abs engaged.

Against a Wall- Press lower back into ball, abs engaged, Knees do not exceed 90-degree angle.

Supine with elevated legs- imprint spine, or if strong enough in the core, a neutral spine. Abs engaged.

Prone kneeling- hands and forearms on ball/kneeling on floor, abs engaged.

Bridge on the ball- ball rests under the neck and shoulder, more stabilization is required by the rest of the body, legs extend forward, avoid splaying of the knees, abs engaged.

Bridge w/elevated legs on ball- lying supine on the floor, legs elevated onto ball, arms and hands down supporting, neck neutral, abs engaged, spine imprinted into floor, lift pelvis off and keep thighbones straight.


Against the Wall: (can add resistance)
1) Incline standing calf-raises
2) Squats against the wall—-one-leg, two legs, one-leg extended
Seated: (can add resistance)
1) Seated calf-raises
2) Seated Bicep Curls
3) Seated Military Presses
4) Anterior Deltoid Raises
5) Lateral Deltoid Raises
6) All Rows
7) Chest Presses
8) Chest Flyes
9) Balance-one leg extensions
10) One-leg extensions with Deltoid exercises
Prone: (can add resistance)
1) Reverse Flyes
2) Prone wide grip rows (elbows extended out 90 degree)
3) Prone rowing (elbows in toward torso)
4) Back extensions (hands behind neck or fingers on forehead)
5) Prone opposite arm/opposite leg raise (R leg down/ L arm down)
6) Rolling lat pull (arms extended on the floor, ball at pelvis)
7) Prone Hip extension one leg option/both leg option (elbows down on floor)

Supine-incline: (can add resistance)
1) Abdominal crunches
2) Oblique curls
3) Short range/long range crunches
4) Chest press
5) Chest flyes
6) Pelvic tilt

Bridge on the ball: (can add resistance)
1) Glut drops
2) One-sided glut drops
3) Chest flyes
4) Tricep pulldowns
5) Alligator Jaws (spinal rotation)

Supine with elevated legs:
1) Reverse Ab curls (ball between shins)
2) Ball Exchange
3) Ab crunches with legs on ball (only upper body)
4) Reverse curls (ball behind hamstrings)
5) Hip adduction (ball between calves and ankles) squeeze
6) Hip adduction (ball between knees and thighs with feet down) squeeze
7) Hip extension (upward plank)

1) Side-lying oblique curls (one hand down to support)
2) One knee down/ side leg extension (forearm on ball, R knee down, L leg extended)
3) Side-lying Hip abduction (side leg raises)
1) Pectoral push-ups (hands angled in)
2) Tricep push-ups (hands together, elbows out)
3) Plank w/ one leg (extended out to side)
4) Pike tucks (knees into chest, hips high)

Prone kneeling:
1) Prone knee pull-ins


1) One knee-one arm row (one knee balanced on ball)
2) Kneeling pushups (kneeling on floor, stabilized ball)
3) Wrist curls and Extensions (resting forearm on ball, down on one knee)
4) 4-point balance (all fours off floor)
5) Sitting balance
6) Standing one-leg balance (one foot on ball, roll it back and forth)

1) Seated Lateral torso stretch (one arm up overhead, lean to opposite side, roll the ball slightly)
2) Seated passive hamstring stretch
3) Prone Child’s stretch
4) Prone Calf/soleus stretch
5) Supine with elevated legs scissor stretch
6) Supine incline hip/glute stretch (newspaper stretch)
7) Supine incline spinal traction (back-bend)
8) Supine with elevated legs torso stretch (windshield wipers)
9) Standing back stretch with ball (ball on thighs, round over ball, hug it)
10) Standing back stretch with ball and rotate.
11) Standing shoulder stretch (ball overhead)
12) Seated adductor stretch (straddle with ball in center)
13) Seated lat stretch (straddle, roll the ball over to one side)
14) Seated lat stretch (legs bent back together, R arm extends on the ball, left rotates towards the ball)

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