Stability balls aren't just the funky piece of office furniture your coworker uses. When used correctly, it can be an awesome tool to sculpt strong, sexy abs. You may have heard of or seen standard stability ball crunches, but there are so many more exercises you can do with this piece of equipment.
Having a stronger core won't just make your abs pop, it'll also help protect your back (which can help prevent pain, according to a September 2013 study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine) and make you better at just about any activity you can think of — both in and out of the gym. That includes running, according to a March 2019 study from PLOS One.
What's particularly great about the stability ball is that it adds, well, instability, so you're engaging not just your rectus abdominis (aka six-pack muscles) but many of the smaller stabilizing muscles that traditional crunches miss. Because aside from not being a very functional exercise, crunches also increase the risk of neck pain if you do them incorrectly.
Here are four exercises that will challenge your balance and strengthen your core by forcing you to constantly engage your to stabilize yourself as you move your arms and legs.
1. Stability Ball Dead Bug
- Lie down on your back with the stability ball by your side.
- Reach your arms straight up toward the ceiling with your elbows straight.
- Raise your legs and bend your knees so that they're pointing straight up and your shins are parallel to the floor.
- Grab the exercise ball and hold it between your arms and knees, squeezing it the ball like you're trying to pop it. You should feel your abs start to work already.
- Reach your right arm back toward the floor and at the same time reach your left leg straight out and down toward the floor.
- Keep squeezing the ball with your left arm and right leg.
- Bring your right arm and left leg back to the ball.
- Switch, reaching out your left arm and right leg.
If you don't feel this exercise, make sure that your lower back is pressed into the ground firmly. And don't rush through it. Focus on lengthening and stretching the limbs that are extended while contracting your abs to support the arm and leg keeping the ball in the air.
2. Kneeling Stability Ball Roll Out
- Kneel down in front of your exercise ball and keep your back straight. Reach straight forward to place your hands on the ball.
- Lean toward the ball while rolling if forward with your hands. Keep going until your arms are straight overhead. Make sure your hips aren't sagging.
- To get back up, push your arms down into the ball and roll it backward, using the power of your abs to pull you back to kneeling.
Make sure that you maintain a straight line from your knees to your head the entire time. There's a natural tendency to stick your butt out as you roll the ball backward, so keep your butt in alignment with your back throughout the exercise.
To make this move harder, start from a full plank position with your forearms on the exercise ball, feet on the ground and knees straight. Then roll the ball forward and backward with your forearms.
3. Stability Ball Russian Twist
- Start seated on the floor, holding the stability ball in your lap. Pick your feet up a few inches off the floor with your knees slightly bent, similar to a modified Boat pose.
- Slowly twist to your left and lightly touch the exercise ball on the floor at the left side of your body.
- Pick the ball up and twist to your right. Lightly tap the floor on the right side of your body.
- Continue slowly rotating to each side and touching the floor with the ball, without letting your feet hit the ground.
To make this exercise harder, substitute the exercise ball for a dumbbell, kettlebell or weighted medicine ball.
4. Stir The Pot
- Start in a plank with your forearms on top of the exercise ball and feet planted on the ground. Squeeze your glutes to make sure that your hips aren't too high in the air.
- With your forearms, make five small circles clockwise.
- Then reverse the direction to make five circles counter-clockwise.
Maintain a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles the entire time. Only your arms move; the rest of your body should be completely still. You should feel everything working, from the muscles around your ribs all the way down to the muscles in your hips.
To make this exercise harder, make bigger circles with your arms.
Read more: 3 Ab Exercises That Aren't Worth Your Time
- Journal of Sports Science and Medicine: Effects of Stabilization Exercise Using a Ball on Mutifidus Cross-Sectional Area in Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain
- PLOS One: Effects of 8-week core training on core endurance and running economy
- Journal of Strength Conditioning Research: Electromyographic comparison of a stability ball crunch with a traditional crunch.