We all live pretty stable lives — physically. The pavement you walk on is flat and the chair you sit in for hours is even. Even while you work out, the treadmill is bump-free and the bench is solid. Running on a bumpy treadmill or performing a push-up on an unbalanced surface is infinitely more challenging, though. Cue, the stability ball.
If you're only using a stability ball for crunches or as a chair to sit on at your desk, you're missing out. You can transform traditional exercises into multi-muscle movers that will help you get more done in less time.
Benefits of Stability Ball Exercises
The biggest benefit of the stability ball is balance! The major joints of the body, like the knees and hips, enable your body's mobility (ability to move freely) or stability (ability to maintain posture), according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).
As a population plagued with muscular imbalance (thanks to our aforementioned stable world), the ability of these joints to maintain mobility or stability is compromised. Tools like the stability ball or BOSU ball help the trigger the joints to increase stability, according to NASM. Other benefits of using a stability ball include:
Read more: 11 Body-Rocking BOSU Ball Exercises
How to Do This Stability Ball Workout
After completing the warm-up, do each exercise for the recommended number of reps, back-to-back with little or no rest in between. Perform the full circuit one to three times total on up to four non-consecutive days a week for best results. You'll need a set of dumbbells (five to 25 pounds, depending on your fitness level) and a stability ball.
1. Stability Ball Warm-Up
Get your heart pumping and your body ready for the workout ahead of you with this total-body move.
HOW TO DO IT: Begin holding the ball, standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Then lower into a small squat, tapping ball lightly to the floor. Stand up, drawing your abs in tightly and keeping your arms extended, raise ball overhead.
MUSCLES TARGETED: glutes, quads, hamstrings, lats
2. Atlas Squat
Add more of a core challenge to a traditional squat by holding the stability ball overhead the entire time.
HOW TO DO IT: Start by standing with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, holding the ball overhead. Lower into a deep squat, sitting back into your hips and keeping your knees behind your toes while keeping ball overhead. You can avoid straining your neck by keeping your chin pointing toward your chest. Return to the starting position.
MUSCLES TARGETED: glutes, quads, hamstrings
3. Stability Ball Plank
Fire up your core with this signature move. It's much more difficult than the regular planks you're used to!
HOW TO DO IT: Begin with elbows on top of the ball lined up under your shoulders, hands clasped together, feet hip-width apart. Brace your abs and keep your chest and stomach off the ball completely. Now write your full name — first, middle and last — with your elbows on top of the ball. Make this harder by bringing feet together or easier by widening your stance.
MUSCLES TARGETED: abdominals, obliques
Read more: The 4-Week Plank Challenge
4. Y-And-I Extension
Use the ball to increase your range of motion and challenge your balance to get more out of this great back-strengthening exercise.
HOW TO DO IT: Begin balancing on the ball, with the ball positioned between your belly button and pelvis. Your legs should be extended straight back, hip-width apart. Extend your spine and lift your chest off the ball, reaching your arms into a Y position in front of you, thumbs pointed up. Lift your ribcage off the ball, further extending your spine, as your arms reach down by your sides into an I position, squeezing your shoulder blades back and together with your thumbs still facing up.
MUSCLES TARGETED: shoulders, lats, triceps, lower back
5. Reaching Rear Lunge
Challenge the muscles from your ankles all the way up to your hips with this stability ball twist on a traditional rear lunge.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand about one foot in front of the ball with your right knee bent, the top of your foot pressed into ball, holding dumbbells by your sides. Hinge forward from your hips, bending your left leg as your right leg extends back, moving the ball away from your body. Reach with the dumbbells, on either side of your left leg, toward the floor. Go as low as possible without rounding your back. Return to the starting position.
REPS: 15 on each side
MUSCLES TARGETED: glutes, hamstrings, quads
6. Marching Press
Engage your shoulders, abs and thighs by balancing on the ball during your overhead press.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit on ball with feet hip-width apart, arms bent by your sides, holding dumbbells in front of your shoulders, palms facing front. Press the weights overhead. Your arms should be slightly in front of your body at the top of extension, never behind your head, as one foot lifts off the floor. Make sure to keep your shoulders stacked over your hips. Return to the starting position.
REPS: 20, alternating legs each time
MUSCLES TARGETED: shoulders, hip flexors, glutes
7. Stability Ball Pike
Work your entire body (with a major emphasis on the abs!) with this jacked up plank variation.
HOW TO DO IT: Begin in a plank with the ball under your feet, shoulders lined up over your hands. Lift your hips and pulling the ball in closer to your chest. Try to raise your hips over your shoulders, if possible, and press your feet down into the ball to make it easier to slide your legs in during the pike. Return to start. Too tough? Start with a small range of motion, lifting your hips only slightly until you feel ready for more.
REPS: up to 10
MUSCLES TARGETED: abdominals, obliques, shoulders
8. Balancing Kickback
Turn up your triceps work with this multi-tasking move that works not only the backs of your arms, but also your legs and core, too!
HOW TO DO IT: Stand about one foot in front of the ball with your right knee bent, the top of your foot pressed into ball. Bend your elbows behind your body, holding the dumbbells by your sides. Hinge your torso forward from the hips, bending your left knee about 45-degrees as your right leg extends straight back behind your hip. Extend your arms straight back behind you. Bend your elbows back in. That's one rep.
MUSCLES TARGETED: triceps, rear deltoid, glutes, quads
9. Stability Ball Push-Up
Take your push-ups off solid ground for an extra core challenge!
HOW TO DO IT: Begin in a plank with hands pressed into the ball (think of slightly hugging the ball). Make it easier with your feet positioned wider apart or harder by bringing your feet closer together. Do a push-up by lowering your chest to the ball, bending your elbows out to the side and avoid letting your hips sag. Try to tap your chest on the ball if possible but don't rest your body on the ball. Return to the starting position.
REPS: up to 15
MUSCLES TARGETED: pecs, shoulders, abdominals
10. Side Lunge Row
Work your inner thighs, glutes and back with this balancing exercise.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your left leg extended to the side and your left foot pressed on top of the ball, holding a dumbbell in your right hand. Lower into a single-leg squat, bending your right knee, pushing your hips back. Hinge slightly forward from your hips, reaching your right arm toward the floor.
Row the dumbell back by bending your right elbow in by your side, pulling the dumbbell to the side of your torso as your left knee bends, curling the ball toward your body. Extend your leg and arm back out.
REPS: 15 on each side
MUSCLES TARGETED: adductors, glutes, lats
11. Stability Ball Hamstring Curl
The backs of the legs can be tough to target, but this exercise is guaranteed to make your hamstrings work!
HOW TO DO IT: Begin in a bridge on the ball: Lie face up with your knees bent and hip-width apart, feet flexed, heels pressed into top of the ball with your arms extended by your sides pressed into the floor and hips lifted. Engage your abs and extend your legs out straight, keeping your hips off the floor. Use your abs and arms to help stabilize your torso. Return to start.
MUSCLES TARGETED: hamstrings, glutes
Read more: The Only 5 Exercises Women Need to Get Lean
12. Knee Tuck
Skip the sit-ups! You won't need them with this workout since your abs have been working with almost every rep already. Try this multi-muscle ab-strengthening move instead.
HOW TO DO IT: Begin in a plank with the ball under your feet, toes pointed, abs tight and shoulders over your hands. Draw your abs in deeper and bend your knees into your chest, pulling the ball in and keeping your shoulders lined up over your hands. Press your feet down into the ball to make it easier to slide your legs in. Return to the start.
MUSCLES TARGETED: abdominals, obliques
13. Stability Ball Stretching
After you've finished the final round of the circuit, wrap up your workout with some feel-good stretching.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet wide and your arms extended out to the sides, ball in front of you on the floor. Bend your knees and hinge forward, placing the back of your right hand on top of ball and keeping arms extended, turn your chest toward ceiling. Roll onto your right shoulder, looking up to your left hand. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.
REPS: Hold 30 to 60 seconds and repeat on other side
MUSCLES TARGETED: total-body stretch