If you think the stability ball is only for crunches, you’re sorely mistaken. Sure, the wobbly surface is great for training your core, but it can also be used for a ton of total-body exercises that challenge your strength, stability, and coordination without requiring you to jump from machine to machine at the gym. We asked Frank Baptiste, CSCS, owner of Frankly Fitness in New York City, to teach us some unique—and effective—moves using this versatile piece of equipment. Get the ball rolling by incorporating these exercises into your next workout.
1. SUPINE HIP EXTENSION
“It’s all in the hips,” says Baptiste. “Whether walking, running, jumping, or simply standing up, everything in sport and life involves extension at our hips. This spin on a classic glute bridge shakes things up by forcing you to work on core stability while strengthening the entire glute complex.”
How to do it: Lie on your back and place your feet near the top of the ball, knees bent. Extend your arms out to your sides, palms down, to help keep your balance. Drive your feet into the ball to lift your hips so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Squeeze your glutes tight to keep your hips in line. Slowly lower your hips to return to start position. That’s 1 rep. Perform10 to 15 reps. Mastered the move? Try it with one leg for added challenge.
Trainer Tip: Pull your belly button toward the floor before raising your hips to ensure the lumbar spine is aligned and stable.
2. PIKE PRESS
Handstand pushups are feats of superhuman balance and strength seemingly reserved for gymnasts or martial artists. Great news for mere mortals: You can get the same better-body benefits by using a stability ball. This total-body, core combination move helps you develop serious, functional upper-body strength, says Baptiste. “You will never need help putting your luggage in the overhead bin again.”
How to do it: Start in pushup position with your arms extended and shins on the ball. Keeping your arms and legs straight, lift your hips (pike) to draw the ball toward your arms. When your shoulders and upper torso are in a straight line over your hands, perform a handstand pushup by bending your elbows to lower your head toward the floor. Straighten your arms and slowly lower your hips to return to pushup position. That’s 1 rep. Perform 5 to 10 reps.
Trainer Tip: Practice the stability ball pike by itself until you’ve gained the strength and confidence to add the press.
3. REAR FLOOR ELEVATED SPLIT SQUAT
Adding a stability ball to this lower-body buster enhances its balance-training effects. “Lower-body strength is the key to healthy aging,” says Baptiste, “and this is the ultimate exercise for developing unilateral leg strength and balance.”
How to do it: Stand in front of a small stability ball in a split stance position (one foot farther front than the other). Rest the laces of the rear foot on top of the ball. Bend your front knee—like you do during a lunge —until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Return to start position. That’s 1 rep. Perform 8 to 12 reps.
Trainer Tip: Choose a stride length that allows you to put 80% of your weight on your front foot.