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Using a Ball to Increase Core Strength and Tone

While many will think these exercises are all focused on a stability or Swiss ball, you know, the one that is a strong rubber shell that’s inflated, and people sit on them, there are other types of balls used for exercise and developing core strength. Those include the classic medicine ball; it’s old school, but they are weighted balls in various sizes. The shape and weight force muscles to work differently than traditional weights. Also, there are slam balls. Really the slam balls are just a larger sized medicine ball.

Stability, Exercise, or Swiss Ball

Much of the core workout you get with these balls is in maintaining balance while sitting on them and doing various movements. You can get fancy with the moves both while sitting on one and using it in other ways, but first you need to get comfortable with balancing on it and doing simple exercises. You can start with basics that you would regularly do while sitting on a chair or bench.

Stability balls are not particularly expensive, but you need to make sure if you purchase one that it is suitable for your height and weight. If you are just beginning, are rehabbing from an injury, or have balance problems, consider getting one to start that is also a chair with something keeping the ball from slipping out from under you. You can check out a variety of balls, half balls, and ball-chair options at Amazon.

Start with Sitting Options

Image credit: Wikipedia

Starting out you may only be able to do 30-60 seconds at a time. And don’t be fooled into thinking this isn’t going to do any good because it seems so simple. Much like holding a plank can challenge all your core muscles, the stability ball forces you to engage all the core muscles to maintain balance. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with doing various sitting exercises while on the ball, you can move to much more complex options. Just know that you might spend a bit of time on the floor before you find your balance in many of the maneuvers.

 

What Are Great Exercises to Do While Sitting on the Stability Ball?

Abdominal Crunch

Image credit: Wikimedia

 

Sit on the ball and find your balance with your feet spaced a little more than hip-width apart and pointed slightly outward. Now lean back slowly holding your ab muscles tight while also keeping your back as straight as possible until you are laying on the ball. Extend as far back as you can while still keeping your balance. Now slowly return to sitting position. Take 30-60 seconds to complete each one, and aim for 3-5 of them.

While sitting on the Swiss ball, you can also do side stretches, arm curls with weights. For added stability, do any or all of these with one of your feet off the ground and your leg held straight in front of you; do that equal number of times with each leg.

Try some freestyle moves while sitting on the ball. Shift your body weight from side to side, slide your body forward and back, do side stretches, or lean forward and touch your toes. Try it to some of your favorite dance music and “dance” while seated on the ball. Almost any move you make sitting on the stability ball will increase your core strength and tone the muscles.

Other Positions on the Stability Ball

Again, just about any regular exercise can be amped up for added core benefits by doing them with a stability ball. Wall squats and planks to name a few. In fact, you can do planks at several different levels of difficulty.

Plank Options

Start with the most basic plank, placing the front of your body, so it is centered over the stability ball, with arms and head on one side of the ball and your legs and feet on the opposite side. If you aren’t very tall, try this with the half ball, or a smaller exercise ball. Now, hold your body as straight as you can as if at the top of a pushup or plank, push down with your mid-section for resistance.

More difficult planks include positioning yourself with your hands placed on the ball and your body straight but angling down to the feet. Maintain position with only your hands on the ball for 30-60 seconds at a time for 3-5 reps. Even more difficult, do a plank with your feet on the ball and the rest of your body held straight and angling down to your head and arms. Now lift, so your chest is about six inches above the floor, and hold for 30-60 seconds each time with 3-5 reps.

Image credit: flickr

Other alternatives are the superman stretch, side crunches, and deadbugs – where you lie on the floor on your back and extend both arms and legs in front of you and push the ball up with all four while squeezing it. While you are on the floor, try the ball pass. Hold the ball between your hands and lift it up and forward as you also bring your legs up. Now pass the ball and lodge it between your upper thighs and retract your arms, keeping both arms and legs at a 45-degree angle to the floor – or a 90-degree angle to each other.

Medicine and Slam Ball Workouts

Much like the stability ball, both medicine and slam balls can be used to amp up the difficulty level and the impact of the exercises you do on a regular basis. Treat them the way you would weights. You’ll still get the same weight-lifting impact, but you’ll work the muscles differently because you use a different grip. You can use them when working with a partner also, passing them back and forth either with a handoff or tossing them for a few inches or farther.

Probably one of the more difficult moves using medicine and slam balls is a type of plank, check out the picture here. You can do it with two balls – or with four (one with each hand and each foot).

Image credit: Wikimedia

Now, try a Russian twist. This one takes work. You lie flat on your back, bring your torso and head up so it is at a 45-degree angle to the floor, and then bring your legs up to do the same. If you can’t do that yet, then bend your legs at the knees and plant your feet flat. Now, start with the medicine ball held in both hands over one hip and lift it in an arc to move it to the other hip and then back again. Want to make this even more effective? Do all of this while sitting on a stability ball.

Another version of the plank is the pass plank. Get into standard plank form with a small medicine ball under one hand. Now slowly bring it over to the other hand keeping your body straight and movement in your core area minimal. Now return the medicine ball. Do this for as long as you can stay in the plank position.

Some additional moves with the medicine ball include side-to-side woodchoppers, supermans  with the ball held by both hands, and sit-ups with a toss into the air and a catch.

For slam ball exercises, you can use a medicine ball that has some bounce, or a basketball that isn’t too full – so you can slam it down harder without it bouncing too high. You want to slam it down and catch it as it comes back up. So try some of your favorite action moves like a woodchopper slam where you are standing with feet about hip-width apart and facing forward or slightly pointed outward. Hold the slam ball with both hands against one hip, now bring the ball out, up, and around in a circular arc until you get almost to the other hip and then slam the ball down and catch it on the rebound. Now reverse and take it back to the other hip and slam the ball down before catching it again.

You can also stand close to the wall and slam the ball against the wall, catching it as it comes back to you. The weight and shape provide a good workout no matter how you use slam and medicine balls. You can find them in weights ranging from 6 pounds to 40 or more.

Don’t forget to include Sheer-Thermo supplements to help carve the muscles into your core by burning more fat during your workout. Once the workout has ended, enjoy Sheer Strength Post-Workout formula to renew energy and replace what your body needs to recover quickly.

SOURCES: http://www.mensfitness.com/training/workout-routines/50-core-exercises-use-ball

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