Stability balls (also known as swiss ball or fitball) are fantastic pieces of exercise equipment and their primary purpose is to train the core muscles. Whatever your exercise goals, working out with a stability ball is guaranteed to advance your fitness.

A strong core means:

  • Better posture
  • More efficient movement
  • A stronger body

Irrespective of your age, goals or sport – if you want to experience the benefits of a strong core, read on for tips on how to get the most from your stability ball workout.

Finding your core

Before you start core training , it is important to initially ‘find your core.’ Time spent practicing activating your core muscles is necessary before progressing to more advanced training.

One of the most effective ways to initiate core control is as follows:

  1. Position yourself on all fours on the floor.
  2. Relax and draw your navel in towards your spine to activate your core.
  3. Practice alternately relaxing and activating your core muscles with no other body movement.
  4. Maintain relaxed breathing throughout.

Starting core training

Once you have found your core, you can progress to the next stage. All the following exercises are simple but extremely effective and should be mastered before moving onto more complex movements:

  • With your feet flat on the floor, sit on the ball and maintain correct upright posture. Use a mirror or partner to monitor your position.
  • Maintaining this position, move the ball forwards, backwards and from side to side using small controlled movements of the hips, whilst focusing on maintaining good posture.
  • Return to starting position; then raise one foot a few centimetres from the floor. Focus on keeping completely upright with no side-to-side hip movements.
  • Try all of the exercises with your eyes closed – this will make each exercise much more challenging.

Moving up – foundation exercises

Kneeling on the stability ball

This exercise rapidly progresses your core strength and combined with balance and proprioception (sense of where you are in space), all contribute to your core fitness.

  • Stand with feet approximately 45cm (18in) apart.
  • Position the stability ball on the floor and up against the knees and shins.
  • Place hands on top of the ball.
  • Pushing up from the toes, slowly roll forward with the ball until your feet are off the floor and balance is achieved.
  • Once you can balance, experiment with removing a hand or leg and eventually both hands until it is possible to kneel completely upright on the ball.

Just a few minutes practice a day will result in you progressing from being unable to balance on the ball at all, to being able to kneel completely upright.

Stability ball floor bridge

This exercise focuses specifically on pelvic core strength as you counteract the rotational effect of the ball. Additionally, it exercises the hamstring muscles at the back of the thigh as you hold your position.

  • Lie on your back on the floor, arms outstretched either side of the body.
  • Position your heels on the center of the ball, toes pointing at the ceiling.
  • Lift your body off the floor, forming a straight line from shoulders through to ankles.
  • Contract your core muscles and keep pelvis elevated to maintain the correct position.

Once you can maintain the position for 60 seconds, try gradually bringing your arms in towards your body until eventually they can be lifted off the floor together, leaving only the shoulders in contact with the floor.

Advanced exercises

Once you have successfully mastered the foundation exercises, to fully develop your core strength, try the following more advanced exercises.

Stability ball floor bridge single leg

  • Start in the foundation stability ball floor bridge position from above.
  • Whilst keeping both legs straight, slowly elevate one leg 45cm (18in) from the ball and hold.
  • Keep your pelvis elevated throughout, so that your shoulders, pelvis and knees remain continually in line.
  • Return your leg back to the ball under control.
  • Repeat with opposite leg.
  • Build up to holding for 60 seconds duration on each leg.

Stability ball floor bridge pull-in

  • Start in the foundation stability ball floor bridge position from above.
  • In one synchronised movement, bend your knees and pull the stability ball in towards your body.
  • Keep your pelvis elevated throughout so that your shoulders, pelvis and knees remain continually in line.
  • Return the ball to the start position under control, keeping your pelvis elevated throughout.
  • Build up to two sets of six repetitions.

Stability ball training tips

To ensure that you get maximum training benefits from your stability ball workout, always follow the protocols below:

Size is everything

Choose the right size ball for you. Most commercially available balls are too large at 65 cm (25 in) diameter, whereas for most people, a 55 cm (21 in) ball will provide far more training benefits.

Relax when exercising

Always keep your breathing relaxed. It is common when exercising to hold your breath when an exercise becomes challenging. Instead focus on relaxed breathing whilst still maintaining a strong core contraction.

Partner up when training

Getting the most from your core workout means carrying out the exercises using precise and controlled movements. Ideally, partner up with a friend who can monitor your body position throughout the exercises.

Mirror, mirror

If you are training alone, a mirror can be extremely helpful in monitoring your form and technique.

Train twice a week

For maximum stability ball training gains, carry out your core workout twice a week.

Conclusions on stability ball training

Stability ball training should be a key component of everyone’s fitness programme, whatever fitness gains you are training for. In addition to a comprehensive package of benefits, exercising on a ball is great fun – and fun should be a part of everyone’s workout. If you’ve never tried core exercises in your workout before, try building the exercises into your usual session and you’ll be amazed at how fast you improve – and what a difference stability ball training makes.