Ever tried to tone your abs by doing what seemed like endless crunches? If so, you might want to add a stability ball to your workout plan. A stability ball, also called an exercise ball, allows you to do a number of exercises that efficiently strengthen and tone your abdominal muscles, and it’s also a good way to stretch out your torso and improve flexibility.
How a Stability Ball Is Used
A stability ball is a soft, lightweight ball that ranges in diameter. Your height determines which size ball you use. The stability ball is designed to stretch and tone the abs, which are part of the body’s core. It can also be useful throughout the rest of your workouts, since you can use it to support your body while lifting dumbbells or performing squats. Using the stability ball for support while lifting weights or toning the lower body will improve your balance and indirectly strengthen the abs.
Stability Ball: Getting Started With Exercises
There are several exercises you can do with a stability ball:
- Stretching. Lie on your back with the ball underneath you to stretch the abdominal muscles. Lie on the ball on your stomach to stretch back muscles, or lie on your side to stretch side muscles. You can also sit on the ball with your legs and feet in front of you to stretch out leg muscles. Consult with a trainer or follow the manufacturer’s instructions to learn how to use the ball to stretch properly.
- Lift weights. Use the ball to give yourself support, balance, and a greater range of motion while you lift weights. You can lie against the ball on your back or your chest and do free-weight exercises with the support of the stability ball. You could also sit on the ball while lifting weights to work on your balance while you strength train.
- Crunches and more. Lie on the stability ball and do crunches for an excellent abdominal workout. Also use the ball as a back support against the wall as you do squats, or prop your feet or legs on the ball while doing modified pushups.
Stability Ball: Choosing the Right Size
Before you invest in a stability ball, you need to figure out which type is best for you. When seated, you want your feet to be flat on the floor and knees should be level or slightly lower than the pelvis. There should be a 90-degree angle (or slightly greater) in the hip and knees with feet flat on the ground. Select the size of the ball based on your height. Your weight is not a big factor, but if you notice that the ball is compressing and you are not maintaining a 90-degree angle in the hips and knees when sitting, you may want to try the next size up.
- 45 centimeters: Best for people 4’8” to 5’5″ tall.
- 55 centimeters: Best for people 5’6″ to 6 feet tall.
- 65 centimeters: Best for people 6 feet to 6’5″ tall.
- 75 centimeters: Best for people taller than 6’5″.
- 85 centimeters: Useful for heavier people or those with particularly long legs.
If inflated properly, all stability balls should have the same degree of firmness. As a ball loses air, it becomes less firm which makes stabilizing on the ball much easier than a properly inflated ball because of the greater surface area in contact with the ground or wall. Likewise, over-inflating a ball increases the level of difficulty with stabilizing on it. Alert your gym if the stability balls seem under or over inflated, and if you’re exercising at home, make sure the ball you’re using is adequately inflated.
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