We may not think much about balance and stability, but those elements are very important for everything we do, from daily chores to exercise. Each joint is made up of ligaments and tendons, connected to all the muscles that work to keep your body upright and in the proper position.
The more you can strengthen that connective tissue and those stabilizer muscles, the better your body will perform no matter what activity you’re doing.
The great thing about working on balance and stability is that you don’t have to do advanced or intense exercises to improve. In fact, one simple tool—an exercise ball—can help you work all of these areas with a variety of simple, easy to follow exercises.
The following exercises help work on all areas of your body while allowing you to get familiar with the unstable surface of the ball. This approach is perfect if you haven’t had much experience using an exercise ball and want a gentle way to work your body.
The only equipment required for these exercises is an exercise ball. You’ll also want enough open space to move.
If you’ve never used a ball before, try sitting next to a wall or hold onto a chair for balance if needed. Work your way up to doing the exercises without any props.
Check with your doctor if you have any injuries or medical conditions.
Below are basic instructions to follow:
- Use the first exercise to warm up your body and prepare it for exercise.
- Do each exercise as shown for up to three sets of each. If you’re a beginner, start with one set and gradually work your way up to more sets over time.
- Hold onto a wall for balance if you need to and use a sticky mat or shoes with good traction to avoid slipping.
- Skip any exercises that cause pain or discomfort.
Ball circles are the perfect place to start to loosen up the body and get used to sitting on the exercise ball. Make the circles as small or as big as you like. As you warm up, you can go deeper into each circle.
- Sit on the ball and place your hands behind your head (more challenging), on the ball, or hold onto a wall if you need more stability.
- Slowly begin to roll your hips in a circle towards the right, arching a little when your hips circle to the back and then curving the back when your hips circle to the front.
- Make small circles and, as you get comfortable, larger circles.
- Focus on contracting your abs each time you roll the ball forward.
- Repeat for 20 circles to the right and then the left.
Ball marches are a great way to challenge your balance, taking one foot off the floor and forcing the standing foot to keep you stable. Hold onto a wall here if you need to and/or place the ball against a wall for more support.
- Sit on the ball with your spine straight and abs in.
- Take your hands behind your head (more challenging) or keep them on the ball and lift your right foot a few inches off the ground.
- Lower your foot and lift your left foot a few inches off the ground.
- Continue, alternating lifting your right foot and then the left.
- As you get comfortable with the movement, lift your knees higher and march faster.
- You can also add a bounce on the ball if you feel comfortable.
- Repeat for 1–2 minutes.
Seated Ball Balance
This exercise will really challenge your balance so give yourself some time to practice and perfect this one.
- Sit on the ball with your spine straight and abs in.
- Place your hands on the ball, behind your head (harder), or hold onto a wall for balance.
- Lift your right foot off the floor and stretch it out straight, holding it in the air for 5 or more seconds.
- Lower and repeat on the other side.
- Repeat for 5–10 reps.
- Focus on contracting your abs to help keep your balance.
Ball walks can be very challenging for the core, so take your time with this one. You may just want to walk halfway down to test your core strength before you go all the way down.
- Sit on the ball and put your hands on the ball, behind your head, or hold onto a wall for balance.
- Begin by contracting your abs and slowly walk your feet forward.
- As you walk, slowly roll your back down on the ball.
- Keep walking and rolling until your head and shoulders are on the ball and your hips are lifted into a bridge position.
- Walk all the way back until you’re seated again.
- Repeat for 10–15 reps.
You’ll notice that your ball will move every time you walk out and in. That’s normal. Just reposition the ball if you find you’re all the way across the room.
Ball squats not only help your balance, but they also strengthen your glutes, hips, and thighs.
A ball can be a great resource if you have back or knee issues. By using a ball, you can often take the pressure off your back and your knees, giving you a safe way to squat.
- Prop the ball against a wall and position it behind your lower-mid back.
- Walk your feet out a bit so that you’re leaning against the ball, feet about hip-distance apart. If your feet are too close to the wall, you might strain the knees.
- Bend your knees and lower into a squat, going as low as you can. Try looking down to make sure your knees aren’t drifting too far over your toes.
- Keep your weight in your heels as you push back up and try not to lock your knees when you stand.
- Repeat for 15 reps.
- To add intensity, hold hand weights.
Pelvic Tilt on the Ball
Pelvic tilts are a very subtle exercise and a great way to gently work the abs and the lower back. Doing them on the ball adds an element of balance that will engage all the stability muscles in the lower body.
- Sit on the ball and slowly walk your feet forward until your head and shoulders are supported on the ball. Your knees should be bent at about 90 degrees, hips lifted.
- Arch your back and rotate your hips back and towards the ball. The move should be small and subtle, just enough to feel a stretch in your abs.
- Now gently curve your hips up towards you without rolling on the ball. In other words, keep the ball stable while you move your hips.
- Continue to squeeze your hips up and down for 15 reps.
Leg Press on the Ball
If you have knee problems, this exercise may not work for you. The key to this move is to try keeping the weight in your heels rather than on the toes, which can strain the knee.
- Sit on the ball and slowly walk your feet forward until you’re at an incline on the ball. Your head and shoulders should be off the ball and your knees should be bent.
- Bend your knees as though you’re going into a squat.
- Press through your heels to come back to start.
- Repeat for 15 reps.
This move can be a little tricky to get into position. You may have to adjust the ball several times before you find the right kind of support.
- Lie facedown with the ball under your hips and lower torso.
- You can rest on your knees, which is easier, or on your toes with the knees straight, which is more challenging.
- Place your hands under your chin, elbows bent.
- Roll forward over the ball and then contract your lower back to lift your chest off the ball.
- Try bringing your shoulders up until your body is in a straight line, but don’t hyperextend.
- Repeat for 12–16 reps
Hip lifts are a great way to work on balance, but you also get a great workout for your glutes and hamstrings.
- Lie on the floor with heels propped on the ball.
- Keeping your abs tight, slowly lift your hips off the floor squeezing your glutes.
- Keep going until your body is in a straight line.
- Hold for a few seconds and lower, repeating 15 times.
To make it easier, place ball under knees rather than under heels and keep your hands on the floor. To make it harder, cross your arms over your chest. If your knees are uncomfortable in this locked position, roll the ball in with your feet as your hips come high.