These core exercises with exercise balls are meant to strengthen the muscles that support the spine in front and back, from the low back to the upper back. The stomach, chest, and back muscles are among the muscles targeted by these workouts.

These ball-based core body strength exercises can be difficult to learn without the assistance of a qualified physical therapist, chiropractor, licensed athletic trainer, exercise physiologist, physiatrist, or another type of spine specialist or exercise instructor. They are not recommended for persons who have specific types of back problems. Before undertaking these or any other activities, always consult with a physician.

Using Core Exercises with a Ball

  • Place your chest on the exercise ball and walk forward as far as you can on your hands, rolling the exercise ball from your chest to your feet while maintaining your stomach muscles firm to keep your lower back flat. Begin by moving the exercise ball to your thighs; as the difficulty level rises, move the exercise ball to your knees, then your feet. Return your hands to the starting position. Repeat 3–5 times.

  • Walk-out from the back – Sit on the exercise ball with your arms at your sides and walk your feet forward as far as possible, rolling the exercise ball from your buttocks to your neck, keeping your stomach muscles firm to maintain your lower back flat and your head down. Begin by placing the exercise ball to your upper back; as the difficulty level rises, move the exercise ball to your neck. Return to a sitting position by walking your feet back. Repeat 3–5 times more. Complete the exercise with arms straight overhead; lift and straighten one leg at a time, five times each leg, with the exercise ball at your neck.

  • Place your chest on the exercise ball and move forward on your hands until the ball reaches your kneecaps, keeping your abdominal muscles tight to keep your lower back flat. Bend your hips and knees to pull the ball towards your arms, then straighten and push the ball back. Rep 5 times more. Return your hands to the starting position.

  • Place your chest on the exercise ball and walk forward on your hands until the exercise ball reaches your kneecaps, keeping your stomach muscles tight to keep your lower back flat. Roll the ball to your thighs by maintaining your hands in place, moving your arms overhead, and lowering your head and chest to the floor; then, with the exercise ball back at your knee caps, return your arms to perpendicular to your body. Rep 5 times more. Combination – Perform the reverse crunch and reverse extension in one continuous, controlled movement, pushing the exercise ball up to your chest and extending back five times.

Using the Exercise Ball for Abdominal Exercises

  • Sit on an exercise ball with arms lifted across the chest or on hips; then lean back halfway, flexing at hips without moving feet but lifting up on toes; use abdominal muscles to sit up without moving feet but rocking back on heels. Smoothly rock the ball back and forth five times. Raise your arms straight aloft to increase the difficulty.

  • Sit on an exercise ball with arms raised straight overhead; lean back halfway, flexing at hips without moving feet but elevating up on toes; slowly descend one arm at a time towards the opposite knee—ten times per side, alternate arms.

  • Full crunch – Sit on an exercise ball with arms at sides and feet flat on the floor and out in front, sitting slightly forward on the ball; lean back all the way, rolling ball to the low back then mid-back; keep feet flat on the floor, sit up using abdominal muscles. Rep 5 times more.

Some people are not suitable candidates for exercising with an exercise ball, as they are for many other types of back workouts. The ball adds a lot of instability and variety to what may otherwise be routine floor movements. While this can be beneficial for working various muscles, it is not recommended in a variety of conditions, including:

  • When a low back pain episode is in its acute (starting) phase.

  • Patients who have certain spine injuries that can be aggravated by movement.

  • Cases in which the patient’s discomfort worsens while on the ball.

  • For persons who are afraid of falling or don’t feel at peace on the ball.

Precautions

When considering using an exercise ball, patients should consult with their spine specialist to verify that the ball is adequately sized and that proper form and technique are mastered.

Exercises should be performed in a controlled manner and at a reasonable pace, with the goal of gradually increasing confidence.

Before beginning, a physician should be informed about any conditions that could be aggravated by this type of exercise.

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