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Have a Ball!

A fun way to boost strength, stability, balance and bone mass.

Stability balls are very effective exercise tools that offer unique benefits. Most notably, using them helps develop core strength, spinal stability and balance. The ball’s soft, unstable surface makes you “wobbly” or unbalanced. As your body fights to maintain control, the deep core musculature of your abdominal and back muscles is activated and strengthened. Development of these trunk muscles helps support and stabilize the spine and maintain its neutral alignment, reducing back strain and promoting spine health.

Michael Mullen

Strengthening the muscles of your core also improves posture, coordination and balance. This not only helps build bone mass and improves overall functioning, but it also protects you from injury and fall risk (a concern for those with celiac disease who are at higher risk for osteoporosis).

The proper size of the ball is based on your height.

If you’re between 5 and 5½ feet tall, choose a small ball (55cm). If you’re between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 11 inches, use medium (65 cm). If you’re between 6 feet and

6 feet 3 inches, a large ball (75cm) is best for you. After the ball is inflated, sit on it to test it out. Your feet should be flat on the ground with your knees and hips flexed at a 90-degree angle.

The Workout

Michael Mullen

This workout features basic moves, like squats, pushups and planks. With the added element of instability, inherent in the ball, they take on another level of difficulty. Aim for 10 to 20 repetitions per exercise but do only as many repetitions as you can accomplish with the proper form.

To move quickly through your workout, do 1 set of each exercise followed by a 15- to 30-second rest before moving to the next exercise. Complete each exercise and then repeat the circuit 2 to 5 more times from the top.

If you’re new to the stability ball and to regular exercise, start with a single move. Introduce more moves as your core strengthens.

Michael Mullen

Always perform a dynamic warm-up before doing any strength training. Engage your abdominals before initiating movement. Exhale as you push through the exertion of an exercise and inhale as you control the release of the exercise.

1. Squat with Overhead Press

This exercise targets legs and shoulders.

Michael Mullen

a)  Stand tall with your feet about hip width apart, holding the stability ball at chest level. Keep your shoulders back, your chest lifted and your abdominals engaged.

b)  Bend your knees and assume a squat position while keeping your chest lifted and your shoulders back.

c)  Return to standing and extend your arms, holding the ball overhead. Return to the starting position and repeat.

2. Ab Rollout

Michael Mullen

This exercise targets shoulders, chest, back and core.

a)  Start in a kneeling position with arms extended and hands clasped, resting on the ball. Keep your shoulders back, your chest lifted and your abdominals engaged.

b)  Keeping your back erect and your abdominals tight, press your hands into the ball and roll it out in front of you until your forearms are on the ball and your body is positioned at a 45-degree angle. Use your forearms to pull back slowly and return to start position.

Michael Mullen

3. Hip Lift with Hamstring Curl

This exercise targets back, buttocks and hamstrings.

a)  Lie on your back with your legs extended and your feet on the ball.

Michael Mullen

b)  Keeping your legs straight, drive your heels into the ball and lift your hips off the floor.

Michael Mullen

c)  Keeping your hips lifted, dig your heels into the ball as you pull it toward your buttocks. Extend your legs and lower your hips to return to start position.

Michael Mullen

4. Stability Ball Pushup

This exercise targets shoulders, chest, back and core.

a)  Start in a plank position with your hands on the floor and the ball under your hips or thighs.

Michael Mullen


b)  Bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the floor. Push back up into a straight-arm plank position and repeat.

Michael Mullen


To increase the difficulty of this exercise, put your feet on the ball and perform the pushup. Bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the floor. Push back up into a straight-arm plank position and repeat. With less body weight supported by the ball, the intensity of this move is much greater.

5. Reciprocal Reach

Targets lower back and glutes and improves coordination and balance.

a)  Lie face-down on top of the ball with the ball under your hips. Your arms and legs should be fully extended. Your hands should be on the floor under your shoulders and your feet in contact with the floor.

Michael Mullen


b)  Slowly lift and extend your right arm and your left leg at the same time. Lower both your arm and leg and repeat on the opposite side.

Michael Mullen


6. V-Sit with Ball

This exercise targets abdominals.

a)  Lie face-up on the ground with your ankles resting on the top of the ball.

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b)  With your arms extended toward your feet, begin rolling up with your torso. At the top of the move, your body should form a V position with your hips. Slowly roll back down and repeat.

Michael Mullen


Michael Mullen


Fitness expert Christine V. Woods, MSEd, ACSM-CCEP, CSCS is a 25-year industry veteran, serving as a clinical exercise physiologist, lifestyle coach, university educator and fitness educator for the Athletic & Fitness Association of America (AFAA).