Think fast! What’s the first exercise that comes to mind when your trainer or instructor tells you to grab a stability ball for “core work?” Chances are, crunches are on top of your list.
But there’s lots more to core work than crunches! Just as the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, the core is the powerhouse of your body. We want the core to be strong and stable, front, side and back, so we need to train it that way.
Need some ideas? How about 10 core exercises using my favorite stability ball, the BOSU® Ballast® Ball, that are NOT crunches?
Let’s start with some partner drills because they make workouts fun and interactive. This will also get you thinking outside the box when it comes to core training. You will totally appreciate the challenge of the multi-dimensional load within the Ballast Ball® as it can increase the degree of difficulty of each exercise, give visual and audible feedback as you move it, as well as help the ball stay in place when you set it down.
1. Kneeling Chest Pass to Pushup
Grab a partner and face each other in a kneeling position. Partner A throws a chest pass to Partner B. As soon as Partner A releases the Ballast® Ball, he/she drops into a pushup. When he/she finishes, Partner B repeats the drill.
2. Back to Ball Squat
Partner A and Partner B grab one Ballast® Ball and stand back to back with the ball in between. Squat slowly and evenly so the material in the ball does not move, making sure your core is engaged throughout the exercise.
3. V-Sit and Russian Twists
Partner A and Partner B face each other in a V-Sit. Partner A performs four Russian Twists making the “sand” crash from side to side and then tosses the Ballast® Ball to Partner B who has been holding the V-Sit. Once Partner B has the ball, he/she performs the Russian Twists while Partner A holds the V-Sit.
4. Standing Lateral Pass
Partner A and Partner B stand a few feet apart, facing in the same direction. Partner A rotates the Ballast® Ball to the outside, then laterally passes or tosses the ball to Partner B who catches, rotates the ball to the outside and then passes or tosses it back.
Next, let’s try some core exercises that make the back of your body work!
5. Ball Bridge
Lie face up on the floor with your feet up on the Ballast® Ball. With arms by your side, engage your glutes and lift your hips off the floor. Hold and try to keep the ball from moving. Return the hips to the floor and repeat.
6. Shoulder Bridge
Begin in a seated position on the Ballast® Ball. Roll out to a bridge position, resting your head, neck and shoulders on the ball. With engaged glutes and abdominals, extend both arms so that your wrists are over your shoulders. Hold one arm in place, and reach out to the side with the other arm. Pause, then return the arm to the center and repeat on the other side. Engage your oblique core muscles as you hold the arm to one side, making the side body fire as a stabilizer.
7. Balanced Bird Dog
From kneeling position, lie over the Ballast® Ball with your hands and toes on the floor. Lift one arm and the opposite leg, then lower back to the starting position. Alternate sides keeping your leg in line with your hip and your arm in line with your ear. To regress, lift just one leg at a time, then one arm at a time.
Finally, here are some advanced exercises that require core strength, stabilization, and an awareness of how your body is moving both on and off the ball. You will definitely appreciate the multi-dimensional load inside the Ballast® Ball to help you keep the ball in place on these three!
8. Pushup Knee Tuck & Alternating Toe Taps
Roll out onto the Ballast® Ball in a prone or face down position. (The further out you roll, the more of your bodyweight you will need to support and the greater the balance challenge). Perform a pushup followed with a knee tuck, then stabilize and hold plank position as you alternate four toe taps to the floor.
9. Reverse Burpee
Stand so that the Ballast® Ball is behind you. Slowly squat until you are sitting on the ball. Hinge back into a supine position, reaching overhead with your arms. Return to a seated position, then lean forward, and place your hands on the floor. Walk or jump both feet onto the ball. Step or jump feet down and return to a standing position.
10. Reverse Lunge to Plank
Standing tall with the Ballast® Ball behind you, lift one leg and place the shin on the ball. Perform a reverse lunge, hinging forward so your hands touch the floor. Lift the supporting leg onto the ball so you are now balanced in plank. The opposite leg then steps forward to the floor. Come back to a standing position and repeat on the other side.
Use any of these exercises alone or gradually layer a few into your fitness routine. You can also use all 10 for a workout with an entire core training focus!
Elizabeth Lenart is a BOSU® Master Trainer. She is the founder of innerathlete in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, where she consults, trains and coaches. She also appears on the TV show Mass Appeal as a fitness expert.