Exercise Ball Workouts for Beginners
Quick, easy moves to reap major full-body results.
The exercise ball (or stability ball) is a staple of most gyms, but not everyone knows what to do with it, especially beginners. We’ve all seen people using exercise balls for crunches but beyond that, stability ball workouts for the whole body can be confusing. Can an exercise ball really tone your arms and strengthen your legs? Absolutely.
“A stability ball requires the user to create stability by nature of the ball’s tendency to roll,” explains coach and certified personal trainer Clare Zecher. “This is awesome because what can appear to be a very simple and easy movement can hit a lot of muscles at once, or even isolate a small stabilizing group. A beginner may safely learn and strengthen in correct exercise patterns, leading to more strength and stability in their joints.”
For beginners, traditional bodyweight exercises can often be intimidating or too challenging to perform correctly. But a stability ball can support certain exercises, creating an environment where a beginner can successfully perform the exercise properly, with weight distributed throughout the feet, knees over ankles and body remaining upright.
Finding the Right Exercise Ball
Zecher says the most important thing for beginners to consider when choosing a stability ball is size. Most exercise balls come in sizes 45cm to 75 cm. Double check the sizing charts with different brands to verify what you think looks right for you. For safety, it’s also important to note an exercise ball’s weight limit.
If you’re 5’5” or shorter, you’ll want to go with a smaller size exercise ball. If you’re 5’6” or taller, reach for a 6cm ball. If you’re over six feet tall, choose a 75cm ball. “Choosing a ball that is too small for the height of the body means either limited movement or limited support,” says Zecher, “and neither of those are a good thing.”
Before a beginner gets started, they’ll want to make sure their exercise ball has enough air in it that it’s firm to the touch (but not overinflated). Zecher also emphasizes that beginners should make sure that, when laying on their stomachs or backs on the stability ball, they’re not too far forward or backwards for their strength level. “Body position on the ball matters and is the difference between getting stronger or getting injured,” she says.
Standing Push Ups
Stand tall facing a wall. Place a stability ball against the wall at chest height. Place your hands wide on the ball, focusing on keeping shoulders and elbows down. Perform a pushup by bending your elbows out and back while bringing your chest and body towards the exercise ball. Then, extend your arms as you push into and away from the ball for one repetition.
Standing Press Backs
Stand tall facing away from the wall with the ball pressed against the wall at back height. Place straight arms and hands at your sides with hands facing backwards. Press your arms down and back into the ball, then slowly return arms to your sides for one repetition. Make sure to slowly return your hands and arms to your sides for maximum benefit.
Seated Bent Leg Raises
Sitting tall on the ball as if it were a chair, put your arms out into a “T” shape. Imagine there is a book on your head for posture, and press it up to the ceiling while pressing your feet into the floor. Raise one foot off the floor, trying not to let the body move side to side. Replace the foot, then try the other side.
Stir the Pot
“This is a great exercise that may be regressed or progressed for difficulty,” says Zecher. “It has endless variations.” To start, kneel in front of the ball with your knees and feet hip-width apart. Place your forearms on the ball, supporting your upper body with your forearms. Then slowly “stir” your forearms on the ball as if stirring a pot. To advance this exercise, lift your knees off the floor and extend your legs back straight as in a high plank position.
Bridges with Back on Stability Ball
Lie face up on the ball with your mid-back pressing into the ball. Allow your arms and hands to cradle your neck. Knees should be bent to 90-degree angle with ankles under knees. Press your hips up towards the ceiling. This is the start position at the top of the bridge. Keeping your body in one plank shape from shoulders to knees, slowly lower hips down towards the floor, then press them up again for one repetition.
Leaning back slightly with the ball placed between your lower back and the wall, slowly lower down as if to sit on a chair. Be sure to always keep feet and knees hip-width distance. Return to standing by driving the feet through the floor to push your body up to complete one repetition. Start with a mini squat, then progress to a 90-degree knee bend squat.