In my previous post called “Who Needs Core Fitness?” I made the case for the central role (no pun intended) for core strength in your body’s ability to move efficiently and hold still effectively. Sports require we are both stable and still. There are many exercises to strengthen the core. To make the grade with me they must pass these tests:
- They need to be simple to execute, at least in their basic form.
- They must require little or at least easily accessible equipment.
- They need need to be “functional,” that is, part of the whole body movement and not just an isolated exercise.
- I have to have fun doing them and even more fun teaching them.
Here are 5 fitness ball exercises I recommend to start athletes building a strong core. Once you master these, give a holler (send an email, post a comment) and we’ll up the intensity a bit.
1. The Clam – With the ball in front of you, roll your body forward, chest, then belly, then thighs and ending in a knees folded under you (clam) position on top of the ball. This is a great ‘get used to the ball’ activity and kids love it. Perform 10-15 reps or as many as they want if you have the time.
2. Push Up or Plank position on the Ball – Roll your body across the top of the ball as far as you can and still keep your balance. The further you roll, the greater the challenge. Hold that position. Start with 30 seconds. Progress to 60 seconds. Add to the challenge by lifting one arm, then the other. Perform push ups with only your feet on the ball. Advanced: try a sideways roll, balancing on your side.
3. Sit Ups on the Ball – Lie back on the ball so your head falls over the far side. (the further you drop the head the more challenging the exercise) With hands behind head for support, bend your body forward from the waist. Make your waist the pivot point and not your neck. Advanced: twist and sit up facing 45 degrees right and repeat left. Perform 2 sets of 10-15 reps, slowly and controlled.
4. Bridges on the Ball – Balance with back and shoulders on the ball, knees bent and both feet flat on the floor. Holding core strong and without leaning, extend one leg and hold. Repeat with other leg. Perform these slowly, holding at least for a count of 5-10. Keep the back straight; don’t sag.
5. Reverse curls with the big ball – Position the ball and squeeze it securely between the feet. Keeping the back pressed against the floor, raise the ball up, hold, control the return to the floor to touch it gently again. For a challenge, pass the ball from your feet into your hands. Bring your feet down as you raise the ball over the head, touch to the floor and then bring it back to position it between the feet. Then lower it again. Advanced: In ball raised position, rotate hips to the right and touch the ball down, repeat left. Perform 2 sets of 10-15 reps.