Road Work: Exercise With a Stability Ball

Annette stability ballYou’ve seen them, right? The big balls that look like they belong on the beach?

Stability balls came to the fitness industry through physical therapy, originally called “physioballs.” In short, a stability ball is unstable.

That means your body has to work to stay still when you sit on it, lean on it, or lie on it.

This makes the muscles in your midsection—or core—have to react to the subtle changes in position.

The little muscles in and around your joints need to help you stay still, increasing your ability to stabilize yourself (like when you catch yourself off balance). It also helps in strength training, since many times it is those smaller muscles that give out first when lifting weights.

The correct size of the ball depends on which exercise you are doing, but a good option is a 65-centimeter size. Several companies make these ball, including Perform Better (shown in photos), which start at $22.95.

Not sure how you’re going to carry that giant ball on the plane? Don’t worry, they can pumped up fairly quickly. Just pack the deflated ball and pump into your bag and you can take your workout on the road. Best of all, you can do this routine in a hotel gym or in the privacy of your own room.

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When you try the following routine, you might feel your body and joints shaking a little, meaning that your nervous system is working hard to maintain your balance as you do the exercises. Do up to 20 repetitions of each exercise, or as many as you can. Do the entire circuit one to two times for a great full body routine.

Single leg squats against the wall
single leg squat Leaning against the ball gives you a little support, making it easier to balance on one leg:

  • Stand against the ball, against the wall, so that your lower back is supported by the ball.
  • Put your feet about one foot in front of you, and right next to each other.
  • Lift up one foot and get your balance.
  • Bend your hips and knees so that your butt goes back a little, until your thigh is parallel to the floor, or as low as you can balance yourself.
  • If this is too difficult, do the squats with both feet on the floor, hip width apart.

Push-ups with legs on the ball
push up stability ballIt’s easier than regular push-ups on your toes, but challenging to your core:

  • Kneel on the floor, in front of the ball.
  • Reach up and over the ball, putting your hands down on the floor on the opposite side of the ball.
  • Walk forward with your hands, allowing your thighs to move forward on the ball.
  • The further you walk out, the harder the exercise will be.
  • With your hands at shoulder width, at chest/shoulder height, bend both elbows, lowering your upper body towards the floor.

Bonus exercise: reverse crunches

  • When you have finished the push ups, stay in that position and bend your knees, pulling your knees towards your chest.

Hamstring curls
hamstring curl start These are great for your butt and the back of your thighs:

  • Lie face up on the floor with your legs on the ball. The more of your legs that are on the ball, the easier the exercise will be.
  • Keep your arms out to the side just in case you need them for balance. Bring them closer to your body to increase the challenge.
  • Lift your hips up in the air, potentially until there is a straight line from your shoulders through your hips.
  • Bend your knees, and pull the ball towards your butt, trying to keep your hips up as high as possible the entire time.
  • Bonus: try this with one leg up and one leg on the ball for more of a challenge!

Lat rollouts
lat rollout endThese are great for your core, your lats (the big muscles in your back), and your arms:

  • Kneel on the floor right in front of the ball, with your arms straight, and on the ball.
  • Roll the ball forward, leaning forward from your knees as you do this. You should aim for keeping your body in a straight line, hinging from the knees only.
  • The further out you go, the harder it is.
  • Push down into the ball with your arms as you come back to the starting position.

U and T
the T of T and U These are great exercises for your upper middle back—perfect after a long flight!

  • Lie face down on the ball, with your belly on the ball.
  • Maintaining neutral spine, hold your arms straight, next to your head as if making the letter “U.” Lift your arms up and down.
  • Put your arms out to the side at shoulder height as if making the letter “T.” Turn your thumbs out, lift arms up and down.

crunch start These crunches are tougher than on the floor since you have to keep your body positioned on the ball.

  • Lie on the ball with the ball at your lower back, and your feet hip width apart, and your knees at 90 degrees.
  • Lean back over the ball, then curl up into a crunch.
  • Bonus: hold a book over your head for more of a challenge to your abs.

By Annette Lang for Visit Annette’s Web site at

Don’t miss more articles about keeping fit on the road in our Travel Health & Fitness section. There you’ll find articles like:

Make Travel Exercise Fun Again With These Gadgets

High-Intensity Holiday Travel Workouts

Workout Options for the Hotel Pool

Hotel Gyms and Working (Out) Around Them