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24 Most Effective Stability Ball Exercises To Enhance Your Body Shape

24 Most Effective Stability Ball Exercises To Enhance Your Body Shape

Some people call them stability balls, exercise balls, Swiss balls, or fitness balls. Whatever you call it, this piece of exercise equipment is undeniably helpful in targeting important group muscles like the back, core, arms, glutes, and hamstrings. So, go grab your stability ball and let’s have some fun doing cardio and strength exercises. Yes, you heard me. You can perform both cardio and strength exercises on this bouncy ball. However, before jumping on one, make sure it’s the right fit for you. Simply sit on the ball, if your knees and hips form a right angle, then you found the right one.

Here are the 24 most effective stability ball exercises for a stronger and shapelier you. First up, let’s emphasize some core exercises.

1. Plank

Place your forearms on the Stability Ball™, shoulders over elbows, fingers interlaced, legs together or hip-distance apart, knees bent, hips lowered, and body in long diagonal line. Inhale and prepare to exhale as you extend your knees and hips to come up to a plank position. Hold for a few breaths. Then, exhale as you lower back your knees. To make the forearm plank more challenging, Michelle Vodrazka of Inspired Bodies likes to place her feet on a bench instead of the floor. Aim to complete 5 to 8 reps. Here’s a photo of a perfect plank shared by Agata Kazimierski, director of MERRITHEW™.

Merrithew_Plank_775x400

    Photography © Merrithew Corporation

    2. Plank to Pike

    This is a challenging, yet highly rewarding move for most people. Are you ready? To do this exercise, place your feet on a stability ball with your hands on the floor, directly under your shoulders. From there, you contract your entire abdominal core tightly to pike up (butt leading), drawing the stability ball under. Hold the pike and return to your plank position. Try to do 3 to 5 sets with 8 to 10 reps each set. Watch Tosca Reno (New York Times bestselling author of Your Best Body Now, the Eat-Clean Diet® series, and The Start Here Diet) as she demonstrates this killer core workout.

    4KapJB

      3. Pike it up!

      Do you want to target and strengthen the deepest abdominal muscles in your body? Trying to master pressing to handstand? If yes, then there’s no better prop than a stability ball. Roll one out, and let’s have some fun with Ally Hamilton, a Santa Monica-based yoga teacher, writer, and life coach. She streams online yoga classes all over the world. Hamilton is also the co-creator of YogisAnonymous.com. This is a fun variation of your Plank to Pike exercise. The difference? It’s hella intense! Start off like your Plank to Pike exercise. Instead of flexing, your feet should be extended on the ball. Inhale, then exhale as you slide the ball towards you. Repeat 10 to 20 times.

      pike it up

        4. Plank with Knee Stretches

        Yes, that’s right. Even your knees need some good old stretching from time to time. Start in plank position, with the stability ball placed underneath the shins. The body is in a straight line from shoulders to ankles. Exhale. Round the spine and use your abs to roll the ball in towards the hands, shins staying on the top of the ball, knees bending in towards the chest, eyes gazing at the abdominals. Inhale. Roll the ball away from the hands, then back to plank position. Try to do 15 to 20 knee stretches.

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        knee stretches

          5. High Plank Hip Extension

          This intense core exercise shared by Ella Magers of Sexy Fit Vegan requires not only core strength, but also a keen sense of balance. Start in a high plank position with your hands on the floor and the top of your feet on the ball. Make sure your hands are directly underneath your shoulders. Engage your core to stabilize your body. Using your right glute muscle, raise your right leg off the ball about 6 inches. Hold the position for a few seconds before gently placing it back down and performing the same movement with your left leg. Make sure to keep your leg straight (do not bend at the knee). Repeat until you reach failure.

          6. Leg Circles

          Coach Noelle of Fitness A Way Of Life takes core training a notch higher. How? Lie on your back and place the stability ball between your legs. Elevate your legs up so your feet face the ceiling. You then lower your legs in a circular motion while still holding the ball. Each time you rotate your legs, aim to make the circle wider until you reach the point where your feet almost touch the ground. Do this in both directions. Repeat 10 times for beginners, 15 to 20 times for advanced training.

          7. Corkscrews

          Who would have thought that a stability ball could help you achieve rock-solid abs? This intense variation of a stability ball core exercise, as demonstrated by Ben Greenfield, will give you that sculpted six-pack in one single move. So, grab that ball, and let’s get on to it. Start on a push-up position with hands on the floor and feet on the ball. Rotate your body to one side by lifting a leg over the other then back to the ball— that’s one rep. Try to achieve 10 to 20 reps per leg before switching to the other side.

          corkscrew

            8. Leg Beats

            Kathy Corey Pilates, one of the original founding companies of the Pilates Method, shared this fun yet effective core training exercise. To start, lie on top of the ball, placing it below your stomach with legs together and straight. Point your toes. Place your hands on the floor, and walk forward until the ball is below your thighs. Your fingertips should be angled inward. From there, lower your arms as you lift your legs toward the ceiling. Separate your legs until they are slightly wider than hips. Close and open your legs with small, quick beats, then bring your legs together as you drop them low at the level of the ball. Straighten your arms and walk backwards until the ball is below the torso. Fun, right? Now repeat 10 to 20 times.

            9. Single Leg Teaser with a Twist

            There’s literally a twist in this exercise. To start, lie on your back while holding the stability ball above you with both hands, legs straight and together. Curl the torso, reach the fitness ball forward, and lift one leg off the ground. Bend the knee of the lifted leg while simultaneously rotating the torso to twist to the direction of the bent knee. The opposite leg on the ground is straight and firmly pressed down. Straighten the lifted leg and lower the torso a few inches. Repeat the movement three more times on this side and switch legs. Watch Pilates Anytime trainers as they literally put a twist to this core exercise. Having fun? The girls from Pilates Anytime are giving Lifehack readers an exclusive 30-day free trial. Just use the coupon code LIFEHACK. You’re welcome. Enjoy!

            leg teasers

              10. Ab Roll to Back Extension

              This is an intense, deep core exercise as well as a great spine opener and stretcher. Who doesn’t love that? Start by sitting upright on the stability ball, legs straight, and feet planted wider than hips distance apart. Draw your navel in and extend your arms straight forward for balance. Begin by rounding the spine and rolling backwards onto the ball, one vertebrae at a time. Make sure to keep your abs tight. Lift your arms overhead and lie all the way back to a supported back bend on the stability ball as shown by bi-coastal fitness expert and personality Shay Kostabi. Draw your navel in, and reverse the movements to come up to sitting position. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

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              ab roll

                11. Boat Pose

                Tone your core and increase your lung capacity with the boat pose exercise, featuring Yogist Amy Ippoliti. From a seated position, hold the ball in your hands, lean back, extend your legs straight out, and spread your toes. Do your best to keep your lower back engaged so that you’re rolling toward the front of your sitting bones, rather than the rear of your sitting bones. Elongate your legs so your quads stay toned but not stressed. Breathe in three full deep breaths and then relax. Repeat 3 to 5 times.

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                  Photography © Taro Smith

                  Here are some exercises emphasizing the upper body. 

                  12. Military Press

                  Get ready to burn those guns! The Military Press or Shoulder Press on a stability ball not only targets your arms, but also strengthens your core. That’s two-in-one, baby! It mainly focuses on the deltoids, but to avoid swinging from one side to the other, you must stabilize the core as well. The execution of this exercise is simply to press upwards and simultaneously inwards while keeping the core tight and keeping the stress and tension on the shoulders as shown by fitness expert Alex Carneiro. Repeat as many times as you can.

                  military press

                    13. Triceps Dumbbell Extensions

                    Don’t you just hate those flabby, lifeless arms? This exercise will target the triceps. It’s a great exercise for both men and women if they are trying to tone all three heads of the triceps. Full extension of the elbow is required for contraction of the triceps. Ensure that you get a full stretch at the bottom as well. Repeat as many times as you can.

                    triceps

                      14. Dumbbell Chest Fly

                      This is a great exercise for developing the inner and outer portion of the chest. It is performed on a ball to enhance range of motion of the exercise, but for those who aren’t experienced, they have to be careful so they don’t open too much and over stretch the shoulder and elbow joints. Repeat as many times as you can.

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                      chest fly

                        15. Arm Circles from a Plank

                        Drop down to a forearm plank on the ball, and gently rotate the ball in a circular motion in both directions using your arms while keeping your core tight and lifted. Coach Noelle says, “It’s a great way to engage the arms with the core.” Repeat 10 times for beginners, 15 to 20 times for advanced training.

                        16. Push-ups

                        You think you know everything about push-ups? Think again. The push-up on the stability ball adds difficulty to the common push-up. Even the most fit will feel the burn with this one. Christie McGonagle of Model Fitness shares a modification to this exercise to isolate the movement. McGonagle suggests not coming back to a plank from a push-up. Hold for 5-10 seconds and work up to longer holds. Repeat as many times as you can.

                        pushup

                          17. Flat to Incline Dumbbell Press

                          Move over bench, stability balls are in! To do this exercise, lay down with your upper back on the ball, keeping your lower back and glutes unsupported. It’s the same position you would be in when doing a flat dumbbell press on a bench, except that your lower back is off the bench. Press the weights up from that position. Now, before you start to lower the weights you will drop your hips/glutes toward the floor, so that you are in the position of an incline dumbbell press.

                          Lower the weights slowly, under control, while staying in this inclined position. Once you’ve lowered the weights all the way down, you will bridge your hips back up so that you are in a flat dumbbell press position once again. Press them back up, then repeat the sequence. Aim for 10 to 20 reps with this exercise.

                          Do you wonder why there’s all this fuss of changing positions? Let Coach Jason Ferruggia enlighten you, “You are stronger in a flat position than an incline. By pressing up from the flat position and then lowering on an incline, you can overload the upper pecs eccentrically with more resistance than normal. The eccentric portion of the rep is very important for muscle growth, and this is a cool way to emphasize it on the Swiss Ball”. Well said, Coach.

                          18. Back Crunch

                          Do you suffer from chronic back pain? Oh man, then this exercise is for you. Grab a stability ball, and let’s get to work. These are the same muscles we target and strengthen in all the Salabhasana variations. But when we use the ball, we kick it up several degrees. There’s no reason you need to deal with frequent back pain. Let’s start solving that for you right now. Do 8 to 10 reps per set.

                          strengthen your back

                            These exercises emphasize your lower body. 

                            19. Jump Squats

                            This is a very intense and swift move. Holding the ball at your chest level, lower your body into a squat position. As you jump up, extend the ball from your chest as you straighten your arms. Pull the ball back to your chest-level as you return to a squat position. Repeat 10 times for beginners, 15 to 20 times for advanced training.

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                            20. Hamstring and Glutes Bridge

                            The key to safe backbends is active legs. Use the stability ball to target your hamstrings and work your glutes (but don’t grip them!). If you’re working on scorpion poses, there’s no better way to find the contraction you need in the hamstrings to complete the pose. To begin, lie on your back and place the ball under your heels. Keep your arms flat on the ground as you do the bridge by lifting your hips towards the ceiling. Remember to use your legs and engage your glutes. For advanced training, raise one leg as you lift your hips to a bridge pose. Aim to do 15 to 20 bridges.

                            bridge

                              bridge lift one leg

                                21. Supine Hip Extension with Knee Flexion

                                This is another variation of your hip bridge shared by Coach Paul Chek, one of the innovators who brought the use of Swiss balls into the fitness industry in the mid-1990s. By the way, it comes with a challenge. Lie on the floor, calves on the ball, arms out to your sides, and palms facing up. Extend up from the hips until you reach a straight line, feet-hips-shoulders. Keeping the hips lifted, draw the ball towards you by bending your knees. The hips should remain in line with the shoulders and knees. The challenge? Do not let your butt drop towards the floor! Slowly straighten the legs, then lower the hips to the starting position. Aim to do 15 to 20 of this bad boy.

                                22. Crunch and Leg Curl

                                This is a two-in-one exercise which targets the abdominal and leg muscles, all in one easy move. Start with your back on the floor, legs extended, heels on top of the ball. Place your hands behind your head. Breathe in then  breathe out as you bring in your knees towards your chest. Hold that position for 3 seconds, then return to your starting position. It’s like your regular crunch but with your feet on top of the ball. Click here to watch a crunch and leg curl exercise from Franklin’s iBodyFit. Aim to do 15 to 20 crunches.

                                23. Prone Leg Raise

                                Strengthen your lower back muscles with this easy move. Place the stability ball under your hips close to your navel, hands on the floor aligned with your shoulders. Make sure you can freely move your legs. Your toes should be pointing to the floor, legs straight as you exhale, and lift your legs as high as you can towards the ceiling. Inhale as you slowly release your legs down. Coach Nicole of SparkPeople emphasizes that this exercise is all about slow and controlled movements. You shouldn’t use momentum to swing the legs. No cheating! Try to do 15 to 20 slow repetitions.

                                Lastly, a cool down exercise.

                                24. Legs Up The Ball

                                Hold the ball as you lay down on your back. Bend your knees up and rest your calves on top of the ball. Make sure the ball is nice and close to your butt. Stretch your arms out at your sides. Make sure that they are at a 45 degree angle with your palms facing up. Close your eyes and rest here for 5 to 15 minutes, being mindful of your breath. This is a great restorative pose when you need to get grounded, rejuvenate after a stressful day, or help to calm the nervous system.

                                Photography © Taro Smith

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                                  Last Updated on August 12, 2019

                                  12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

                                  12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

                                  Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

                                  But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

                                  I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

                                  Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

                                  1. Nuts

                                  The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

                                  Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

                                  Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

                                  Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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                                  2. Blueberries

                                  Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

                                  When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

                                  3. Tomatoes

                                  Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

                                  4. Broccoli

                                  While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

                                  Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

                                  Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

                                  5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

                                  Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

                                  The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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                                  Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

                                  6. Soy

                                  Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

                                  Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

                                  Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

                                  7. Dark Chocolate

                                  When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

                                  Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

                                  8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

                                  Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

                                  B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

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                                  Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

                                  Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

                                  To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

                                  9. Foods Rich in Zinc

                                  Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

                                  Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

                                  Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

                                  10. Gingko Biloba

                                  This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

                                  It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

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                                  However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

                                  11. Green and Black Tea

                                  Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

                                  Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

                                  Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

                                  12. Sage and Rosemary

                                  Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

                                  Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

                                  When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

                                  More About Boosting Brain Power

                                  Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                                  Reference

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