Beginning Exercise Program on an Exercise Ball

exercise ball
Figure 1
(larger view)

exercise ball
Figure 2
(larger view)

Beginning an exercise program with an exercise ball should begin with stretches and learning simple exercise ball routines.

Beginning Exercise Ball Stretches

There are several stretches that are easy to do when starting to use an exercise ball. Importantly, these stretching exercises help with proprioception, or the sense of the position or parts of the body relative to the rest of the body, and with balance. Each of these stretches should be done slowly 8 to 12 times.

  • Move the hips from side-to-side. While sitting on the exercise ball (as described above) and keeping the knees still, move the hips gently from side to side. Pause for a second at the end of each sideways movement to allow for a gentle stretch.
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  • Move hips from front-to-back. While keeping the knees still, place hands on the knees and rotate the hips forward by tucking the buttocks first under the pelvis, and then push them out behind the pelvis. All the motion should be limited to the hip area, not the knees or chest.

Beginning Exercise Ball Routines

The following two simple exercises are examples of how to use the exercise ball to help strengthen the stomach and low back muscles. These are both simple to do and are gentle on the back. Remember, for beginners, using a slightly deflated exercise ball provides more stability than a fully inflated ball and may be more comfortable. Each of these stretches should be done slowly 8 to 12 times.

  • Marching. While sitting on the exercise ball (as described above) start by lifting the heel of one foot off the floor, then go up onto the toe, eventually lifting the whole foot up. Hold for a second and then switch to the other side. Notice how much the stomach muscles have to contract to lift the foot off the floor.

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  • Exercise ball squat. While standing with feet shoulder width apart, place the exercise ball against a wall and aligned with the lower back. Face away from the wall and lean back against it, pressing the ball between the lower back and the wall (See Figure 1). Keep the hips aligned with the shoulders. Move both feet out so they are slightly in front of the hips. Bend the knees slightly down, then up (See Figure 2). Start with a small movement and hold for one or two seconds in the down position and up position. Go slowly and do 10-12 repetitions.

For beginners, just getting started with some simple, safe, and effective activities with the exercise ball is what's important. After that, there is a wide range and variety of types of back exercises that can be completed on an exercise ball, depending on one's interest, ability, and back condition.

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