How do I Start an Exercise Ball Program?

Dan Cavallari

An exercise ball program can be a difficult program to begin for many people, simply because the muscles that the exercise ball program will help are usually significantly weakened from lack of use or injury. The core muscles — the muscles of the lower back, stomach, groin, thighs, and hips — stabilize the body, and when these muscles are weakened or injured, other muscles and bones in the body go unsupported and can consequently be injured. An exercise ball program is a great way to counteract such weakness, and starting such a program can be as simple as sitting down.

Exercise balls can be used for pushups.
Exercise balls can be used for pushups.

Purchase an exercise ball that is large enough for you to sit on while typing at a computer or writing at a desk. The act of sitting on the ball will engage core muscles automatically, as the body will have to stabilize itself on the round, movable ball. Just by sitting down, your exercise ball program has begun. You have familiarized yourself with the equipment, gotten used to its flexibility, and engaged core muscles. Sit on the exercise ball daily, as it is better for the lower back and spine than sitting in a normal, straight-backed chair.

Exercise ball DVDs allow people to work out in the comfort of their own home.
Exercise ball DVDs allow people to work out in the comfort of their own home.

The different exercise possibilities for an exercise ball program are countless, and many exercises can get your core strengthened quickly, but it is important to start small. Most people who start such a program have weakened cores, and putting too much stress on the core all at once can be counterproductive and cause injury. Simply moving the hips side to side slowly can be a slow and easy start to the exercise ball program. Doing the exercise slowly ensures that the core muscles engage, and inertia does not kick in and prevent the muscles from strengthening. Roll the hips slowly backward and forward, too, to engage other core muscles.

After you are comfortable with simple exercises like the ones above, try a ball squat. This is slightly more advanced, but it is easy enough to do if a portion of bare wall is available. Stand with your back to the wall and press your exercise ball between your lower back and buttocks and the wall. With your feet about hip-width to shoulder-width apart, slowly move downward into a squatting position. The ball will stay mostly in place and your spine will roll downward. Once you have reached the squatting position — with your knees bent at about ninety degrees — hold the position with your spine straight. The ball will provide resistance while you do this, forcing you to engage your core muscles. After a few seconds, return to the starting position, then repeat the motion.

Even the simple act of sitting on an exercise ball engages the body's core muscles.
Even the simple act of sitting on an exercise ball engages the body's core muscles.

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