Swiss Balls are a tremendous training tool.
When used correctly, these simple spheres can help build a stronger, leaner and more resilient body. Their design allows for a number of powerful movements that simply aren't possible with other pieces of gym equipment. With that in mind, here are seven Swiss Ball exercises that will help you build a better body.
(NOTE: The size of the Swiss Ball you have available to you may dictate which exercises you are able to perform. A fully inflated Swiss Ball is also vastly superior to an under-inflated Swiss Ball when it comes to being an effective training tool.)
Swiss Ball Dead Bug
The Dead Bug is one of the best core exercises in existence. It's essentially an "anti-extension" exercise where you use your core to prevent your lower back from arching as you extend your arms and legs. That may sound simple, but many people struggle with this movement pattern, which puts dangerous stress on their spine. Adding a Swiss Ball to this exercise kicks it up a notch, increasing the time under tension and resulting in an incredible burn in your deep core muscles.
- Lie on your back with your arms extended up and out in front of your shoulders.
- Bend your hips and knees to a 90-degree angle, wedging the Swiss Ball between your forearms and thighs.
- Tighten your abs and press your lower back into the floor.
- Take a deep breath in.
- As you exhale, slowly extend your left leg toward the floor and bring your right arm overhead. Keep your abs tight and don't let your lower back arch.
- Maintain tension on the Swiss Ball with the two limbs contacting it so it does not move.
- Slowly return your arm and leg to the starting position.
- Repeat with your opposite arm and leg. Continue alternating sides until the set is complete.
- Demonstrated at the :00 mark in the above video.
Swiss Ball Feet-Elevated Push-Up
The Swiss Ball Feet-Elevated Push-Up is a way to hammer your upper pecs, shoulders, triceps and core muscles all in one exercise. The added instability of having your feet on the ball requires a greater contributor from the stabilizer muscles in your shoulders and core, yet keeping your hands on a firm surface allows you to perform powerful, muscle-building Push-Ups.
- Assume a push-up position and dig your toes into the top of a Swiss Ball.
- Keeping your core tight and back flat, perform a Push-Up.
- Demonstrated at the :11 mark in the above video.
Swiss Ball Single-Leg Squat
Unilateral training, meaning training that targets one limb at a time as opposed to both, has a number of great benefits. For one, it destroys muscular imbalances. Two, it requires a greater contribution from the core and stabilizer muscles throughout the body. And three, most athletic movements are performed off one leg, so if you want to run faster and jump higher in competition, you need to be strong off one leg. The Swiss Ball Single-Leg Squat is a great unilateral lower-body exercise for exactly such reasons. The introduction of the Swiss Ball makes this exercise easier than a standard Pistol Squat, but it still presents plenty of challenge for your average gym-goer.
- Find a flat wall.
- Place the Swiss Ball between your back and the wall (you may need to tinker with the height of the ball depending on your proportions).
- Stick your right leg out.
- Maintaining pressure on the Swiss Ball, lower into a Single-Leg Squat with your left leg.
- Squat until your left thigh is parallel to the ground.
- Driving through your heel, stand back up to return to the starting position.
- Repeat until the set is finished and then switch legs.
- You can hold light dumbbells in your hands if you reach a point where the bodyweight move feels too easy.
- Demonstrated at the :31 mark in the above video.
Sets/Reps: 3x6-8 each leg
Swiss Ball Stir-the-Pot
Ready to set your core on fire? Swiss Ball Stir-the-Pots are for you. By building in some dynamic movement to a plank position and performing that dynamic movement on the instability of a Swiss Ball, this exercise torches your core from a variety of angles. You can also perform this exercise from a High Plank position, à la LeBron James, but the standard variation should be plenty difficult for most people.
- Get into a standard plank position with your forearms on a stability ball.
- While maintaining a strong core, use your forearms to rotate the ball in a circular motion until you reach your original starting point.
- Continue to rotate until you complete the specified number of reps before rotating in the opposite direction.
- Focus on preventing your lower back from sagging during the movement.
- Demonstrated at the :43 mark in the above video.
Sets/Reps: 3x6-8 circles in each direction
Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl & Thrust
Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl & Thrusts are a great exercise for building strength and stability throughout your hamstrings and glutes. The move is essentially two exercises in one, and the design of the Swiss Ball allows you to keep your muscles under tension for longer. In addition to your hamstrings and glutes, this exercise also targets the musculature in your hips and lower core.
- Place your feet on a stability ball with your heels into the ball and your toes up.
- Bend your knees toward your chest.
- Extend your hips as high as you can.
- Hold for a count before lowering your hips (but keeping the Swiss Ball in place) and performing a hip thrust.
- With your hips still fully extended, slowly extend your legs, rolling the ball out away from you while keeping your hips as elevated as possible.
- That sequence counts as one rep.
- Demonstrated at the :55 mark in the above video.
Swiss Ball Pike Roll Out
STACK expert Nick Tumminello, owner of Performance University, considers this "the ultimate ab exercise." The Swiss Ball Pike Roll Out is essentially another efficient move that essentially incorporates two distinct exercises into one fluid movement. The key here is to prevent your lower back from sagging via the continuous activation of your core muscles.
- Assume a High Plank position with your feet on top of a Swiss Ball. The closer the Swiss Ball is to the top of your feet, the more difficult the exercise will be. The closer it is to your knees, the easier it'll be.
- While keeping a rigid core, pull the Swiss Ball underneath you by bridging your hips to the ceiling to get into a pike position.
- Slowly lower yourself to return to the starting position while maintaining rigidity throughout your core.
- From the starting position, use your hands to push yourself back. Your core must prevent your lower back from sagging.
- Once you've rolled out as far as safely possible, hold for a count before rolling yourself back into the starting position.
- That entire sequence counts as one rep.
- Demonstrated at the 1:09 mark in the above video.
Swiss Ball I-Y-T
I-Y-Ts are a great exercise for combating the slumped shoulders posture that's become endemic in our smartphone-obsessed society. If you don't have access to an incline bench, you can use a Swiss Ball to perform this exercise (the bigger the ball, the better). This simple series of movements, named so because the gestures of your hands mimic the letters "I", "Y" and "T" during the exercise sequence, strengthens important areas of the shoulders and upper back.
- Lie chest-down on the Swiss Ball.
- Keeping your shoulders down and away from your ears, draw your hands vertically into an "I" position.
- Return your hands to your sides before drawing them upwards into a "Y" position.
- Return your hands to your sides before drawing them outwards into a "T" position.
- That entire sequence is one rep.
- You can hold very light dumbbells or weight plates if the exercise feels too easy.
- Demonstrated at the :20 mark in the above video.
Sets/Reps: 3x10 reps
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