How to use gym balls: 3 best core exercises

Want to get fit, develop your core or rehab an injury? Fit balls, also known as exercise balls or gym balls, can do it all – here are the best exercises for beginners to try…

Whether you sit on one at your desk or have performed sit-ups on it, chances are you’ve used a fit ball at some stage. But did you know it does far more than provide a base for crunches? Fit balls – also known as stability balls, exercise balls, balance balls or Swiss balls – are more than just fun to sit and wobble on, they’re a great way to improve strength, cardio endurance, and balance, too.

Related: Yoga for core strength: best poses for stronger abs

3 Best Gym Ball Exercises for Core Strength

Try the following gym ball exercises to reap the rewards…

stability ball squats demonstration

Stability Ball Squat

Holding the ball overhead whilst you squat will help engage core muscles, align your back, and work your arms and shoulders.

Focus area: Bottom, legs, core and shoulders

How to do a stability ball squat:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the ball between your hands, above your head (A).
  • Pushing your weight into your heels, sit your hips down and back until your knees hit a 90-degree angle (B). Keep your abs tight and your knees behind your toes.
  • To come back up, push through your heels and bottom as you press back to a standing position

Beginners: 3 x 10 reps • Intermediates: 3 x 12 reps • Advanced: 3 x 20 reps

stability ball chest flye woman demonstrates chest fly on exercise gym ball

Stability Ball Chest Fly

By performing this move on the stability ball, you’ll not only strengthen the muscles of the chest but you’ll also work your core, bottom and hamstrings.

Focus area: Chest, bottom, back and core

Related: Pilates ab workout: best exercises for a strong core 

How to do a stability ball chest fly:

  • Hold a pair of dumbbells close to your chest and place your shoulder blades and head on top of the ball, with the rest of your body in a tabletop position. Feet should be hip-distance apart and flat on the ground.
  • Raise the dumbbells together straight above your chest, with your palms facing in (A).
  • Slowly lower your arms out to the side, with a slight bend in your elbow, until the elbows are about chest level (B).
  • Squeeze your chest to bring your hands back together at the top. If you’re too wobbly, place your feet apart wider for more stability.

Beginners: 2 x 12 reps • Intermediates: 3 x 15 reps • Advanced: 4 x 15 reps

woman demonstrates stability ball ab pike on gym exercise balls stability ball abs pike demonstration

Stability Ball Abs Pike

This tricky exercise will work the abs while taking any pressure off of the lower back and hip flexors. The pike will also strengthen your shoulders, chest and arms.

Focus area: Arms, shoulders, core, hamstrings

How to do a stability ball pike:

  • Begin in a plank position, with your feet on the ball and your hands on the floor just below your shoulders.
  • As you exhale, lift your hips and pull your feet toward your mid-line until your body forms an upside-down ‘V’ (A).
  • As you inhale, return to plank, making sure you tighten your abdominals to avoid letting your back sag (B).

Beginners: 2 x 5 reps • Intermediates: 3 x 6 reps • Advanced: 3 x 10 reps

Top tips when buying an exercise ball:

The stability ball is an awesome tool but it’s vital to choose the right size. A good rule of thumb is that those 5’4” and under use the smaller balls, and those taller choose the larger balls. Test it out before grabbing weights and starting the movements. Try the MyProtein Exercise Ball and Pump (£15).

Related: The best fitness classes for strong core and abs

Words and model: Lucy Miller | Photography: Eddie Macdonald | Clothing: Tala Sculpt Seamless Zahara Sports Bra and Sculpt Seamless leggings in Violet Marl (£40 and £52). Lacoste Active 4851 sneakers (£120). FALKE Active Breeze No Show Socks (£12). Ette Gold Dumbbells (from £180)

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