You can tell that colleague who insists on sitting smugly on a big bouncy ball “for his back” that he’s wasting his time: multiple studies have shown that this is no better – and possibly worse – for posture than using an ergonomic chair. He’d be better off using the gym ball for its intended purpose. One reason this bit of kit is sometimes known as a Swiss ball is that therapists in Basel developed its use as a tool for back rehab, because when you sit, lean or kneel against it, it adds instability to an exercise. And that means you engage your deep core muscles hard to keep your balance.
“This added dimension will improve your core stability – crucial for a well supported pain-free spine,” says coach Fred Westcott, who created this circuit of gym ball exercises, moves that add awkward resistance to challenge your whole body. “The result is you burn extra calories to fight the instability and avoid falling flat on your face.”
How to do it
Do exercises 1 to 5 for 30 seconds, resting 30 seconds between each. “If you’re a beginner you can aim for a ratio of 20sec/40sec, while those more advanced can push it to 40/20,” says Westcott. Repeat the circuit five times in total to take you up to a total time of 25 minutes. Do exercise 6 as a core-blasting finisher, aiming for five rotations each way.
1 Overhead squat
Hold the ball with straight arms and retract your shoulder blades to keep it directly overhead. Keep your chest and head up as you lower into a squat, keeping your weight on your heels. Drive back up to the start.
2 Jackknife press-up
Get into a press-up position with your feet on top of the ball. Keeping your hips still, roll the ball towards your hands by bending your legs. Return to the start and then do a press-up.
3 Glute bridge
Lie on the floor with your heels on the gym ball. Drive your hips up, rolling the ball towards you, until your body is in a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Pause, then return to the start.
Lie on your back, holding the ball in both hands just off the floor. Contract your abs muscles to bring the ball above you and pass it to your feet. Lower the ball with your feet until it’s just off the floor, then reverse the move.
5 Lunge with woodchop
Start holding the ball low to your left side with straight arms. With your right foot, step forwards into a deep lunge, rotating your core to bring the ball across and up to your other side, then reverse the move. Complete at least three reps on one side, then switch to the other.
6 Stir the pot
With your feet fairly wide apart, rest your elbows on top of the ball. Engage your core to keep your body stable and slowly make small circles with your hands, as if stirring a pot. Alternate directions with each rep.
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Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health, fitness and wellness. For over a decade he's reported on Olympic Games, CrossFit Games and World Cups, and quizzed luminaries of elite sport, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Sam is also a REPS level 3 qualified personal trainer, online coach and founder of Your Daily Fix. Sam is also Coach’s designated reviewer of massage guns and fitness mirrors.