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Gym Ball Exercise

What’s the deal with those big bouncy balls taking up space around the gym? Stability balls (also called exercise balls, balance balls, Swiss balls, or fitness balls) are more than just fun to sit and bounce on—they’re a great way to improve strength, cardio endurance, and balance. By tackling basic moves (like push-ups, squats, and planks) on an unstable surface, muscles get more bang for their buck . Stability balls are also great for getting back into shape after an injury because they can reduce muscle and spinal strain during certain movements .

Reps and sets will depend on fitness levels, but for most of these exercises we recommend doing 3 to 5 sets of 10 to 20 reps. After a few workouts, try bumping up the reps to really test that strength. Ready to go? These moves take the stability ball way beyond the basic crunch.

The Routine

Go ahead—have an (inflatable) ball. When it comes to fitness equipment, there’s little that works your whole body better. To stay on the ball—literally—you’re forced to engage all your muscles, which builds strength and improves stability. This head-to-toe toning routine was designed by Ashley Conrad, a personal trainer and the owner of Clutch BodyShop, in Los Angeles. Do it three times through, three times a week.

Move 1: Triceps Dip

Sit on a workout bench (or a stable chair) with your hands placed on the edge, fingers pointing forward. Rest your calves and ankles on top of a firm ball. Straighten your arms to lift your hips off the bench. Bend your arms to lower your body, then straighten them to the starting position. Repeat 15 times.

Move 2: Lower-Ab Crunch

Lie on the floor with arms beside you and calves on the ball. (A) Lift your backside up without arching your back (keep your abdominals tight for support). (B) With hips still raised, bend your knees and roll the ball toward you with your feet until they’re flat on top of the ball. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 15 times.

Move 3: Plank

Assume the top of a push-up position but rest your forearms on the ball. Keep your abs strong and your neck in line with your spine. Hold the pose for 45 seconds.

Move 4: Crunch

(A) Lie on the ball with your middle back resting on top, arms straight, and palms on your upper thighs. (B) Curl your upper body forward, one vertebra at a time, keeping your hands on your thighs. Lower to the starting position. Repeat 15 times.

Move 5: Shoulder Curl and Press

Hold the ball out in front of you with your feet hip-distance apart. (A) With arms straight, bring the ball down to your thighs. (B) Bend your elbows and curl the ball up to eye level. (C) Press the ball up at a 45-degree angle until your arms are fully extended. Return to the starting position. Repeat 15 times.

Move 6: Side Squat

(A) Hold the ball above your head with your arms straight and feet hip-distance apart. (B) Keep your back flat and abs tight as you bend your knees and twist your torso to lower the ball toward your left foot. Return to the center with the ball overhead, then twist to the right side. Repeat 15 times.