Exercise balls are a staple of many gyms, typically stacked next to foam rollers and yoga mats, and have many uses. There are simple exercises that you can do with them at the gym, at home, or even at work to strengthen your low back and core. Keeping these muscle groups strong will help your posture and make lifting heavy items easier and safer.
The simplest way to use an exercise ball is to use it in place of a chair. Its instability means you will have to activate your abdominal muscles and your low back in order to stay upright. Focus on keeping your spine straight – don’t slouch over. If you want to add an element of difficulty, use the balls of your feet to bounce slightly up and down. This will keep your core and low back even more engaged.
If you prefer a standing exercise, try wall squats. Place the ball at the small of your back between your spine and the wall. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and then squat downward, not leaning too hard into the ball, and then stand back up. It’s important to not let your knees extend over your toes – if this happens, you’re squatting too deeply.
To specifically engage your core, you can do abdominal crunches on the ball. Sit centered on the ball with your feet steady on the ground in front of you. Tighten your abs and lean back as far as you comfortably can. Stay there for 3 or 4 seconds before steadily bringing yourself back to a seated position. Repeat this 10 or so times until those muscles feel fatigued.
While these may seem like small things, these exercises can do wonders for muscles you use every single day – give it a try!
Slide show: Core-strength exercises with a fitness ball – Mayo Clinic
Exercise Ball Uses (spine-health.com)