Ball Core Strengthening Exercises
Ask anyone who steps into my Chiropractor and Sport Therapy Clinic- I am a HUGE advocate for introducing core exercises into your home care regime. Stretching is important too, but it’s if you don’t have the muscle endurance to keep those joint where they are meant to be, you will find your back health doing a roller coaster ride between healthy and injury prone. Along with maintenance chiropractic adjustments, core exercises are a key ingredient to eliminate low back pain and restore healthy activities of daily living.
Once you have the basics down (pelvic tilt, prairie dog, plank, single leg heel taps, Supermans, etc) you are ready to move on to incorporating the ball into your exercises. The ball adds an extra element of dynamic stability so any core exercise done on the ball should be considered moderate to advance in difficulty. Make sure you are comfortable with where you are on the core strength continuum before initiating any of these exercises.
First, it’s important to remind you the MOST IMPORTANT factor in performing any exercise is technique. If you feel you are struggling with maintaining proper technique, stop, and do a few lesser challenging exercises to build the muscle memory back up. It is OK!- any core exercise is better than none and the last thing you want is to injure (or re-injure) yourself.
Starting, Push up Hold, or Plank Position (as shown in the feature photograph)
With the exercise ball in front of you, lower yourself down so your stomach is resting on the ball. Now walk your hands forward until you reach a point where you feel your back muscles and abdominals are working; the ball may be at the level of your knees, shins, or feet. As you gain strength in your core, you will find your able to increase the distance between the ball and your hands. Ultimately, you want to end up having only your feet and lower ⅓ of your legs touching the ball.
You should be completely flat with your legs straight. The shoulders should be positioned ever so slightly behind your hands. (*Even in the photograph, I should have my back just a tiny bit less rounded than it is!)
This position in and of itself is a great core exercise- it is considered a bilateral isometric exercise as both sides of the body are working and the muscles are neither increasing nor decreasing in length.
Hold the position until you feel a slight tremor in either your core muscles or arms, and then slowly walk your hands back towards the ball until your stomach is resting on it. Repeat 5 times.
If you are using the position as a starting position only, here are just a few of the multitude of exercises you can perform!
When doing a jack knife, the key is to keep the knees as parallel with the floor as possible. You want to avoid having your knees pointing down towards the floor. By maintaining an elevated knee position, you are engaging your hip flexors and learning to perform a pelvic tilt at the end of the jack knife. Remember to keep your mouth open or sing a song as this will prevent you from holding your breath.
Repeat 10-15 times and then hold the plank position for as long as you are able to maintain proper technique.
Slowly walk your hands back towards the ball until the ball is once again positioned under your stomach. Take caution when you stand up as the blood may have rushed to your head while performing the exercise, and you may get a very mild dizzy spell. Anther way to dismount off the ball is to one at a time lower each knee/foot to the ground when you are in the plank position.
A pike up is an extremely challenging core exercise as you are not only balancing your feet on the ball but you are also utilizing a fair amount of shoulder and arm strength as well.
Start in the push up position and then roll the ball towards your chest with your feet while pushing your bum into the air at the same time. Once you have reached as high as you can with your bum, slowly return to the starting position.
Repeat 10-15 times.
If you want to increase the difficulty even further, lift one leg straight into the air when at the peak of the pike up.
This is a great unilateral core exercise as you are tapping one toe onto the ground while maintaining the plank position with the other leg on the ball.
Once in the starting position, lift one leg up and slowly lower it to the ground- do not rest your foot on the ground. It is meant to tap and then return to the plank position. Repeat on the other side. You have the option of performing all 10 on the same side before repeating with the other leg, but I enjoy the increased dynamic element when having to alternate between each leg.
If at any time during exercising you feel pain in any body part, discontinue the exercises, and consult with your Chiropractor. As always, I assume no responsibility for exercises performed without my authorization.
Lastly, it’s NEVER to early or late to start a core exercise program!
Dr. Crysta Serné
Vancouver Chiropractor and owner of Vitality Clinic