How to Use a Yoga Ball to Strengthen Your Core

A yoga ball, also known as an exercise ball or stability ball is a large inflatable rubber PVC ball that is commonly used in functional training exercises. It comes in various sizes to fit people of all heights.

Before incorporating yoga ball into your workout, get clearance from your healthcare provider or physical therapist. They can help you to find the right sized yoga ball for your body height.

1. Glute Bridge

The Glute Bridge is a great bodyweight exercise that strengthens your gluteal muscles, as well as the hamstrings and hip flexors. It also helps to stabilize the core and improves posture. It can be performed as part of a lower body micro workout or as a stand-alone bodyweight exercise at home. It is ideal for anyone who spends a lot of time sitting, whether it be for work or other leisure activities.

Clients start lying on the mat with their bottoms resting on it (feet should be hip-width apart). They then press into their heels and raise their hips up to a tabletop position, squeezing the glutes at the top of the movement. They then slowly return to their starting position. If your client has difficulty getting their hips to the tabletop position, they can use a padded barbell weighted appropriately for their fitness level across their hips. This adds extra resistance to the movement, which helps to target the gluteus maximus even further.

2. Single Leg Glute Bridge

With large swaths of the workforce now spending most of their time sitting at desks, it’s important to strengthen the glute and hip muscles that keep the pelvis stable and reduce back and knee pain. The single leg glute bridge is an effective unilateral exercise to help correct imbalances in these muscle groups, says Hinge Health physical therapist Colon MacPherson.

Lie on the floor with your arms down at your sides, knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Practice by lifting one foot up until the thigh is parallel with the other. This modification to the basic bridge helps you focus on the glutes without adding a significant amount of additional weight to the movement, and it’s especially helpful for those who experience difficulty performing a standard glute bridge.

When practicing the single leg bridge, avoid raising your hips unevenly, as this can place additional stress on your lower back. To minimize hamstring involvement, press down through the foot that’s on the floor to lift your hips into the bridge position.

3. Back Extensions

Many individuals use their yoga exercise ball to replace a traditional office chair, as it is thought to improve posture and help reduce back pain. Whether this is true or not, using a ball for sitting increases compression on the spine and can irritate existing injuries, conditions or imbalances.

The back extension exercise is a relatively simple, low impact, and safe movement, but that doesn’t mean that mistakes can’t be made while performing it. Common errors include relying on momentum to swing the body up and down or training it with too much volume (i.e., too many repetitions per set).

This movement works the lower and middle back muscles (especially the erector spinae) as well as the oblique muscles for stability. It also helps to improve thoracic spine mobility and posture. This makes the back extension an effective auxiliary exercise to perform in conjunction with other exercises that place significant training stimulus on the posterior chain muscle group.

4. Rainbow Knee Tucks

The Rainbow Knee Tucks is an advanced core exercise that is best suited for intermediate to advanced trainees. It targets the major muscle groups of your abdomen, including your rectus abdominis (aka “six pack”). This movement also works the iliacus and psoas major muscles, collectively known as the iliopsoas. Additionally, it engages your triceps and quadriceps to help maintain the high plank position as you roll the stability ball forwards toward you.

Unlike traditional abdominal crunches, there is very little spinal flexion during the knee tucks. This is because the abs primarily work as stabilizers to prevent the spine from extending too much.

To perform a Rainbow Knee Tuck, start with the ball on the floor and roll into a prone full plank position with either your thighs or shins resting on the ball, with wrists underneath your shoulders. Begin by contracting the core and thrusting your legs up into a rainbow shape, then lower back to the starting position for reps as prescribed.