Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Stability Ball

I'm always looking for enjoyable ways to work my core/abdominal/back muscles.  

I refuse to do crunches and sit-ups anymore and the popular thinking has changed anyway: there are far better exercises than these for a firm, strong midsection.  For months, I subjected myself to the Ab Ripper X routine (part of P90X) and while I did get much stronger, I hated doing it.  

I had heard about the benefits of using a stability ball for core work but I hesitated to purchase a ball.  Already, I had lots of fitness equipment littering my small living room but I decided to get one to break up the monotony.  I first tried it using Amy Dixon's ball workout in Women's Health Total Workout in Ten.  I was thrilled with how challenging and fun it was!  So I borrowed Quick Fix Stability Ball workout from the library and I really liked that too.  (I actually need to purchase that one).  I knew the stability ball was for me.  

Imagine how thrilled I was to learn that the stability ball features in each exercise of the New Rules of Lifting for Women.  [When checking out the gym, I had to make sure they had ample supplies of stability balls (they did although the inflation of said balls is iffy).]  At the end of each workout in stage one of NROLFW (there's 2) is a stability ball exercise.  For workout A, it's prone jackknife.  For workout B, it's crunches on the ball (which are nowhere as bad as crunches on the floor but still not a favorite).  

I have been adding one more exercise on the ball to the end of each workout because I definitely want to work my core.  After two children, I have diastasis recti and there's plenty of work to do strengthen my core muscles.  To Workout A, I've been adding sets of plank on the ball (basically I just hold the plank position with my arms resting on the ball for 60-90 seconds).   To add even more challenge to Workout A, I will try doing a prone jacknife/tuck combination:

I plan to continue to do the plank on the ball.  

To Workout B, I've been adding 10 to 12 rep sets of swiss ball back extension although this video says you're not supposed to do it on days you do heavy squats.  I will look for a static core exercise to do instead (so I'm not doing the back extension, although I really like that move).  There are lots and lots of static on the ball exercises in the New Rules of Lifting for Abs (which I had to buy after destroying the library's copy--it's just as well, I would probably have bought it anyway after finishing up NROL4W).  Or, I may try side crunches on the ball since there are no warnings against doing this on heavy lifting days.  

My hope is to somehow incorporate this fun way of doing core work into some other part of my day (maybe before dinner).  This way I can get in those exercise I'm not supposed to do on heavy lifting days (like the back extension).  I want it to be a regular feature of my day.  All I really need is 10 minutes . . . but then again, I've been wanting to do 10 minutes of yoga daily and I'm still not getting it in.  

Actually, this is a good goal to work toward in 2011 . . . 20 minutes of yoga/core work/stretching outside of my morning workout time.  

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