Cool Down With the Stability Ball

Try these challenging stretches with participants who are ready to up the ante.

By Abbie Appel
Feb 1, 2013

Using the stability ball for cool-down stretches provides many benefits over traditional stretching. The ball’s reactive properties make stretching more dynamic, since balance, coordination and body awareness depend on certain muscles stabilizing while others stretch. Participants can modify moves by simply rolling deeper into the stretches or pulling back from them.

A 55-centimeter stability ball is appropriate for most people. You may want to use balls that are inflated to less than 55 cm, since these moves challenge balance and require a larger range of motion than regular stretches.

Tips

  • Maintain proper alignment and posture.
  • Stretch with control.
  • Never use momentum or bounce into a stretch.
  • Master movements without the ball before adding the balance challenge.

Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
  • Stand on right (R) leg in front of ball.
  • Align ball with left (L) leg. Place toes and dorsal part of L foot on ball.
  • Lower R leg into lunge while extending L hip and straightening L leg (this position requires a tremendous amount of balance!).
  • Engage L glute to actively stretch hip flexors. Keep hips parallel, and keep R foot, knee and hip in alignment.
  • Reach arms to sides and overhead, bringing palms together to stretch anterior chain and intensify hip flexor stretch.
  • Shift weight back, distributing more weight over ball.
  • Repeat on opposite side or continue to next stretch on same side.

Prone Spinal Rotation and Chest Opener

Use same start position as for standing hip flexor stretch.

  • Bend R knee into low lunge position. Keep knee over toes with weight on all three points of foot—heel, big toe and pinky toe.
  • Place hands on floor under shoulders. Have body in straight line from head to toe on ball. Keep L leg straight and parallel.
  • Keep L hand on floor, and reach R hand to ceiling, creating straight line.
  • Allow spine to rotate, opening chest.
  • To progress, twist R, bringing L elbow to outside of R knee.
  • Repeat on opposite side or continue to next stretch on same side.

Single-Leg Hip Flexion

Use same start position as for standing hip flexor stretch.

  • Extend L hip and straighten L leg; keep R leg straight.
  • Place hands under shoulders on floor as close to R foot as possible. Bend R knee as necessary.
  • Slowly straighten R leg, reaching back of R knee toward ball. To progress, lift hands off floor.
  • Extend spine and align body with L leg.
  • Extend arms until they are straight and beside ears.
  • Repeat on opposite side or continue to next stretch on same side.

Prone Quad and Hip Flexor Stretch
  • Lie prone with torso over ball. Position hands and feet on floor about shoulder width apart.
  • Shift weight to R hand and foot.
  • Bend L knee and reach back with L hand to hold ankle. Allow L quad and hip flexor to lengthen.
  • Squeeze glutes and drive pelvis into ball to intensify stretch.
  • Repeat on opposite side (for this stretch or from the beginning).

Using the stability ball for cool-down stretches provides many benefits over traditional stretching. The ball’s reactive properties make stretching more dynamic, since balance, coordination and body awareness depend on certain muscles stabilizing while others stretch. Participants can modify moves by simply rolling deeper into the stretches or pulling back from them.

A 55-centimeter stability ball is appropriate for most people. You may want to use balls that are inflated to less than 55 cm, since these moves challenge balance and require a larger range of motion than regular stretches.

Tips

  • Maintain proper alignment and posture.
  • Stretch with control.
  • Never use momentum or bounce into a stretch.
  • Master movements without the ball before adding the balance challenge.

Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
  • Stand on right (R) l
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Abbie Appel

"Abbie Appel is the owner of Abbiefit Consulting and the program director for Fitspace. As an award-winning fitness educator, Abbie develops and delivers programs for Power Systems®, Schwinn® Cycling, TRX® Training and many other organizations. She developed the SCW Pilates and SCW Barre certifications and has produced and starred in over 30 fitness videos. Abbie contributes to fitness publications such as Self, Shape, Prevention and IDEA Fitness Journal, and is certified by ACE, AFAA and NASM."

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