The Stability Ball Challenge
Wake up your warm-up with these fun and functional moves.
You’ve spent a lot of time and energy working on your class, and you’re ready to wow your students with another great workout. But wait: How much effort did you really put into that warm-up? Not only does the warm-up set the stage for what’s to come; it also ensures a safe and effective environment for students. Don’t skim over this crucial opportunity to make a lasting impression.
Nothing says “creativity” quite like the stability ball, a staple in many group exercise studios. Before you turn the page—or turn up your nose—at the idea of using the stability ball in your warm-up, let’s explore the benefits of the ball and how simple exercise patterns that use it can create a unique and exhilarating prelude to any class format.
More Than Play
The primary benefit of using the stability ball—as opposed to moving on a hard, flat surface—is that the body responds to the instability by trying to remain balanced. This action engages multiple muscle systems. Also, the ball activates the neuromuscular system in a way that not many pieces of equipment can. Finally, the stability ball tends to take the “work” out of working out. Place a ball in someone’s hands and, more often than not, you’ll get a smile and an immediate, playful response.
Let’s look at five basic moves you can insert in a warm-up for almost any class.
Stand tall, feet hip width apart, and hold the ball at waist level. Bounce the ball with both hands as you try to keep rhythm with the music. Increase the difficulty by adding a step-touch. This exercise elevates the heart rate, develops hand-eye coordination skills and is perfect for any sculpting or boot camp class.
Basic Bounce and Hip Circles
Sit on the ball, feet about hip distance apart, heels down, and bounce up and down. Hold the sides of the ball if needed; otherwise, extend the arms back into a triceps extension on each downbeat. Think of bouncing up—almost off the ball—instead of being heavy and bouncing down “into” the ball. This will loosen up the low-back muscles and get your heart rate pumping. Add hip circles once you stop bouncing (the two moves work well together). Draw a circle with your hips, 8–10 times in one direction and then 8–10 times in the opposite direction. This is a great way to begin any dance-based workout.
Walk Back to Plank
Stand with feet about hip distance apart, holding the ball comfortably at your waist. Place the ball on the floor as you step the right (R) leg back. Steady yourself as you step the left (L) leg back, hold a few seconds and then step the L leg in, followed by the R, and return to standing. This exercise fires up the core and low-back muscles and is a good way to prepare for any sculpting-based routine.
Squat Circles With Side Leg Lift
Stand with feet a little wider than shoulder width apart, holding the ball at your waist. Squat as you make a big circle with your arms, and come back up, completing the circle, to squat once more. Continue circling, but pause as you reach the ball overhead and out to the R, abducting the L leg. Repeat 5 times to the R and then immediately switch to the L. This full-body move works well within a dance-based or conditioning format.
Sit on the ball, feet together in front, arms folded in, knuckles together at chest. Bring your arms out and in as you bounce, letting the legs follow the arms (i.e., as the arms go out, so do the feet and vice versa). This is a surefire way to elevate body temperature; therefore, alternate between jumping jacks and basic bounces. This combination is ideal for interval-based classes because right away you’re implementing short, intense cardio bursts followed by brief recovery periods.
Step up and throw a curve ball (or stability ball) at your students! Give them something different and add a little bounce to your basic warm-up. This simple, versatile piece of equipment will improve functional strength, balance and flexibility and add variety to your existing class protocol.
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