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Exercise ball workout...

An inexpensive and effective cardiac rehab exercise to add to your smart heart fitness routine

Limited space? Limited funds?

An exercise ball may be the answer. You can use it for a variety of exercises to increase core body strength, improve balance, and strengthen muscles. You can use it with weights or on its own. The following photos and descriptions will show you a number of ways you can use a stability ball as an excellent addition to your fitness routine.

If you've never used an exercise (or stability) ball before, be cautious. Use the stability ball on a non-slippery surface. The ball will want to roll and can scoot out from under you if you are not careful! At first it's wise to use a companion as a spotter. If you are quite unsteady this may not be the best form of exercise for you.

101 Ways to Workout with Weights by Cindy Whitmarsh has a good section on working out with free weights and the exercise ball that you may find useful.

Ten Easy (but very effective) Exercises

1. Twist

Stand with feet hip width apart. Extend arms out in front of your body, holding the ball. Tighten your tummy muscles while you move the ball to one side of the body, pause, then twist to the other side.

Repeat this for 8 - 12 reps on each side, working up to 15.


2. Squat with Forward Reach

Stand with legs hip width apart. Hold the exercise ball out in front of your body. Keep the ball out in front while you bend at the knees and waist. Keep your spine tall. Pause and return to standing.

Repeat this for 8 - 12 reps on each side, working up to 15.


3. Torso Extension

Start kneeling facing the ball. Roll yourself onto the ball with your hips and tummy supported by the ball. Brace your feet against a wall for support.

Raise your upper body until your shoulders, hips and knees are all in a straight line. Then lower back down on the ball.

Repeat this for 8 - 12 reps working up to 15.

Option: hold one dumbbell against your chest with both hands.


4. Arm Extensions

Start kneeling facing the exercise ball. Roll yourself onto the ball with your hips and tummy supported by the ball. Brace your feet against a wall for support.

Holding two dumbbells (a weight you can manage) straighten your body, pull your arms back to your hips with palms facing down.

Bring your arms out to the sides and forward over your head, rotating so the palms continue to face down. Keep your body straight. Return arms to starting position.

Repeat this for 8 - 12 reps working up to 15.


5. Wall Squats

Stand with feet hip width apart and toes pointed straight forward. Place the ball between your lower back and the wall. Squat, bending at the knees until your legs are in a 90 degree bend. When you are in the squat position your knees should be directly over your ankles. Hold momentarily then return to standing position.

Repeat this for 8 - 12 reps working up to 15.


6. Seated Leg Extension

Start in a seated position on the center of the ball with knees bent at 90 degrees, knees directly above the ankles, and feet flat on the floor.

Extend one leg. Tighten tummy muscles and lift straightened leg as high as you can without bending your back. Hold, then alternate with opposite leg.

Repeat this for 8 - 12 reps working up to 15.


7. Opposite Arm/Opposite Leg lift

Start kneeling facing the ball. Roll yourself onto the ball with your hips and tummy supported by the ball. Place hands on floor in front of ball. Extend legs.

Raise one arm and the opposite leg. Hold. Tighten the muscles in your buttocks. Alternate with the opposite arm and leg.

Repeat this for 8 - 12 reps working up to 15.


8. Core crunch

Start in a seated position on the center of the exercise ball with knees bent at 90 degrees, knees directly above the ankles, and feet flat on the floor.

Place hands behind ears. Tighten tummy muscles and lean back allowing the ball to roll forward lightly. Hold, then return to seated position.

Repeat this for 8 - 12 reps working up to 15.


9. Hip raise

Start in a seated position on the ball, then walk your feet out and lean back, rolling the exercise ball up your spine until it is supporting your head and shoulders. Keep your feet hip width apart with knees bent.

Lift your hips until your body is straight and your knees are bent 90 degrees. Hold, then lower your hips, then come back to the straight body position.

Repeat this for 8 - 12 reps working up to 15.

Option: Place one or two dumbbells on your thighs and hold them there as you do the exercise.

Repeat this for 8 - 12 reps working up to 15.


10. Scissors

Lie down on your back. Place the ball between your legs. Straighten and lift your legs up to 90 degrees. Rotate legs clockwise and clockwise. Keep your tummy muscles tight.

Repeat this for 8 - 12 reps each way, working up to 15.

Increase gradually
If you can't complete 8 reps when you first start, do what you can and gradually increase your reps. Eventually you can increase to 3 sets of 8, 12, or 15 reps.

Always consult with your doctor before starting a new fitness program.


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