With benefits like increasing the effectiveness of your workouts, preventing injury and strengthening your core, stability training is a great addition any workout program.
While it may sound intimidating at first, stability training simply means exercising with an unstable surface, which can be as simple as standing on one leg. Everyone from beginners to elite athletes can reap the benefits, and stability training is frequently used in rehabilitation work and athletic training.
Our bodies are smart, and constantly adapt to accomplish our daily activities (and workouts) as efficiently as possible. When you work on an unstable surface your muscles need to work harder to maintain your balance, resulting in increased muscle activity. For example, add a stability ball to a squat, and an exercise that was once easy, becomes increasingly challenging.
SLIDE SHOW: 10 great stability exercises for a strong core
If you frequent the gym, but your typically routine just isn’t cutting it any more, try including stability training. Doing the same routine of lunges, pushups and biceps curls on an unstable surface will push your workout to the next level.
This kind of training also helps aging populations increase their balance and avoid falls. Along with working the big muscles, exercising on an unstable surface recruits stabilizer and assistant muscles, improving the body’s reaction to instability. Working the stabilizers is great for preventing injuries like falls, knee injuries and even back pain.
Another great thing about stability training, all that work to hold your balance requires extra attention from you core. While doing a shoulder press on an unstable surface your abdominal muscles contract giving you an upper body and core workout. That is what I like to call a lot of bang for your workout buck!
We’ve included a few different pieces of fitness equipment and exercises to help you get started with stability training. But our first set does not even require equipment, just start out standing on one leg.
Aim for 10-15 reps of each exercise unless otherwise noted. When beginning stability training make sure you have someone to spot you or something to hold onto until you are confident with your balance.
Standing: To get started with stability training first work on standing on one leg. Aim to bring your knee to hip height and keep your abdominals contracted. Hold For 30 seconds to one minute on each leg.
Bicep Curls: Perform bicep curls while standing on one leg. Keep your abs contracted while you curl your arms up. Do one set of 10-15 with the right leg lifted, then switch and do one set of 10-15 with the left leg lifted.
BOSU stands for “Both Sides Up”, and is a large half ball with a sturdy platform on the bottom. Simply standing on the ball is great for your balance.
Shoulder Presses: Once you’ve mastered standing, (it helps to keep a slight bend in the knees) grab a pair of 3-10 pound dumbbells and for a set of shoulder presses. With your palms facing away from your, and shoulders relaxed and pressing down your back, bring your arms up to a 90 degree goal post position. Keep your abs contracted and extend the arms up, then bring the arms back to that 90-degree goal post position. You might have to grab lighter weights since your muscles is working hard to simply balance.
Plank: Plank is one of the best exercises for you core and to turn it up a notch perfrom plank position off of the BOSU Ball. Turn the ball over so the platform side is facing up, place your hands on the platform and lift into plank position. You can modify this by dropping to your knees. Keep your body in a straight line as you hold you abs in, and work to keep the BOSU steady. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute. I guarantee you will feel every inch of your core working!
Sitting: It might sound simple enough, but for extra core and balance training just sit on a stability ball. Lean back a bit and aim to bring your feet up off the floor. Make sure you have enough room to do this in case you roll off the ball. Extra points if you do a few of these stability ball balances while watching your favorite TV show.
Pushups: I love using the stability ball for pushups since you can easily vary the intensity of the exercise. Lay face down on the ball and roll out until the ball in under your thighs or shins. The farther you roll out, the harder the exercise will be. Find your balance, then do a regular pushup.
Squats: Place the ball against the wall, and then your back against the ball. With your arms facing out in front of you sink down into a squat, then press through your heels to stand back up. To keep your knees back behind your toes this exercise might require adjusting your foot placement.
The foam wedge the cylinder shaped half of a foam roller, and the denser the foam the more challenging the exercises will be.
Standing: For intense core, lower body and balance work, simply stand on the foam wedge with one leg. Place the wedge on the floor flat side up, then and stand on it with your right foot. Bring your left foot up, aiming to bring the left knee to hip height. For an extra challenge you can try extending that left leg. Hold for 30 seconds then repeat with the other leg.
Lunges: You have not felt the back of your thighs and glutes until you have done a lunge off a foam roller. This little half cylinder recruits more muscles than you knew you had! No need to adds weights to this exercise; your bodyweight is all you need. Place the roller on the floor with the flat side up, stand on the flat part of the roller with you right foot. (Feel free to hold onto someone or something when starting this exercise.) When you have your balance, bring your left foot back into a lunge position. Make sure you knee stays behind your toes. Press through your right heel to stand up. Do 10 reps then repeat with the left leg.