Locate your core to get better results for fitness and exercise

Locate your core to get better results for fitness and exercise

Core strength is integral to our overall fitness and our prowess at sports, yet many forget all about their core muscles when they launch headlong towards their sporting goals.

A strong core means a number of things, namely that you have better posture, more efficient movement and a stronger body. The top tennis players, runners, swimmers and athletes all owe their success to their strong core muscles, which is integral to overall fitness.

Using a stability ball efficiently helps you to strengthen your core, and improve your level of fitness when it comes to other sports. Also known as a Swiss ball or fitball the stability balls are now commonplace in the gym. Although a seemingly basic bit of kit, it can work wonders on your body. Starting from a very basic level you can move up to advanced fairly quickly just by following a few key exercises.

Here’s how you can get the best from your stability ball workout:

Finding where your core is

Time spent practicing activating your core muscles, when you’ve found them, is necessary before you progress to more advanced training.

One of the most effective ways to locate your core muscles is to:

  • Position yourself on all fours on the floor.
  • Relax and draw your navel in towards your spine to activate your core.
  • Practice alternately relaxing and activating your core muscles with no other body movement.
  • Maintain relaxed breathing throughout.

Simple exercises

 Once you have found your core, you can progress to some simple core exercises.

With your feet flat on the floor, sit on the ball and maintain correct upright posture. Use a mirror or partner to monitor your position.

  • Move the ball forwards, backwards and from side to side using small controlled movements of the hips, whilst concentrating on maintaining good posture.
  • Return to start position; then raise one foot a few centimetres from the floor. Focus on keeping completely upright with no side-to-side hip movements.
  • Try all of the exercises with your eyes closed – this will make each exercise much more challenging.

Next level

Kneeling on the stability ball

  • Stand with feet approximately 45cm (18in) apart.
  • Position the stability ball on the floor and up against the knees and shins.
  • Place hands on top of the ball.
  • Pushing up from the toes, slowly roll forward with the ball until your feet are off the floor and balance is achieved.
  • Once you can balance, experiment with removing a hand or leg and eventually both hands until it is possible to kneel completely upright on the ball.

After some practice you should find that you are eventually able to kneel completely upright on the ball.

Stability ball floor bridge

  • Lie on your back on the floor, arms outstretched either side of the body.
  • Position your heels on the centre of the ball, toes pointing at the ceiling.
  • Lift your body off the floor, forming a straight line from shoulders through to ankles.
  • Contract your core muscles and keep pelvis elevated to maintain the correct position.

Once you can maintain the position for 60 seconds, try gradually bringing your arms in towards your body until eventually they can be lifted off the floor together, leaving only the shoulders in contact with the floor.

Advanced exercises

Once you master the basic exercises, to fully develop your core strength, try some more advanced exercises.

  • Start in the foundation stability ball floor bridge position from above.
  • Whilst keeping both legs straight, slowly elevate one leg 45cm (18in) from the ball and hold.
  • Keep your pelvis elevated throughout, so that your shoulders, pelvis and knees remain continually in line.
  • Return your leg back to the ball under control.
  • Repeat with opposite leg.
  • Build up to holding for 60 seconds duration on each leg.

And lastly

  • Start in the foundation stability ball floor bridge position from above.
  • In one synchronised movement, bend your knees and pull the stability ball in towards your body.
  • Keep your pelvis elevated throughout so that your shoulders, pelvis and knees remain continually in line.
  • Return the ball to the start position under control, keeping your pelvis elevated throughout.
  • Build up to two sets of six repetitions.

Looking after your core can help you walk tall and have a stronger body. Back pain will be lessened and you’ll find training for sport easier. Using a stability ball is a great way to train for better fitness. If you just include some core training into your usual exercise regime, you’ll soon find out how much you can improve in a short amount of time.

Remember that core training is to complement any other training you are doing, and a stronger core will ensure you improve quickly. 

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