We love finding new ways to work your core. The powerhouse muscle group provides stability and strength for everything from lifting heavier weights to dance cardio, so giving it some extra TLC is never a bad idea.
Plus, who doesn’t like working out on a big, bouncy ball? Not only is it’s fun, it’s good for your abs, too. A 2014 study found that older adults who did 20-minute workouts with a stability ball 5 times per week increased strength in their core, back, and glutes.Seong GK, et al. (2014). The effect of trunk stabilization exercises with a Swiss ball on core muscle activation in the elderly. DOI: 10.1589/jpts.26.1473
And if you’re someone who struggles with chronic low back pain, especially during core exercises, fear not. A 2013 study found that peeps who worked out with a stability ball for 8 weeks put less weight on their back muscles and experienced pain relief.Chung S, et al. (2013). Effects of stabilization exercise using a ball on mutifidus cross-sectional area in patients with chronic low back pain. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3772599/
If you’re into running, there are solid benefits for working out your abs. A 2019 study showed that folks who trained their core for 8 weeks had better balance, core endurance, and “running economy,” which is fancy talk for how much energy you expend while booking it.Hung KC, et al. (2019). Effects of 8-week core training on core endurance and running economy. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0213158
For these moves, grab a yoga ball (also called a stability, fitness, or Swiss ball), which can be found in most gyms. Just make sure it’s the right size for your height.
In each exercise, focus on bracing your core — not just sucking in your belly. Studies show this type of movement can activate more of your core muscles, meaning you build strength in your pelvis, back, and abdomen, not just in your rectus abdominis (aka your six-pack muscles).Koh HW, et al. (2014). Comparison of the effects of hollowing and bracing exercises on cross-sectional areas of abdominal muscles in middle-aged women. DOI: 10.1589/jpts.26.295
Pick 3–4 of these exercises and add ‘em onto a cardio day or integrate them into your strength workout. Complete 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps.
1. Stability ball crunch
Let’s start with the basics. Lie faceup on the ball, with the ball under your low back. Keep your feet on the floor, hip-width apart, and hands behind your ears.
Brace your core, tighten glutes, and slowly crunch upper body upward, raising shoulders off the ball and tucking your chin to chest. Slowly lower upper body down to return to start. That’s 1 rep.
2. Stability ball oblique crunches
Start in the same position as above. Brace your core by pulling navel toward spine. Tighten glutes and slowly crunch up and to the right. Lift shoulder blades off the ball and rotate upper body to the right. Lower back down and repeat on the left side. That’s 1 rep.
3. Stability ball knee raise
Balancing on the ball with your core braced, lift right foot off the ground and bring right knee toward chest. Slowly replace the right foot, then repeat on other side. That’s 1 rep.
Make it easier: Do this exercise near a wall or column. You can touch it for assisted balance.
4. Stability ball bicycle crunch
Step things up a notch: Brace your core and crunch up, simultaneously raising right knee toward chest and rotating upper body to touch left elbow to right knee (like a bicycle crunch). Lower foot and upper body at the same time, then repeat on other side. Hit both sides for 1 rep.
5. Stability ball tuck
This one’s a balancing act. Start in a high plank, with wrists under shoulders, core engaged, and top of feet resting on the ball. Keep hips level and use core to pull knees toward chest, rolling the ball toward you. Straighten legs to return to start.
Make it easier: Stay in the starting position and hold a high plank with feet on the ball for 30–60 seconds.
6. Stability ball pike
You’ll want to master the move above before attempting this variation. Start in the same position as the tuck. Engage your core and pull feet toward arms. Keep legs straight, hiking hips high, and use your core to stay balanced. Push the ball away and lower your hips to return to start.
7. Stability ball forearm plank jacks
Start in a forearm plank with forearms on ball, legs extended, core braced, and hips level. Feet should be close together. Keeping core tight, jump your feet wide. Now jump them back together quickly to return to start.
8. Stability ball hip thrust
This move allows your legs to get into the action — you’ll feel it in your hamstrings and glutes. Lie faceup on floor with legs nearly straight, heels resting on ball, hips lifted off floor. Allow arms to rest at sides.
Engage your core and pull the ball toward you by bending knees. Squeeze glutes, hamstrings, and continue to keep core tight. In one fluid movement, extend legs to return to start.
Make it easier: With knees bent, raise then lower hips off the ground, squeezing glutes and engaging core.
9. Stability ball hands-to-feet pass
Get ready to feel the burn in those lower abs. Lie faceup with legs extended and arms stretched overhead, holding ball between hands. Crunch up, engaging core and lifting shoulders, arms, and straight legs all at once.
With arms and legs lifted, pass the ball from hands to feet, squeezing your thighs and feet together to hold the ball in place. Lower hands, feet, and torso. Repeat, this time passing ball back to hands. That’s 1 rep.
10. Stability ball wall side crunch
You’ll need to be next to a wall for this exercise. Start with your right side on the ball, legs extended so feet touch the wall. This will help with balance. Place hands behind ears and brace core.
Do a side crunch by drawing left elbow up, engaging obliques. Lower to return to start. After 8–12 reps, switch sides.
Special thanks to our model Liz Barnet, a certified trainer and food coach in New York City. Barnet wears a top and pants from C9 Champion.