Gym ball workout

Gym ball workout

Model: Ross Austin
Photography: Andreas Michael

Looking for a way to “pump up” your bodyweight workouts? Using a gym ball can do just that and you’ll get the added bonus of a fully charged core workout at the same time! Making any exercise unstable will force the body to fire its stabilisers and provide greater core activation. Taking a bodyweight exercise like a press up or an abdominal crunch and doing them on a gym ball will take your workout to a whole new level. [level-premium-content]

Gym balls are basically air filled and available in a range of different sizes which are based around your height. They are sometimes called Swiss balls, stability balls or exercise balls. The name doesn’t matter though – they are all the same thing. If you’re looking for a simple way to progress some of your home workouts you definitely can’t go wrong trying an inexpensive gym ball and a pair of dumbbells to do it.

The workout

This workout looks simple of paper but is designed to test your fitness and skill and give you an idea how to develop your home workouts. By using just two pieces of equipment you can get a great all round training session in just a short period of time. Who needs to join a gym?!

Perform two  or three sets of between 15 to 20 repetitions of each exercise under the all body circuit section. Then work using form failure for the core section for two sets (taking each of the exercises to the point of form loss).

Warm up using any form of cardio, e.g. jogging, skipping or step ups, until your body is warm and then perform some dynamic stretches before starting your main workout.

The Workout

All body circuit section

  • Gym ball overhead squats
  • Gym ball press ups (push ups)
  • Gym ball hamstring curls
  • Gym ball dumbbell rows
  • Gym ball Seated overhead press

Core circuit section

  • Gym ball knee tucks
  • Gym ball name writing
  • Gym ball plank
  • Gym ball sit ups

Exercise descriptions

Main workout

Overhead squats – Targets legs, core, and stabilisers

Grasp your gym ball firmly with both hands and raise the ball overhead. Place your feet hip-width apart. Push your butt back, band your knees and lower yourself down until your thighs are as close to parallel to the floor as you can comfortably manage. Stand back up and repeat. Make sure your lower back does not round at any point when performing this exercise!

Overhead squats image

Press ups – Targets chest, triceps, core, and stabilisers

Place your shins on the ball and your arms in your regular press up position. Brace your core and bend your arms and perform a slow, controlled press up. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Hamstring curls – Targets hamstrings, core, and stabilisers

Lie on your back on the floor with your heels on the ball and your arms by your sides. Lift your buttocks up off the floor and roll the ball in towards you by bending your knees until your knees are directly above your hips. Reverse the movement by straightening your legs again and pushing the ball away.

Dumbbell rows – Targets upper back, biceps and core

Lie face down on the ball with your toes placed firmly on the ground. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, inhale and pull both dumbbells up and into your sides simultaneously. Return slowly to the floor and repeat.

Seated overhead press – Targets shoulders and triceps

Sit with a neutral spine and your feet flat on the floor. With a dumbbell in each hand and raise your hands to shoulder level. Push your dumbbells above your head but without locking your elbows. Slowly bring the weights down to shoulder height and repeat.

Knee tucks – Abs and core

Place your feet centrally on the ball and walk your hands out until you’re in a plank-like position. This can be tricky so take your time – it may take time to master this exercise!  Maintain a strong back and keep your head in line with your spine. Roll the ball in towards you by bending your knees and hips. Slowly roll the ball out to the start position and repeat.

Name writing – Abs and core

Place your elbows centrally on the ball and walk your feet out until you’re in a plank-like position. Keep your chest lifted and not resting on the ball. Proceed to write your name by rolling the ball in each direction using only your elbows and avoid rocking from the toes. Shorten your name if you find this exercise overly demanding.

Plank –Deep core

Start by taking a deep breath and blowing all of the air out of your body. Once all the air is out you’ll feel tightness within your deep core muscles. Try and hold this feeling and start to breathe normally. Place your elbows centrally on the ball and walk your feet out until you’re in a plank like position and hold. As soon as you lose the tightness or your hips start to drop stop the exercise and take a rest.

Sit ups – Abs

Sit on the ball and place your feet flat on the floor. Slowly begin walking your feet forward so that your natural curve of your spine rests comfortably on the ball. Place your hands at your temples with your elbows pointing out. Breathe out a raise your head and shoulders up – really crunch those abs. Slowly lower back down and repeat.