On the Ball Workout

The Monticello Institute provides the specs for three 
12-week workouts to make over your routine.


Oblique Crunch
Lie faceup across an exercise ball, finding a position in which the ball comfortably supports your low back. Tuck your chin in slightly, focusing your eyes at a 45-degree angle--roughly the point at which ceiling meets wall.
Keeping your abs contracted throughout, slowly curl your ribcage in a diagonal direction, so that one shoulder moves toward the opposite hip. Do 8-18 reps.

Lie faceup across an exercise ball so that the ball comfortably supports your back. Tuck your chin in slightly, focusing your eyes at a 45-degree angle--roughly the point at which ceiling meets wall.
Keeping your abs contracted throughout, slowly curl your ribcage toward your hips before returning to the start position. Do 8-18 reps.

Lateral Abdominal Flexion
Lie sideways over an exercise ball with your legs extended out to the side.
Keeping your abs contracted and your hands behind your head, slowly raise your torso, making sure not to simultaneously flex your trunk forward or backward. Do 8-15 reps.

Back Extension
Stand facing away from a wall in front of an exercise ball. Lie facedown over the ball, so that your abs are in contact with it. Position your feet up against the wall and place your hands behind your head.
Keeping your abs tight throughout, slowly raise your torso to a comfortable position before returning to the start. Do 8-15 reps.

Opposite Arm and Leg Lift
Lie facedown on an exercise ball so that your stomach is in contact with the ball. Place your hands on the floor underneath your shoulders; position your feet so that they also touch the floor. Contract your abs and maintain this position throughout.
Without moving your back and keeping your neck neutral, slowly lift one arm and the opposite leg simultaneously. Think about lengthening those limbs rather than lifting them as high as you can. Do 10 reps per side.

Trunk Slide
Kneel down facing an exercise ball. Clasp your hands together and place them on the ball.
Keeping your abs contracted and your back in a neutral, straight position, slowly roll the ball forward, so that your body slides forward with it. Roll as far as you can without feeling shoulder discomfort or losing your neutral spinal position. Roll back. Do 8-12 reps.

Alternating Leg Lift
Lie on your back--knees bent, feet on the floor--and hold a ball behind your head with your arms outstretched, so that the ball is in contact with the floor. Tighten your abs, and make sure your low back is in a neutral, stabilized position--there shouldn't be much space, if any, between your low back and the floor. 
Slowly lift one leg off the floor while simultaneously raising the ball toward the ceiling. (Make sure the leg movement leg occurs at the hip joint, not the knee joint, and keep your back braced throughout.) Do 8-12 reps per leg.

Plank-to-Knee Tuck
This is a two-part exercise. Once you've mastered part one, proceed to part two. 

Part one: Lie on your abs on an exercise ball. Place your palms flat on the ground--arms straight but not locked--and extend your legs behind you. (See start position for the opposite arm and leg lift.) Using your hands, slowly "walk" yourself forward until your thighs rest on top of the ball. (As you become more advanced, you can walk until your shins rest on top of the ball.) Throughout, keep your hands aligned directly under your shoulders, and your shoulder blades pressed toward your hips. Also, contract your abs to support the natural curves in your spine. (Imagine an airline seatbelt being drawn tight against your lower abs.) Practice holding this "plank" position for 30-60 seconds, breathing comfortably.

Part two: Start in the "plank" position. Exhale and draw your knees toward your chest, allowing the ball to roll forward with your knees. Inhale and slowly extend your legs back to the starting position. Throughout, keep your abs contracted and your back in a neutral position. Do 8-12 reps.

Leg Lift
Lie on your back with your feet on the floor, your knees bent, and an exercise ball positioned between your thighs. Keeping your abs contracted, slowly lift your feet off the floor.
As you lift your legs, your back will want to arch and your abs will want to protrude. Resist both tendencies. Also, keep your neck relaxed and your head in contact with the floor. Do 8-15 reps. To intensify this movement, only lift your feet a few inches off the floor.

Sit on an exercise ball, knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
Keeping your abs contracted, your chest up and out and your shoulders back, slowly recline backward a few inches. Hold for five seconds and return to the starting position. Do 8-12 reps.

Lie on your back with your feet up on an exercise ball and your arms stretched out to the sides.
Slowly raise your hips and glutes toward the ceiling while contracting your glutes and hamstrings, until your bodyweight rests comfortably on your shoulder blades. Return slowly to the starting position. (Throughout, keep your hips square to the ceiling and your abs contracted.) Do 13-20 reps.

Side-Lying Stabilization
Lie on your side over an exercise ball with your legs straight and your feet against a wall. Prop yourself up on one elbow with your hips in contact with the ball.
Slowly lift your hips off the ball, so that your body is now supported on your elbow and feet, and hold this position for five seconds. (You can place your free hand on the ball for balance.) Keep your abs contracted throughout the entire exercise. Do eight reps per side.

Rotational V-Sits
Sit upright on the floor holding the exercise ball in your hands in front of you.
Maintaining a good postural position--bodyweight supported on your sitting bones, chest out, shoulders back, abs contracted--recline back a few inches. Hold this position as you slowly rotate the ball side to side. Do 8-15 reps per side.

Alternating Leg Extension
Lie faceup on the floor holding an exercise ball at arms' length overhead. Lift your legs and bend your knees so that your knees and hips both form 90-degree angles. Tighten your abs and brace your spine.
Slowly extend one leg to a 45-degree angle while simultaneously lowering the ball back behind your head, toward the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat using the other leg. (To make the exercise less difficult, don't lower your leg to 45 degrees. To make it more difficult, go past 45 degrees, although not to the point where your back becomes unstable.) 

Abdominal Stretch Over Ball
This is my favorite stretch to do after I've just completed a tough torso-conditioning workout. It's great for anyone who spends a great deal of time at a desk, as it counteracts the back strain produced by sitting in a flexed position 

Lying faceup on an exercise ball, curl backward and move your feet outward until you're lying comfortably. (Your head, neck, shoulder and back should be comfortably supported and arched over the ball.) Extend your arms diagonally to your torso, which should produce a stretch in your chest, shoulders, abs and back. Hold this position for a minimum of 30 seconds.



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