By Mary Jo Cameron
It’s arguably a woman’s one body zone that’s the biggest (ahem) pain in the butt to keep looking fit and firm. But you can really tone up your hips, thighs and butt with just a few simple exercises — even if you have only 5 or 10 minutes. Certified stability ball fitness trainer Sue Hollingshead shows you how with the three-move Balance Ball exercise ball workout below.
Doing lower-body exercises on a Balance Ball or stability ball can whip this trouble zone into shape faster. That’s because the ball offers a combination of support and instability, says certified fitness instructor Suzanne Deason.
“The support of the ball beneath you allows you to work harder without feeling overworked or strained,” she explains. “Yet you also have to stabilize yourself on the ball — and that requires smaller core muscles not involved in traditional forms of exercise. Each movement demands a little more from your muscles, resulting in a very complete and effective workout.”
Hollingshead recommends these moves because “they really target the glutes, hamstrings and adductors (inner thigh muscles). They’re very effective at toning and strengthening these muscles that are key to a fit, shapely lower body.”
Note: these exercises do NOT require the stabilizer shown at the base of the balance ball in the images below.
1. Limb Extension
Lie on the ball, face down. Tuck toes under and press out through feet to help stabilize your body. Keep your spine neutral (don’t arch your back) and place your fingertips or palms on the floor. Extend your body through the spine while drawing your shoulders away from the floor. Alternate raising each hand off the floor, keeping arms straight. For more stability, imagine squeezing a ball between your shins to help with balance. Repeat for 5 to 10 slow, deep breaths.
Alternate lifting each opposite foot to the opposite hand (Fig. 2). Breathe. Think of your pelvis as the focal point or axis of this exercise; extend out from there through your legs and feet. Same in your upper body — from the focal point of the heart, extend out through your arms. For more stability, press your tailbone toward the ball and squeeze into the mid-line as in Fig. 1.
Keeping legs and feet in the same position as Fig. 1, place your palms on the front side of the ball below your uplifted chest. Inhale, extend your spine, tuck your tailbone in, and exhale. Lift up off the ball while inhaling and drawing your shoulders back. Extend up through your neck and the back of your head. Keep your shoulder blades drawn together; don’t press them down. Hold this position and breathe deeply for 5 to 10 breaths.
Begin in the ending position for Fig. 3. Reach your arms out to your sides, with shoulder blades drawn down toward your waist. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths. Don’t shrug your shoulders up toward your ears. Caution: If this move is too difficult, skip the “flying” arm position and just keep your hands on the ball throughout the exercise.
3. Full-Body Flex & Release
Begin in the ending position for Fig. 3. Reach your arms up and out straight in front of you while drawing your shoulder blades down toward your waist. Extend up through your neck and the back of your head. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths. Caution: Avoid jutting your chin forward.
Release your torso over the ball with your leg muscles slightly engaged, shoulders down (don’t shrug them up toward your ears). Place your palms firmly on the floor for balance and support. Sway your hips from side to side in a gentle rocking motion with palms firmly planted on the floor for balance and support, taking full breaths. Continue for about 1 minute or more as a relaxing end to this mini-workout.