I wanted to do a piece about some effective exercises that can be performed at home with relatively little equipment, time or expense, such as one of my favourites: the Swiss Ball rollout (see below).

Background to why Swiss Balls are a really helpful fall back

The main reason I see people failing to achieve their overall exercise and health goals is not the exercise or the work itself. More often, it is a practical or logistical problem. Life can sometimes rudely interrupt your exercise plans: you need to join an early conference call, you need to look after a sick child, there’s a work function you cannot miss, there is simply not enough time (there really isn’t enough time- sometimes!) – there are so many valid excuses that act as a barrier to taking exercise and getting proper nutrition. I know that the many stresses of  life in 2017 can sometimes feel overwhelming and exercise inevitably falls by the wayside.

The key is to remove as many logistical and practical barriers to exercise as possible. Make a small amount of progress each day and a year from now you’ll be amazed at the progress. Small habits repeated each day result in massive and lasting change.

That is why I am a fan of the trusty Swiss Ball for home workouts, particularly those exercises that give you a great core work out. Yes, lifting weights is excellent for you but it demands travel and much more preparation. If you haven’t already, you should absolutely have a Swiss ball and mat at home as a back up to prevent your routine from falling apart if circumstances interfere with your usual workout plan. For homework outs, the Swiss Ball I use with my clients is this one (because it offers total safety for new and expectant mothers) and the mat I recommend is here.

“How many repetitions?”

A question I am often asked by clients is ‘how many reps should I do of xyz exercise?’, the answer is always the same: “You must focus on fatiguing the muscle enough to make a positive change. Perform the exercise in a controlled manner (no jerky movements or using momentum)” until you feel like you cannot physically perform the exercise any longer. Your body does not know the difference between 10 repetitions or 50 repetitions or the amount of weight you are moving. It only knows the extent to which the muscle is fatigued to create an adaptive response! This applies to all of the challenging movements below. You should be aiming for muscular failure, not a certain amount of reps.

5 Swiss Ball core stability techniques for busy women

Swiss Ball Rollout

The reason I recommend the Swiss Ball Rollout is that whilst this exercise is a very efficient method of strengthening stability in your core it also supports stability in your triceps and shoulders. The Swiss Ball Rollout is particularly effective for new mothers looking to regain abdominal strength, improve the appearance of the abdominal and upper arm area during the post-natal period and to provide support for your back and posture at a time when your body needs it most.

Here’s how a Swiss Ball rollout is performed:

  • First, kneel facing the ball ensuring it is far enough away from you so that you can place the palms of your hands on it when your arms are fully extended.
  • Ensuring you keep your knees in the same position and the palms of your hands on the ball, push the ball away from you slowly so that your torso gradually becomes extended.
  • Next, pulling with your stomach muscles, and keeping both of the palms of your hands on the ball, return to  your vertical starting position.
  • During the Swiss Ball rollout mentally focus on squeezing your abdominals tight.

Swiss Ball Plank

This exercise is more difficult to perform correctly than the Swiss Ball rollout but will work the same muscle groups and, in addition, work your glues and hamstrings. This will work wonders for your posture and support your other training goals (including more difficult pursuits like free weight training).

Here’s how a Swiss Ball Plank is performed:

Alternative to the Swiss Ball rollout
The Swiss Ball Plank

To perform the exercise, you simply hold the position without moving. The challenge is staying still when the stability ball starts to move underneath you. Because the exercise ball challenges your balance, it is harder to keep your alignment and your abs and shoulders work much harder than during the floor plank; because your knees are off the ground, you also work much harder than during the Swiss Ball Rollout.

  • Start by placing your elbows on the ball.
  • Balance on your toes, while keeping your body in a straight line.
  • This is an isometric exercise, which simply means that you hold the same position without moving.
  • Hold for 10-30 seconds.
  • Make sure that you keep your body in a straight line.
  • Keep your abs pulled in to stop your back from arching.
 If you feel your back arching too much, have someone (such as a workout partner) support the ball so it doesn’t move as much.

Swiss Ball Leg Raise

This again will work your entire core and gives a mini-aerobic workout and muscle ‘burn’.

Here’s how a Swiss Ball Leg Raise is performed:

  • Place the Swiss Ball between your feet as you lie with your back flat on the ground with your hands by your sides.
  • Squeeze the Swiss Ball with your feet and ankles and slowly raise it a raise it a few inches off the ground.
  • Lift your legs to produce a 90 degree angle with the floor.
  • Lower your legs back down but do not let the Swiss Ball touch the floor.
  • Raise and lower your legs 15 times, or as many times as you can manage.

Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl

Different from the Swiss Ball rollout and the other exercises mentioned above, this exercise primarily works the hamstrings. The Swiss Ball uses a support to help raise the legs and hips off the floor. This leg exercise also works the glutes and the core very well.

Here’s how the Swiss Ball Leg Raise is performed:

  • Lie on your back with your feet resting on top the ball.
  • Place your arms out to the side in a relaxed state.
  • Lift your bottom off the floor by raising your hips.
  • Pull the ball in to your body by driving your hips higher and curling your legs.
  • Slowly return to the start position still with your hips raised.

Swiss Ball Press Up

This is the most challenging exercise on the list and will work your pectoral muscles, triceps and all over core. It’s highly effective, if you can do it!

Here’s how the Swiss Ball Press Up is performed:

  • Put your toes on top of a Swiss Ball to elevate your body.
  • Lower your body until your upper body is just about to touch the floor.
  • Focussing on using your chest muscles, press into the mat and push your torso back into the starting position squeezing your chest at the top.
  • After a second pause at the contracted position, repeat the movement until you are fatigued

Good luck with these exercises – if you have any questions please leave them in the comments below and I will respond.

Remember that diet forms 80% of the work in getting the abdominals that you desire.