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For some sadistic reason, corsets have been popular undergarments numerous times over the course of human history, with the most recent iterations lacing up in front or in back with the goal of cinching the waistline into an impossibly small circumference. This craze forced all manner of bodies into a faux-yet-fashionable hourglass silhouette that restricted circulation and breathing mechanics so much that a piece of furniture was created to accompany the trend — the fainting couch.
Today, you can get those same corset-like results — without the resultant fainting problems — through dedicated core training and, of course, a clean and nutritious diet. One of the best ways to engage all your core musculature at once is by using a stability ball. You’ll fire up those deep abdominal muscles as well as any stabilizing muscles needed to hold the ball in place while you perform the exercise at hand. Sprinkle these moves into your regularly scheduled programming, or choose three to use in place of your regular abdominal work. With practice, these moves are a cinch!
Lie faceup with your knees bent 90 degrees and positioned directly over your hips. Extend your arms straight up over your shoulders and hold a stability ball between your knees and hands. Slowly extend one arm and your opposite leg toward the floor while keeping the ball in the center with your other arm and leg. Pause briefly, then slowly return to the start. Continue, alternating sides.
Tip: Maintain pressure and tension against the ball with your non-working hand and knee, and keep your core braced throughout.
Lie faceup with your upper back and shoulders on top of a stability ball and your feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor. Lift your hips to align with your knees and shoulders, and extend your arms straight above your chest with your palms pressed together. Slowly twist your torso to the right, rolling onto your right shoulder and lowering your arms in a smooth arc. Return to the center and repeat, alternating sides.
Tip: The ball will roll and change positions underneath you, so keep your feet really grounded to stay balanced and stable.
Wide-to-Narrow Glute Raise
Lie overtop a stability ball, facedown, and place your hands flat on the ground. Open your legs into a wide V with your toes lightly touching the floor, legs straight. Use your hands to keep you steady as you raise your legs in a V until they align with your hips and shoulders. Move them inward until they touch, then open them back out into a V and lower them to the floor.
Tip: Don’t lift your legs too high or you could hyperextend your back.
Plank Knee-in Hold
Place your feet on top of a stability ball and walk your hands out until you’re in a plank with your head, hips and heels aligned. Keep your core tight and your hips low as you bring your right knee in toward your chest. Find your balance and hold here for 10 seconds. Return to the start and switch sides.
Tip: Press down into the ball with your non-working leg and into the floor with your hands to help stabilize you while you hold this position.
Crab Toe Touch
Lie faceup with your lumbar and midback on top of a stability ball. Place your right hand lightly behind your head for support and extend your left arm overhead. Place your left foot flat on the floor with your knee bent and extend your right leg straight, toes pointed. Slowly lift your right leg and your left hand toward the midline of your body and curl up until they touch, then lower slowly to the start. Complete all reps on one side, then switch.
Tip: If lifting a straight leg is too challenging, default to having both knees bent. Over time, transition to the straight-leg version.
Plank Bird Dog
Lie facedown with your abdomen and hips on top of the stability ball and your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor in front of you. Extend your legs straight out behind you spaced hip-width apart and turn your toes under for stability. Slowly raise your left arm and right leg until they are about parallel with the floor. Lower to the start and continue, alternating sides.
Tip: Actively press backward with the heel of your lifted leg, and reach the fingers of your raised hand in front of you as if trying to touch a wall. This engages your core and glutes and stabilizes you on the ball.