The Upper Body: Stability Ball Training, Part I

The Upper Body: Stability Ball Training, Part I

By Carlos Alberto Rivas, M.S., C.S.C.S.

Many exercises in the fitness club require a bench in order to work particular muscles against gravity or to attain appropriate range of motion. Exercises such as the chest press, chest fly, seated shoulder press and the lying triceps extension are just some of the exercises that require a bench. For personal trainers the bench is not always the ideal support tool for two main reasons. First, using unstable training environments such as the stability ball for the purpose of developing stability, balance and athleticism has some well-documented science behind it; second, studies show that unstable training environments increase core muscle recruitment. The following program will teach you some ways you can exercise at home, the office or at the fitness club.


  1. It is mobile and can be used as a support in virtually any location, not just the specified fitness place.
  2. It requires the use of additional muscle groups, in particular the lumbar and pelvic stabilizers.
  3. It offers an increased challenge.
  4. It can be used for injury preventative stabilizing training.
  5. It promotes variety, which helps boredom.


The following routine can be performed on non-consecutive days. Our certified personal trainer, Alison Kightlinger recommends that you perform the routine in the following order with hardly any rest between exercises except at the end of shoulder press. For beginners we recommend one rotation, for the intermediate two rotations and for the more advanced person three rotations two to three times per week. Recommended rest between rotations: 2-3 minutes.


Preparation : Place head and shoulders on the ball; keep chin up so neck is in neutral position; position feet apart to form a good base of stability; pull belly button toward the spine and hold.

Movement : Start with weights on chest; push both weights toward the ceiling while exhaling; upon reaching top of motion lower weights back to chest while inhaling. Repeat 12-15 times.


Preparation : Same as chest press.

Movement : Starting with weights above your chest with arms slightly bent, slowly allow both arms to lower to around shoulder height, then return to starting position; Lighter weights should be used while performing this exercise as the shoulder is in a vulnerable position. Repeat 12-15 times.


Preparation : Same as chest press.

Movement : Position arms perpendicular to the ceiling (straight up); while holding the upper arm perpendicular to the ceiling, perform elbow flexion, allowing the hands to pass on both sides of your head. Return to the starting position with elbow extension. Repeat 15 times.


Preparation : Sit on stability ball in optimal alignment with feet flat on the floor; hold dumbbells in each hand at shoulder height with elbows flexed.

Movement : From the start position, draw your belly button inward toward your spine; maintaining a sit tall position, slowly press the dumbbells up through your natural range of motion; next, slowly lower the dumbbells to just above shoulder level. Repeat 12-15 times.

Carlos Alberto Rivas, M.S., C.S.C.S., is the fitness/personal training director at the Baptist East/Milestone Wellness Center. Carlos has a master”s degree in exercise physiology and has over 10,000 hours of personal training experience. He is also a member of Kentuckiana HealthFitness magazine”s editorial advisory board. Carlos can be reached at 502-896-3900, ext.142.

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