Fitness Tips

Your Secret Weapon for Back Strength Is a Stability Ball—Here’s Exactly How to Wield It

Tehrene Firman

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Photo: Getty Images/Antonio Diaz
A stability ball is typically used for core exercises at the gym or as a supposedly better-for-your-posture chair at the office. And while it really is helpful to define your abdominal muscles, it's also a secret weapon for strengthening your back. Take that, lat pull-down machine.

"Most people only see the 'six pack' as their abs, but stability balls can work all sides of the core—and that includes the back," says Gerren Liles, Equinox master trainer and Hyperwear athlete. "Exercises that challenge your back by incorporating back and glute contractions make the ball a valuable tool in strengthening your posterior chain."

"Most people only see the 'six pack' as their abs, but stability balls can work all sides of the core—and that includes the back." —Gerren Liles, Equinox master trainer

Unlike some back-strengthening exercises—especially those done on gym equipment—using a stability ball keeps things easy. There's no complicated instructions to figure out, and you can build up your muscles right in the comfort of your own home. To try out three of Liles' favorites, follow the instructions below.

The best stability ball back exercises, according to a trainer

Reverse extension

  1. Lie on your stomach over the ball, placing your stomach and hips at the top of the ball with your hands and feet on the floor.
  2. Stabilizing with your hands, contract your lower back and glutes to slowly lift your feet off of the floor, keeping your legs together. No other part of you should move. Try to keep your legs parallel with your torso.
  3. Lower your feet back toward the floor and repeat.

Back extension

  1. Similar to the reverse extension, place your stomach and hips at the top of the ball.
  2. Keeping your feet planted and placing your hands behind your head, contract your lower back and glutes to elevate your chest.
  3. After pausing at the top, lower your upper body back down and repeat.

Kneeling scapular retraction

  1. Position yourself on a mat with both knees on the floor.
  2. Hold the stability ball at chest height with straight arms and open palms, squeezing the ball to create tension.
  3. Retract your shoulder blades in toward the spine, like you're squeezing and holding a pencil between your shoulder blades.
  4. Then protract, returning your arms to your starting position as you move your shoulder blades away from your spine. Repeat.

You can also use resistance bands to work your back with these exercises:

These three feels-so-good exercises decompress your spine for a happy back. Then go for the back extension exercises that whisk away the effects of sitting at a desk all day.

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