As a fitness movement, the squat is an institution. It’s been around—in versions and variations—for as long as humans have been exercising. Walk into any gym or health club in America and you will find squat racks in high demand.
Until recently, the stability ball was relegated to the realm of rehab—a brightly colored curiosity one might encounter in a physical therapy clinic. Recently, stability balls have become more common than squat racks and it should come as no surprise that these two gym staples would get together to spawn the “ball squat.”
Stability balls come in many sizes. For the purposes of this movement, choose the one that feels most comfortable. In general, that means a 55cm ball.
Place the ball between a smooth, flat wall (preferably without a mirror) and the natural curve of your lower back. This positioning accommodates that curve and reduces back strain while also activating your core and making it easier to maintain proper squat form.
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, toes pointed forward. Of course, subtle variations may be necessary from person-to-person.
Keeping your spine in alignment and hips level, perform a squat by inhaling as you lower yourself until your legs are at a 90-degree angle.
Driving from your heels—feet flat on the floor—exhale as you push back up to a standing position.
To add in some upper body action, hold a relatively light dumbbell in each hand, arms hanging at your sides. Lower yourself as above, but when you drive upward, raise your arms until they are parallel with the floor—elbows slightly bent.
Freestyle Ball Squat
For this version, you might do best with a 45cm ball.
Assume the squat position as above: Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, toes pointed forward (with your subtle variations). Holding the stability ball with your hands, extend your arms and raise the ball over head. Your elbows should end up near your ears.
With the ball elevated as such, perform your squat (as above) by inhaling as you lower yourself until your legs are at a 90-degree angle. Then drive from your heels—feet flat on the floor—exhaling as you push back up to a standing position.
Throughout the entire movement, your arms are holding the ball above your head as you maintain a long spine and slightly brace your core.
Obviously, these movements can be executed outside a gym setting and work well when combined in a circuit that might have you also doing pushups, pull-ups and crunches while lying on the stability ball.
Final note: The advice presented above is not meant for anyone with contraindicated health problems. Please consult a medical or fitness professional.
The stability ball was invented in Italy in 1963 as a toy called the Gymnastik.