Top 5 Swissball Exercises

Ah, the swissball.  We see them at the gym, but what the hell do we do with them?  They are in essence, an excellent tool for core and stability work.  The lack of stability they provide makes the core turn on even more and makes all your other muscles work harder to accomplish the exercise.  There are SO many things you can do with a swiss/stability ball, this list is obviously non-exhaustive.

A stability, or swissball, can easily be incorporated into your workout at the gym or at home.  Any time you do a movement in which the ground or a chair is used to support bodyweight, sub out a stability ball!  To do this safely, keep in mind that the sub-out part of the stability ball should be used for a secondary support.  This means that basically, if the exercise is stepping up onto a chair (if at home), or aerobic step (if at the gym), the ball clearly wouldn’t work here, so please don’t try to step on a ball, unless you are a professional.

My current Top 5 Stability ball exercises are:

  1. Pike crunch


This is one of my FAVORITE core and arm exercises.  Make sure you keep your core rock hard.  Use your midsection to pull yourself into a pike position, hold for a second, and return to a plank position.  Repeat 8-12 times!

      2. Split squat ball


Holy stability!  This is no easy exercise.  The prop of one leg on the ball really challenges your balance and core stability.  If you can’t maintain good form and control, be sure to use assistance for your balance.  Repeat each side 8-12 times!

      3. Shoulder bridge burner with UE movement 


If you want to feel your glutes & hamstrings burn, baby, burn – this is the exercise for you.  Try to keep your core and hips perfectly straight and level, core engaged, and extra squeeze at the booty!  Keep this position while you perform upper body exercise (you can also get just as good of a burn by focusing on lower body!)  Pictured here, I’m performing overhead chops for core, lats and triceps. 

      4. Walk out with pushup

1ad56cf7-b197-4b07-aa9a-214a3b4d7e28 44c1a630-6c60-447d-bf1d-5e2671e4a518

Push ups are probably on my list of least liked exercises, but they are such a good exercise because they target core AND arms.  Add the stability ball to ramp up the core engagement.  Keep core tight and do not let your lower back “sag.”  8-12 reps!

      5. Bridge + HS curl

7ef54913-2f3a-487a-88d7-4abeef276f3c a1bfa3e9-0cfb-4cbb-b6d0-50c1e477dd99-e1520857240482.jpg

If there is any exercise to guaranteed burn out the hamstrings on this list, this is the one.  Pro Tip: keep the booty elevated to maximize the work of the posterior chain, aka the backside of your body.  8-12 reps!


All About that Booty

We’ve all seen it.  Sitting is killing us.  Or so says countless memes, health websites, and even news articles.  I think that is a little extreme, but sitting for prolonged time is, well, not great (the irony here is I’ve been sitting for at least an hour reflecting on this blog, it’s goals and this post).  Even in an ideal posture, the seated position lengthens our glutes and tightens our hip flexors.  This posture (even a good posture) can lead to it’s own set of issues.  Stiff hip flexors can pull at their attachment on the lumbar spine (aka low back), and lead to back pain.  Stiffness in the front of your hip can lead to a reduced ability to extend your leg behind you, which can have deleterious effects on walking form, running form.  Lengthened glutes can lead to poor glut activation and subsequently, low back pain, hip pain, knee pain, injury risk, etc etc.  Seriously though, to get into all that can happen from sitting all day would take forever.

Inactive glutes?  What is this nonsense?  Many of us work out, so like, my glutes MUST be strong, right?  Not so fast.

Our pelvic position can really affect how well our glutes are engaging when they contract.  Neutral pelvis is going to give us the ideal posture for max glute engagement. How do you gauge if you are in neutral pelvis?  Well, good body awareness is needed, but you take yourself through an anterior pelvic tilt (exaggerate the curve in your low back) and then go through a posterior pelvic tilt (try to flatten out your low back curve)… and then find the posture that is somewhere in the middle.  That, my friends, was the simplest instruction ever to find neutral pelvis, so if you can’t quite figure it out, EMAIL ME!  If you find you mostly stand in anterior pelvic tilt (increased low back curve), this is arguably the worst standing posture for glut engagement, so I would definitely encourage you to start working towards that neutral pelvis.

Muscle imbalance can lead to a strong muscle group out powering the glutes.  Very strong quads can overshadow the glutes and lead to poor glute use during strength training exercises.  So just because you squat does not mean you are maximally engaging your glutes.  Many people are anterior chain (quad) dominant, and poorly engage their posterior chain (glute complex).  When someone squats or lunges that is quad dominant, they will put increased stress across the front of their leg (and subsequently knee, ahem, knee pain) because they are predominantly using their quads.  If you squat and lunge correctly, you will notice the majority of your weight is in your HEELS and NOT your forefoot.  IF you squat and lunge and you feel like you are about to lift your heel from the ground, you are quad dominant.

Processed with VSCO with 6 preset

Even exercise junkies can have inactive glutes (speaking from experience, friends)!  A lot of the exercise we do is in the sagittal (forward & backward) plane.  We walk/run straight ahead, bike straight ahead.  There are very few things that we do sideways.  All of this sagittal plane work can really put a hit on our backside.  Especially the glute med & glute min that are responsible for stabilizing our hips and pelvis.  So what can we SIMPLY do to keep our glutes activating the right way?  Just regular mat exercise!  This allows us to work these muscles as best we can in isolation.  This will help keep our backside healthy and help reduce injury risk.

My Top 5 for Glute Strengthening exercise (based on actual research & ease of performance)

  1. Clamshell Exercise: lay on your side with your legs stacked.  Bend your knees and keep your feet together.  Your feet should stay in contact the whole time.  Rotate at the hip and lift the top knee away from the bottom knee.  That’s one rep!  Make sure your hips do not rotate behind you.  See top photo
  2. Bridging: This can be performed either single leg or double leg.  FORM is the most important so if you aren’t quite strong enough for single leg with correct posture, stick with double leg.  Lay on your back with your knees bent.  Your feet should be hip width apart and knees in line with hips.  Keep your core tight and do not let your back arch.  Lift your hips off of the floor, squeezing the glutes at the top.  IF you perform it single legged, make sure your hips remain level with the lift.  See second photo
  3. Side Plank: Yo, these are HARD.  So many of my athletic patients struggle with this one.  It is easy to cheat so make sure you are in proper alignment.  Your elbow (or hand) should be aligned directly under your shoulder.  Your ankles should be in line with your shoulder (body in a straight line).  Use core and hip to lift body off of ground coming into a straight line, not a saggy line.  Also be sure to “push” your elbow into the ground to engage your shoulder muscles so you aren’t “hanging out” on your shoulder joint.  Goal should be to hold one of these on each side for 30 seconds WITH GOOD FORM.
  4. Sidelying Hip Abduction: cue Jane Fonda.  Lay on your side with your hips and legs stacked, knees straight.  Engage the core and lift the top leg toward the ceiling.  Your leg should stay in LINE with your body and not come in front of you (otherwise you are cheating).
  5. Quadruped Hip Extension: come into tabletop (on hands and knees).  Wrists directly under shoulders, knees directly under hips.  Core engaged (make sure you are not allowing your low back to sag).  Lift from the GLUT and try to “kick” the ceiling with your heel.  Your pelvis should not rotate and do not allow your back to arch to get the leg up.

Okay, that’s the top 5 glut activation exercises.  But don’t forget to stretch afterwards!

Processed with VSCO with 6 preset

Need to Have Fitness Equipment

This Top 5 will cover one of my most asked questions at work – “what sort of exercise equipment should I have?”  Honestly, this question really depends on your goals and your resources (aka gyms/studio memberships) you have outside of your home.  However, I think there are a few basic things everyone that wants to maintain an active lifestyle should have.

These equipment items are very basic, store easily, and can come in handy for many different “at-home” routines.  Not mentioned in the list, but still a very excellent resistance and toning tool is free.  FREE (one of my favorite words).  Body weight is an excellent resistance tool to incorporate into any toning or HIIT cardio regime.  Keep in mind that body weight can only go so far with toning and sculpting goals, but the way you fit body weight training routines into your exercise activities can have a big impact.

Again, this list is in no particular order.  I linked each image with the purchasing website or a link to a similar product!

Foam Roller

foam roller

See previous blog post “(Foam) Rolling Into the Weekend” to remind yourself of my love of foam rollers.  I think having this piece of equipment is a necessity for anyone that engages in any regular exercise, training, physical activity.  Potentially even more paramount for endurance athletes to help keep their muscular and myofascial system mobile

Exercise Mat/Yoga Mat

yoga mat square

Mats are a necessity to home exercise programs.  I honestly used to not have one and I’d just use my floor.  BUT this is not ideal and can sometimes even lead to getting hurt.  Some core exercise on your back can definitely add too much hard pressure through your spine if you are on uncarpeted floor.  OR if you have carpet, the carpet may be dirty (yuck) and then you have bits of dirt on your sweaty back.  I mean am I making a case for a mat or WHAT!?

Medium & Heavy Free Weights

free weight

I like to keep 2 sets of weights at home.  A medium/light and heavy set (for me personally) are beneficial for any DVDs or YouTube routines.  Having a full set is ideal for long term sculpting and strength training programs, but I’m only talking essentials here.  You can use these free weights add a dimension of difficulty for everyday routines you may do at home.  And just 2 sets can be very easily stored away.

Resistance Loops


Resistance loops are probably the most under appreciated cheap and easy exercise pieces to have.  They are SO useful for upper body and lower body.  Loop these babies around your thighs for squats, lunges, donkey kicks, clamshells (!), etc etc.  They are also great at adding resistance to the upper body.  For someone that lives in a small space, I appreciate exercise equipment that is easily stow-able.

Kettle Bell


Don’t be afraid of a kettle bell.  I know a lot of people that are intimidated by kettle bells because that get a rep for being a strenuous piece of equipment.  Yes, kettle bells can be a-may-zing for getting the heart rate up and slaying major calories. But, they are also useful for performing beneficial core and trunk stabilization exercises.  Kettle bell swings for cardio (make sure you use good form to avoid injury) and Turkish Get Ups for core stabilization –  my two favs.