If you went through a phase of sitting on an exercise ball at your desk when it was #trending a few years back, you can attest: They’re actually a handy little piece of equipment.

Besides aiding in good posture, they can also take your workouts to the next level. Exercise balls, also known as stability balls, can be incorporated into many basic exercises to create an unstable surface, which cranks up the difficulty.

Try these six exercise ball moves below to tone up and feel the burn.

1. Planks


Arguably one of the best exercises for core conditioning, planks are deceivingly simple but require a large amount of core strength and stability to execute correctly and for extended periods of time. Add in an exercise ball and difficulty is increased. Now you’re on an unstable surface — get ready for those abs to burn!

  1. Start on your knees with the exercise ball in front of you.
  2. Place your forearms on the ball. Extend your legs straight back and keep your shoulders directly above your elbows. Keep the rest of your body in a straight line, especially your neck. To maintain a plank position, you’ll have to squeeze your abdominal muscles to prevent your core and lower body from sagging.
  3. Try to hold for 30 seconds and perform 2 to 3 reps.

Take it to the next level

If you need more of a challenge, try plank circles instead. Get in the plank position on the exercise ball. Start to move your forearms and shoulders in a clockwise circle while keeping your abs braced and your lower body stationary. Complete 10 rotations one way, then switch directions.

2. Jackknives

Jackknives are a more advanced move. They work the lower and inner abs and test upper body strength.

  1. Start in a pushup position with the exercise ball under your shins.
  2. Brace your core and upper body. Pull the ball toward your chest using your lower abs.
  3. Hold for 1 second and roll the ball back out. Make sure your lower back doesn’t sag.
  4. Aim for 20 reps and 3 sets and work up from there.

3. Bridge

Variations of the bridge are some of the most effective exercises to target the glutes specifically. Even without weight — and especially on an exercise ball — the pause and pulse of this move will have you feeling it.

  1. Start by placing the exercise ball underneath your upper back with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle, feet flat on the ground and arms comfortably at your sides.
  2. Inhale and lower your hips. Don’t let them touch the ground. On the exhale, push through your heels, raising your hips and squeezing your glutes and hamstrings until you return to the starting position.
  3. Pause for 1 to 2 seconds, then repeat.
  4. Complete 10 to 15 reps and 2 to 3 sets. Rest for 30 to 60 seconds between sets.

Take it to the next level

If you need an extra challenge, do these one-legged.

4. Bulgarian split squat

A traditional Bulgarian split squat is done off of a bench or another elevated surface. It’s really effective to work the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Plus, it works on your stability as you’re balancing on one leg at time.

  1. Split your stance. Stand lunge-length in front of an exercise ball with the top of your left foot resting on the exercise ball.
  2. Lunge on your right foot. Keep your chest up until your left knee nearly touches the ground and your right thigh is parallel with the ground.
  3. Return to standing position and repeat 10 to 12 times, then switch legs.

Take it to the next level

To make it harder, add dumbbells in each hand.

5. Dumbbell bench press

The bench press builds strength in your upper body. With the addition of an exercise ball, you’ll be working on your core, too.

  1. To perform, grab dumbbells in each hand. Sit atop the exercise ball.
  2. Carefully walk your feet out in front of you until your knees form a 90-degree angle and the ball is underneath your upper back.
  3. Extend your elbows and push the dumbbells toward the ceiling until your arms are straight, locking your elbows.
  4. Bend your elbows and return the dumbbells to rest on the side of your chest.
  5. Complete 12 to 15 reps.

6. Dumbbell pullover

Dumbbell pullovers are another exercise for the chest. They hit a lot of those little muscles in your chest and back you probably didn’t even know you had. You’ll be saying “ow” the next day!

  1. Grab one dumbbell and sit atop the exercise ball.
  2. Carefully walk your feet out in front of you until your knees form a 90-degree angle and the ball is underneath your upper back.
  3. Hold the dumbbell with both hands so it’s perpendicular to the ground, straight over your chest at arm’s length.
  4. Begin to lower the dumbbell behind your head in an arc until you feel a pull in your chest.
  5. Stop, inhale, and bring the dumbbell back to starting position.

Bottom line

Like spandex and Jazzercise, you might have thought exercise balls were no longer on fleek. But actually, they’re extremely effective workout tools! After trying the above moves, you’ll be feeling more toned in your entire body. That’s worth keeping the ol’ workout ball around.

Nicole Bowling is a Boston-based writer, ACE-certified personal trainer, and health enthusiast who works to help women live stronger, healthier, happier lives. Her philosophy is to embrace your curves and create your fit — whatever that may be! She was featured in Oxygen magazine's "Future of Fitness" in the June 2016 issue.