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This week, you'll need to keep your eye on the ball - or at least your elbows. Brian Schiff outlines a really simple stability ball exercise: the roll-out. It's great for tightening up the abs while, at the same time, strengthening and stabilizing the core and increasing proprioception.

See 'Related Resources' below for past Functionally Fits and other exercises and training tips.


Execution

Begin by propping your forearms on the stability ball but keeping the elbows bent greater than 90 degrees with the hands close to the chin.


Once you are in a stable position, lift the lower body up and rest on the toes. Beginners should keep the feet at least shoulder-width apart to increase stability.

Gradually extend the elbows until you feel the abdominals strongly contract or until the spine feels as if it is just about to collapse. Pause at this point, and then slowly return to the start position.

Perform one to three sets of five to 15 slow, controlled repetitions.

Application
This is a challenging but excellent way to strengthen the abdominals while simultaneously increasing core stability and proprioception. Trainers need to spot or supervise standing near the stability ball in case clients lose balance or control suddenly. If a client struggles to perform this variation, consider having him/her begin on the knees and master the roll-out itself using just the arms as this will still sufficiently strengthen the abdominals.

Additional Notes
People with an increased lumbar lordosis (like me) may struggle to maintain form the further they roll out. Do not mistake increased lordosis for core weakness as this may easily deceive you. However, watch the start position of the spine, and gage abdominal control based upon the movement itself. Also, observe any pelvic drop or rotation as this may signal left or right side imbalances or weakness.

Brian Schiff, PT, CSCS (www.brianschiff.com) is a licensed physical therapist, respected author and fitness professional. He became a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) in 1998. In 2000, he opened his own personal training and sport-specific conditioning facility, Fitness Edge, in Dublin, Ohio. Brian has presented at several professional conferences and seminars on injury prevention and sport-specific training.

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