To follow up last week’s post ‘Core Strength: Building a Solid Foundation‘ I wanted to look at some ideas for how to build that foundation. There are so many ways to strengthen your child’s core muscles. Using an exercise ball is just one of them, although there are so many options from this one piece of equipment.
You can work on individual sets of muscles. For examples:
Situps – These are just like they sound. Have your child sit on the ball and lay back. While you are holding their hips or legs have them sit up. Try to have them do it without using their hands to help push themselves up. You could have them reach for you or you could have them cross their arms over their chest. This way they have to use more of their abdominals. To do extra strengthening have them try to lie down without ‘crashing’ down. The slower they lie back down the more they are working their muscles!
Trunk Extension – This is the opposite of the previous exercise. Have your child lie on their stomach (on the ball) with you holding them at their hips. I like to put bean bags or some other toy on the ground and have them pick one up, using both hands, and lift up so they can put the toy on the couch. Initially I may need to give them some extra support at their trunk so they can lift up high enough or roll the back slightly so they don’t have as far too lift. The further forward they are on the ball the harder their muscles have to work. You can also have them work in the opposite direction by taking the toy off the couch and lowering back down to place it on the floor. (I find this one harder to convince the kids to do but its still possible!) The more you can encourage them to lift up without having to push up with their hands, the more they will be working their back extension muscles.
Side Lifts – This is very similar to the previous two. Basically, have your child lie on their side with you holding them at their hips. Ask them to lift up so they are lifting their side up off the ball. It usually works better if you have a toy or something they are reaching for, like giving you a high five! The more you can have them lift straight without twisting the more you are targeting specific muscles.
Twisting is a good way to strengthen although it opens a whole new can of worms!
Besides working on individual sets of muscles you can also work on the way the core muscles work together to help your child maintain their balance and have effective balance reactions. The way to do this is to have your child sit on the ball with you holding them at the hips or thighs. Some options are:
Bouncing – Bounce them up and down on the ball while they try to hold their head and trunk in and upright position. This is usually a great activity to do in between other exercises.
Slow Movement – Have your child sit on the ball and slowly move the ball in a direction and hold it there. This will cause your child to work to keep their trunk and head upright and hold it so that they are working on the endurance of their postural muscles. You can make it fun by having someone blow bubbles and have your child reach for them, or reach for a toy. If I am by myself a lot of times I will use songs and have them clap or modify songs like ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ so that they are touch their head, reaching for the ceiling, touching their shoulders, etc. The goal is to have them use their trunk muscles and not their hands for staying upright.
Fast Movement – This is very similar to the previous exercise except you are moving at a slightly more rapid pace and not sitting at one position for long periods of time. This will work on your child’s ability to adapt to changes in position. You may have to start out slow and then get faster as they become more adept at it. Make sure when you are moving that you aren’t using the same pattern all the time (i.e. always clockwise movement). Switch it up and use diagonals and circles and any pattern you can think of!
Hopefully this was helpful in giving you some ideas of how to ‘Have a Ball’ with your child’s core muscle strengthening!
Here are some other resources on using an exercise ball with kids: