If you’re looking for a challenging exercise but with big gains; think core strength, reduced back pain, abs of steel, increased weight lifting ability and more, then ‘stirring the pot’ is for you.
The core stability required for a plank is one thing, but when you add an exercise ball into the mix, your abs have to work even harder to keep both your body AND a moving ball still.
It’s an advanced movement, but there are variations to help you build up slowly and to ensure the exercise is done properly with a focus on smooth, controlled movement rather than speed.
How to Perform Stir the Pot Exercise
Let’s first guide you through how to perform the ‘stir the pot’ exercise – you’ll need an exercise ball for this one. Whilst a challenge to perform, it’s a relatively simple movement to understand.
- Step 1. From a kneeling position, rest your whole forearms, elbows below your shoulders on an exercise ball in front of you.
- Step 2. Straighten your legs and get your body into a plank position, with a wide stance (the narrower the gap between your legs the harder it will be!), keeping your forearms on the ball.
- Step 3. Make sure you have your toes flexed (balls of your feet off the ground) and engage your core – think neutral spine, tight abs and glutes, stable hips and pelvis and a straight (or thereabouts) line from your head to your knees.
- Step 4. Now we ‘stir the pot’. Rotate your arms at your shoulders in a full clockwise movement. The ONLY movement should be in the shoulder joint – your hips, pelvis, spine and shoulders should remain stable and not twist. Avoid digging your elbows into the ball to help with stability – that’s cheating! Don’t allow your head or hips to drop (or rise). Keep your glutes and abs tight and always think of that straight line for a normal plank position.
- Step 5. Start small with repetitions, 4 – 8 full rotations in a clockwise movement before repeating in anti-clockwise rotation makes up one set.
Alternatively, allow yourself 10-20 seconds of clockwise rotations before giving the same amount of time for anti-clockwise rotations as one set.
This might sound small, but believe us, you will feel it. Remember the focus is on smooth, controlled movements with a stable core at ALL times.
Stir the Pot Modifications and Variations
Decrease the challenge
Rather than getting yourself into a raised plank position, stay in a kneeling position. Hold your forearms on the ball and maintain a stable core as perform the rotations as above.
If you are still struggling to hold you core still, you could even start by simply holding your forearms on the ball from a kneeling position without the movement, so that you practise stability before advancing to stirring the pot.
Increase the challenge
Narrowing your stance will make the exercise more difficult as it requires more stability from your core.
Remember, if at any point you allow your hips to twist or lose that straight line in the plank position, you’re performing the exercise wrong and you need to decrease the challenge.
Benefits of Stir the Pot Exercise
One of the great benefits of this exercise is that you are not only building core strength for balance and stability, but also the strength required for anti-rotation, flexion and extension movements.
By working all aspects of the core, you become better able at lifting heavier weights, making stirring the pot a great choice for strength training.
Reduce chance of injury
As with any exercise, by building strength and stability you reduce the likelihood of injury in specific areas of your body. In this case, you are helping to prevent injury in anterior core, pelvis and spine.
Improve back pain
It may sound counter-intuitive but most people with back problems actually have a strong back. What they lack is spinal endurance and stability particularly whilst other parts of the body move. By practising anti-rotation, flexion and extension movements, exercises like stirring the pot help to stabilise everything around your back to improve the core strength required to combat lower back pain.
Toned abdominal muscles
Whether your hoping for a more subtle, toned look or that chiselled ‘six pack’, this exercise requires even greater abdominal strength than a regular plank making it a great choice for ab definition.
Some of us may consider a regular plank one of the more boring exercises. Holding the same position without movement can make the time feel longer, so arguable by adding movement as you stir the pot, you might find this exercise a bit more fun!
Muscles Worked During Stir the Pot
Stirring the pot is a great way to engage and strengthen your anterior core muscles, predominantly the abdominals. To a lesser extent, your lats, lower back, obliques and shoulders will also receive a work out and keeping your glutes tight adds strength here too.
As you’ll see when you try, stir the pot is an advanced variation of the plank so make sure you’ve mastered that first. If you cannot keep your core stable, and lose your posture whilst performing the rotations this exercise becomes totally redundant. Consider the variations that allow you to build up slowly before diving straight in.
Once you are able to perform to perfection, and this doesn’t have to mean lots of reps and long durations, it’s a fantastic exercise as a stand-alone activity or as a warm-up or cool down as part of a circuit. Our top tip would be to keep your core fresh for this, so if you’re using it as part of a circuit, bear in mind not to overwork that core before or after!