stir the pot exercise

Planking exercises have gained more and more popularity in recent years and are a fantastic way to train the muscles of the core for improved conditioning, endurance, posture, injury-prevention and total-body strength.

If you’ve already built up your basic planking strength to a reasonable degree though, adding in some more difficult variations becomes important in order to allow for continued progression.

For those with some good foundational strength who want to kick things up a notch, the Swiss ball “stir the pot” exercise is one of the absolute best movements out there to step up your planking game and maximize your core development.

“Stirring the pot” was first popularized by world-renowned spine specialist Dr. Stuart McGill, and once you give it a try you’ll see exactly why he favors it so heavily as a means of effective core training.

The swiss ball stir the pot will literally work your entire body from finger to neck to toe, specifically honing in on the rectus abdominus, obliques and all of the smaller core muscles that stabilize the spine.

Whether you’re a bodybuilder trying to carve out a more defined set of six pack abs, a powerlifter or athlete looking for a boost in overall strength and explosiveness, or just someone who wants to improve their lower back health and posture, this exercise is definitely worth a shot.

But before you simply glance at a couple pictures and jump right into it, it’s very important that you understand the proper form first.

There are several important subtleties involved that you’ll need to keep in mind here, and most people make several small mistakes that quickly add up and greatly reduce the effectiveness of the exercise.

Here’s how to go about it properly…

The “Stir The Pot” Exercise: Proper Form

1) Rest your elbows on a large Swiss ball and get yourself into a proper plank position. This means that your arms should be bent at a 90 degree angle and your entire body should form a straight line from your head to your ankles. Keep your abs braced and contract your glutes.

2) From this position, simply move your forearms in a small circular motion while keeping the rest of your body stationary. This means…

– Maintaining a neutral neck position and not allowing your head to move up or down. A good cue for this is to imagine that you’re holding a tennis bell underneath your chin that you don’t want to drop.

– Not allowing your hips to drop or your knees to bend. Keeping your glutes contracted will help to prevent this from happening.

– Making sure that your upper back does not round over by ensuring that your scapula is kept down and back at all times.

3) You can either perform the exercise for a set number of reps, or just continue the movement for a set time period.

My recommendation is to count actual reps, reversing direction every 2-4 rotations for a total of anywhere from 8-15 reps per set.

4) Once you’re able to perform around 15 total reps in proper form, you can increase the difficulty of the exercise by forming larger circles with your arms and/or narrowing up your stance.

Although “stirring the pot” might look pretty easy at first glance, you’ll likely be in for a surprise once you put it into action.

If you execute the movement using all of the proper form tips I just outlined, it’s actually quite a challenging exercise that will really fire up your core and leave you with some noticeable soreness the following day.

If you’re still a beginner and find that the “stir the pot” exercise is simply too difficult to perform without your technique breaking down, you’ll want to start off with some more basic planking variations first in order to build up your strength.

The simple “straight plank” is where you’ll want to begin…

straight plank

This uses the same setup as the stir the pot exercise (arms at a 90 degree angle, head neutral, shoulders down/back and forming a straight line with your entire body), except it’s done on the floor in a stationary position.

Once you can hold that variation for a full 60 seconds, you can increase the difficulty and graduate to the Swiss ball plank…

swiss ball plank

And once this can be held for around 60 seconds, you should be able to “stir the pot” for at least 8 high quality reps and can then simply progress from there.

Give this a try and if you have any questions just leave them in the comments below.

There are an endless number of different abdominal and core exercises out there to choose from, but “stirring the pot” is definitely at the very top of my list of recommended movements.

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