Stir The Pot

How To Do This Challenging Core Exercise
By Alli McKeeFebruary 19, 2016

Stir The Pot Exercise

The stir the pot core exercise is one of the best core exercises for women as it strengthens the muscles of the anterior core, and trains the body to resist extension.

Equipment needed:

You need a stability/Swiss ball to perform this exercise.

Ability level:


The stir the pot exercise is a great option for beginners who are looking to improve their core stability. Beginners should perform the stir the pot ab exercise by getting into a kneeling plank position, and placing their forearms on the ball.
If this exercise is too challenging for beginners, they can instead perform a kneeling plank with their forearms on the ball and can just hold. Beginners might perform 3 sets of 10-15 seconds of stir the pot movements. Once beginners can perform these variations for 15-30 seconds with good form, they can progress to more advanced variations.


Intermediate lifters who have mastered the basic stir the pot exercise from the knees can progress to the more advanced variation of this exercise where they are on their forearms and feet. Women of an intermediate fitness level can do stir the pots as part of their warm-up, can perform them between sets of upper body exercises (I do not like to perform this or any other core stability exercise with heavy compound lower body exercises as I want the core to be fresh for these exercises). Stir the pots can also be used in a conditioning circuit as a way to increase overall core stability work, or as part of a core workout for women. These exercises can also be used in workouts that are done in de-load weeks, or during recovery workouts.


Advanced lifters can use stir the pots in their workout program the same ways as intermediate lifters.
 They can also perform the same variations that I described for intermediate lifters, but with additional resistance. This resistance can include chains, a weight plate (place on mid/lower back), or band resistance (will make the exercise more anti-extension or anti-rotational). You can also elevate your feet on a bench.

Benefits of Stir The Pots:

Stir the pots offer many benefits. How a woman chooses to use a stir the pot is highly dependent on her overall technical ability and experience, her reason for using the exercise, the set/rep scheme used, where it falls in the workout, what it’s paired with, and what the rest periods are. In general, stir the pots can be used to do any or all of the following:

  • increasing core strength, particularly the anterior core
  • preventing injuries, particularly any that result from a weak anterior core and the subsequent pelvic and spinal stability
  • warming the body up before performing more advanced exercise variations, or as part of a general warm-up
  • conditioning (if used as part of conditioning circuits)
  • convenient as it requires minimal equipment

How to perform a Stir The Pot:

  • Set yourself up so your forearms are on a Swiss ball, and your knees are in the floor.
  • Your elbows should be positioned so they are slightly ahead of your shoulders. The farther forward your arms are from your body, the more challenging the exercise will be.
  • Your body should be in a straight(ish) line from your head to knees, and your spine should be in neutral alignment. I prefer to describe the alignment as what you would use while performing the hollow body core stability exercise.
  • Before you go, take a deep breath into your belly through your nose (360 degrees of air around the spine), actively tuck your rib cage towards your hips (close the space in your midsection), contract all of the muscles around your trunk (including lats) and glutes, and perform different movements.
  • With the movements, you have different options: You can move your arms in one direction, move them in the other direction, or one really popular idea is to actually go through the alphabet, so think A,B,C,D. You can also do figure eights.
  • Keep your shoulders packed, but keep your arms relatively relaxed so they don't dominate the exercise as this exercise is for the anterior core, not the upper body.
  • Do not allow your head to drop, hips to sag, lower back to hyperextend, or rib cage to flare.
  • Keep your chin tucked.
  • Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth for the duration of the exercise.
  • If you are performing this exercise correctly, you should not be able to last for more than 15-30 seconds.

Video Transcription: 

To perform the stir the pot core exercise you are going to get in a kneeling plank on a swiss ball. Once you are there you are going to make sure your ribs are down, your spine is neutral and your glutes are tight and you are going to start making movements with your arms.

You have a couple of different options here. You can move them in one direction, move them in the other direction or one really popular idea is to actually go through the alphabet, so think A,B,C,D.  Let's give it a try. So kneeling plank position on the swiss ball, once everything is nice and neutral you are going to start moving it around. The whole goal here is that this movement is suppose to challenge your body's ability to keep your rib cage and pelvis connected and your core nice and tight. As long as you can do this exercise while maintaining a neutral spine you are doing it right.


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About the author:  Alli McKee

Alli is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She's contributed to and modeled for a number of major publications including Oxygen magazine and the New Rules of Lifting: Supercharged. You can find out more about Alli on her personal blog at

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