The exercise ball is a favorite tool for building core strength. While physical therapists have used the ball for several years, fitness experts suggest that it is one of the best ways to strengthen the abs and back and increase stability. With so many fitness enthusiasts using it, the exercise ball trend seems to have come to stay.
Choosing the right exercise ball
Pick an exercise ball of the right size. To test the size, sit on the ball and make sure that the hips are level or just slightly higher than the knees.
For instance, if the person is overweight or obese, he or she might wonder if they can use the exercise ball at all! There are companies that sell burst resistant ball that often hold 600 or more pounds. Exercise balls stores can also be found online.
Using exercise ball
An exercise ball is versatile enough to use for just about anything. For instance, you can lie on the ball, let your abs and legs contract immediately to keep from falling off. If an exercise is added to this movement, say a crunch or a chest exercise, additional intensity is added to the movement. The unique feature of exercise ball is that is challenges your body by putting you in an unstable environment.
Exercise ball can be used for weight training. You can use the ball for a weight bench to add difficulty to the movement and incorporate the muscles, butt and abs. For abdominal training, doing crunches, twists and such exercises, this ball can add difficulty to the movement by recruiting more muscles.
Just sitting on the ball can be a challenge and it is a great way to improve your posture when sitting in front of a computer or watching television. The exercise ball is great for stretching and relaxing, yoga and Pilates exercises. For playing around, exercise ball is a workout tool.
The exercise ball can be used in core workout exercises for strength of the muscles in the abs and back including the rectus, abdominis, transverse, internal and external oblique and erector spinae. Although these moves will challenge your balance, stability and overall coordination, you can have a multipurpose workout with this ball. As the moves are difficult, take your time and use a wall for balance if you feel wobbly.
However, it is advised to check out with the doctor before you try any workout with the exercise ball, especially if you have any injuries, illnesses and other conditions.
Exercise ball benefits
Exercise ball can simply be used at home or office as chair. Derive innumerable benefits from using exercise ball as chair.
- As the ball is not stable, your body needs to try and balance itself on it. The perfect spinal posture is easiest to balance with. Your body will automatically realign itself to a proper posture. This helps to improve spinal health and decrease back pains.
- As the exercise ball causes you to change positions often to balance, your body will assume a new position. This can help reduce the damage by prolonged sitting in the same position, for instance, in a computer system.
- Sit on an exercise ball and stretch or do mini workouts whenever you want without getting up.
- Your balance is improved by sitting on an unstable surface all day.
- Abs muscles can be strengthened with a low key abdominal workout.
- Using exercise ball, improve your blood circulation throughout the day. A desk chair on the other hand, reduces circulation to some parts of the body after prolonged use.
- It is approximately estimated that one can burn 350 calories a day using exercise ball, which equals to losing one pound of fat every 10 days. Even if you do not burn 350 calories, an exercise ball helps you stay fit.
- Exercise balls are inexpensive as they come in a range of $ 15 to $ 80, much cheaper than an ergonomic chair, which ranges anywhere from $ 100 to $ 400 and more.
Exercise ball types
Your exercise ball could be a Swiss one, stability ball, fitness ball, balance ball, fit ball, large and small exercise ball and bouncy, colorful one that is practically found in every gym. Exercise balls vary in size, inflated with air but are puncture-resistant and made of pliable soft PVC.
Swiss balls were originally used for rehabilitation and physical therapy. Swiss balls are known by a number of names including balance ball, birth ball, body ball, gym ball, physioball, Pilates ball, Swedish ball, therapy ball or yoga ball. These elastic balls were created in 1963 by an Italian plastics manufacturer called Aquilino Cosani.
Pilates or Swiss exercise ball constructed of elastic or PVC with a diameter of approximately 35 to 85 centimeters are filled with air. The air pressure is changed by removing a valve stem and either filling with air or letting the ball deflate. This is most often used in physical therapy, athletic training and exercise. The term 'Pilates' refers to a physical fitness system developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates in Germany, the UK and the US. Pilates called his method 'contrology' because he believed that his method uses the mind to control the muscles. This exercise method seeks to increase the strength, flexibility and control
Fitness balls engage more muscles due to their unstable nature of balancing body weight on the ball. A workout done on a hard surface does not encourage the muscles to respond as much.
Large exercise balls
Large exercise balls are a versatile piece of exercise equipment and can be used in a variety of ways, working multiple muscle groups. A number of core exercises can be performed using large exercise ball.
Perform the squat and reach with a large exercise ball held out in front while in a squatting position. Reach to the left, right, up and down, challenging the core.
An exercise called the plank can also be performed with a large exercise ball. The original plank is performed in the push up position with forearms supporting your weight instead of hands. You need to hold this position as you tighten the core. With the exercise ball plank, you must support yourself with your hands on the floor and upper thighs resting on the stability ball.
Large exercise ball also help tone lower body. Bridge is an exercise she can do to tone up the gluteus. Lie on the floor with knees apart, place feet on the ball and lift your hips off the ground. In this exercise, use the stability ball as the pushing off point. To do exercise ball squats, place an exercise ball between the back and the wall and perform a standard squat.
Standard pushups with thighs can be done using exercise ball. To add barbells to your routine, use ball in place of a bench for presses and triceps extension. Alternatively, you can prop your feet up on the ball with legs bent while lying on back on the ground, doing presses.
Large exercise balls help predominantly exercise the muscles on the back and abdomen and greatly support the skeleton.
Small exercise balls
Instead, small exercise balls are becoming popular as they fit snugly in the natural curve at the bottom of the back called the lumbar spine. The small ball fits the length of the spinal column, short or long, and is far more effective compared to leaning back over a large ball. Your body is extended further because of the smaller size of the ball that has smaller diameter. For deeper workout, with those hard to reach lower abdominal muscles, smaller balls are more effective than using larger ones.
Squeezing a small ball is an effective way to burn calories and work out hands, strengthen grip and relieve stress. Get a rubber ball or a tennis ball that fits fully in the palm of the hand. At around 10% the size of large balls, the smaller fitness balls are 200% more effective than the larger ones, according to a leading US fit ball manufacturer. And compared to ordinary abdominal crunches, small fit balls are up to 408% more effective.
On practical terms, large exercise balls are trickier to store, whereas the small ones are more convenient to leave inflated and are easier to store in a cupboard when not in use. And of course it is easier to throw a small deflated exercise ball in a holiday luggage than a large one.
Exercises with fitness ball
An exercise ball, a mat or a light medium medicine ball with suggested weight 4-8 lbs can be used. Warm up for about 5-10 minutes to do this workout after regular cardio or strength routine.
Perform 1-3 sets of 10-16 repetitions of each exercise taking care to perfect form before increasing the sets. Avoid any moves that cause pain or discomfort. It is advised to hold on to a wall or prop the ball against something sturdy for added stability.
Position the ball under the hips and lower torso. The knees can be straight or bent. With hands behind the head or behind back, slowly roll down the ball. Lift chest off the ball, bringing the shoulders up until the body is in a straight line. Make sure that the body is in alignment and abs pulled in, and do not hyper extend the back. Repeat 12-16 times.
Position the ball under the abs and hips, hands on the floor and legs straight and off the floor. Hold that position, keeping the body in a straight line, abs pulled in. Working to stay balanced slowly raise the right arm to the side, taking care not to roll or allow any part of the body to collapse, Hold briefly, lower the arm and repeat on the other side.
Lie on the ball with the head, neck and shoulders supported, knees bent and body in a table top position. Lower the hips towards the floor without rolling on the ball. Squeeze the glutes to raise hips until body is in a straight line like a bridge. Hold weights on the hips for added intensity and make sure you press through the heels and not the toes.
Get into a pushup position with the feet on either side of the ball. Hold the body in a straight line with abs pulled in, hips straight, and hands directly under shoulders. Slowly rotate the ball to the right while trying to keep shoulder level, then to the left.
Abdominal exercise ball
When doing abdominal exercises on the ball:
- Your abs work harder
- There is more range of motion
- There are greater improvements in balance, coordination and stability.
Stability ball piques: Begin with feet on the ball and hand on the floor. Lift the hips into the air and hold briefly and return to the starting point.
Swiss ball exchange between arms and legs: Your body moves like a clan. Place the ball between the feet, lower your legs and then raise your legs and take the ball from between your feet. Bring your arms overhead and repeat.
Side crunches on the stability ball: Lie sideways on the ball and cross your top foot over your bottom leg. With your hands behind your head crunch to the side.
Alternating crunches on the stability ball: Lie on the ball with your hips just off the edge of the ball. Crunch forward and rotate your body on one side. Repeat and rotate to the other side.
Buying an exercise ball
Careful selection of the exercise ball is imperative to effectively performing exercises. A general rule is that when sitting on the ball, make sure the hips are level or just slightly higher than the knees - thus creating an angle of 90 degrees or slightly greater at the hips and knees. Following is the general guideline when buying an exercise ball:
- Those shorter than 5'4 inches should use a 55 cm ball.
- Those between 5'5 inches and 5'11 inches should use a 65 cm ball and
- Those between 6' and 6'7 inches should use a 75 cm ball.
Tips on exercise ball
- To get comfortable with exercise ball, you must get used to it. Place it near a wall or put a hand on the wall for support and have a seat. As you get more stable, take hands off the wall and practice sitting while raising arms to the sides and then over head.
- For better balance of the feet on the ball, place the feet wide apart for a stable foundation.
- To reduce the risk of injury, keep the floor clean so that you don't slip from the ball.
- Do not use an under inflated ball. There should be only a small amount of give when you sit on it.
- Do not allow shoulder and back to sag when sitting upright on the ball.
- Never use the ball during acute back pain, or when injured.
- Do not try to repair the ball if punctured. Instead buy a new one.
- Exercise balls should not be substituted with store children's toys or other non exercise specific balls.
Exercise balls add a new dimension to any exercise you perform. Exercise balls are inexpensive, easy to carry, are ideal for a total body workout. Perhaps the key to get most out of an exercise ball is by doing the exercises frequently and getting your heart rate up.