June 3, 2011 at 10:22 am EST | by Kevin M. Norris
A balanced workout

(iStock photo)

Exercise fads come and go and there is always a new piece of equipment or tool that purports to do something unique and swift.  It can be argued that such fads are mere ineffective attempts at a quick fix and actually provide very little benefit.

This is not the case with the stability ball also know as a resist-a-ball or exercise ball.  It was originally called the “Swiss Ball” and invented in 1963 in Italy by physical therapists.  The exercise ball is by no means a fad and in fact has become a mainstay in most well-equipped gyms.  Stability balls are also popping up in homes and offices, and here I will give you the “skinny” on just what these oversized beach balls can be used for.

The initial main uses for a stability ball were for abdominal and back strength, core stability and balance.  Nowadays the stability ball has a host of uses including, but not limited to, using the ball as a bench that forces the core to work harder to “stabilize” the ball and the body while performing multiple exercises.

The exercise ball can also be used for a variety of stretching exercises and for Yoga and Pilates movements. It is also used in more and more offices as a chair that keeps the body in a fluid state of motion and helps correct posture, not to mention the balance exercises you can perform while at work or on the computer as taking breaks from work is important.

Here is what you need to know about choosing and using an exercise ball.

Choosing The Right Size Ball: Size matters.  The easiest way to know what size to purchase is to test out a ball.  Sit with the small of your back on the ball with your feet spread hip width and flat on the floor.  Your hips should be level or just slightly higher than your knees.

If you don’t have access to a ball, use the following chart:  55 cm — 4’11”-5’4″; 65 cm — 5’5″–5’11”; 75 cm —6’0″-6′ 7.”

It is also important that your exercise ball be blown up to the right inflation or poundage.  Defer to the directions, which generally include a pump for the proper amount of air.

Burst-resistant balls can be found at www.power-systems.com or www.balldynamics.com.  Exercise balls are also now readily available at Walmart and Target stores as well.  The best way to thoroughly learn to use an exercise ball is through expert demonstration from a personal trainer.

How to Use an Exercise Ball: Exercise balls challenge you by putting your body in an unstable environment. When you sit or lie on a ball, you engage your core muscles such as your abs, lower back and hip flexors to help stabilize while performing an activity.  While balancing and engaging your core you can add numerous exercises to this element such as abdominal crunches and bench press exercises.

By using the exercise ball as a bench you no longer have the stability of a standard bench, thus you additionally engage your core, butt and legs and you essentially get more bang for your buck.  What’s more, there are progressions of difficulty that you can implement such as balancing on one leg or doing one-arm exercises.  And remember virtually any exercise you can do on a seat or lying on a bench you can do on an exercise ball.

For abdominal training you can use the balls for just about any ab exercise you can do on the floor and then some.

Exercise Ball as Furniture: Sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair is an effective way for you to improve posture and constantly engage your core.  Many companies that sell balls sell accessories such as wheels and back support, which as a progression can be taken away based on ability and core strength until you are just balancing on the ball.

1 Comment
  • I have had back pain for the last year or so while I have been doing my ball exercises. Have you heard of this Posture Shirt? I went to http://www.postureapparel.com and found this shirt that is supposed to improve posture and alleviate back pain. Im curious if they work or not. Please if anyone knows of the Posture Shirt or Posture Braces at Posture Apparel then let me know.

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