Blog By: Kavitha Iyer.
One of the most versatile pieces of equipment used today by conditioning professionals is the Stability Ball, also known as “Swiss balls”,”Physio Balls”, “Balance Balls”, etc. The Stability Ball has a prominent role in the world of clinical rehabilitation.
More recently, due to their effectiveness in developing balance and core strength, athletic trainers, coaches, personal trainers and physical education teachers have begun to integrate them into their training programs. Now they are the new “buzz” in the world of athletic and functional conditioning.
Various strength and conditioning experts have designed a multitude of exercises covering the entire body with stability balls. In fact, the only limitation encountered when using this great conditioning tool is your imagination.
Selecting a stability exercise ball is simple. A properly sized exercise ball will allow you to sit on it with your knees and hip at 90 degrees. Using different size balls will allow you more flexibility and variation with your stability ball training.
The following recommendations will increase the safety and fun of working with the stability exercise ball.
- Always exercise with a shirt – a sweaty body will slide off the ball which could cause an injury, especially if you’re using the ball in conjunction with free weights.
- Avoid the use of any type of support or anchors for supporting your limbs when training with the stability exercise ball. The whole idea is to train in an unstable neuromuscular environment.
- When using external resistance, opt for lighter loads than you would when training on a standard bench. Do not use high loads to failure with this type of training.
- Spotters are a good idea when using external resistance equipment. However, if you are using appropriate loads and form, nothing more than minimal supervision is generally required.
Unless otherwise indicated, a neutral alignment of the spine should be maintained when exercising. This means:
- Head (ball under hips) – The cervical spine, or neck, should not be hyper-flexed. Try to maintain it in the position used when you are standing – in a neutral position. Likewise, do not hyper extend the neck when exercising.
- Core (ball under hips, knees and feet progression) – When performing exercises where the body is suspended in the prone (face-down) position between two distal support-points, make sure your core is strong enough to maintain a posterior (backwards) pelvic tilt. This protects the lumbar spine from hyperextension but does require exceptional abdominal and hip flexor strength. Notice the straight body alignment from head to toe.
Benefits of Working Out Using a Stability Ball.
Maintaining proper alignment on the ball stimulates the body’s natural motor reflexes and encourages the body to react as a whole, integrated unit. This type of movement corresponds to how you move about in a normal day. Training on the ball challenges the whole body to participate in order to maintain correct posture and balance, and to perform dynamic exercise movement.
When using the ball correctly, the body is required to utilize various muscles for stabilization. These muscles may not have been previously challenged using traditional exercise equipment. Because the ball is versatile and dynamic the training outcome will deliver maximal results.
The ball can improve muscle strength and endurance in all of the major muscle groups. Training with the ball can improve muscle tone, increase muscle endurance and strength, restore or improve flexibility, enhance spinal stability, complement your resistance and aerobic training programs, help you lose weight, and improve your balance, posture and coordination.
The ball is ideal for stretching and offers additional options to traditional static stretching. Traditional stretching usually requires you to stretch on the floor and can be difficult to achieve and maintain many of the stretching positions.
The versatile nature of the training with a Stability Ball is designed to improve balance, body awareness, coordination and posture. There are different positions and exercises where this can be used so it will never be boring! So try exercising with one today. Let us know your experience with Stability Ball Training in the comments section below.
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