Exercise balls, also known as Swiss balls or physioballs or yoga balls, are large balls made of soft elastic that many gym-goers use to stretch and strengthen the body. It is one of the many gym equipments that allow a number of fun and challenging range of exercises.
Brief Background Of The Exercise Ball
Despite its original name, the Swiss ball, the ball was actually invented in Italy in 1963 by a plastics engineer, Aquilino Cosani. He created the ball with the sole purpose of aiding in gymnastics exercise. Within a decade of its introduction, the ball was being used in a wide range of different applications, from spinal injuries to cerebral palsy. Two English physical therapists, Dr. Elseth Kong and Mary Quinton jump-started its popularization after developing pediatric neurological rehabilitation programs that used the Swiss ball. Around the 1990s, as the ball’s recognition continued to increase, it moved from the rehabilitation setting into the athletic arena and finally into the fitness world.
Benefits Of Using The Exercise Ball
The fitness industry is constantly emerging and looking for innovative ways to keep their clientele interested. Now, the exercise ball is part of the new wave of essential fitness equipment used in many gyms and fitness centers. The benefits of using exercise balls include:
Increase back muscle strength
The exercise ball is used in many programs designed to bring movement to the spine in a controlled manner. Moving the vertebrae using the ball helps increase blood flow around the discs in the spine, thereby effectively rehabilitating and nourishing the spine. In addition, the ball introduces an element of instability that allows the body to respond naturally to this instability by aiming to keep its balance. Over time, this allows the strengthening of important back muscles.
Improved balance and core stability
Core strengthening is one of the key uses of the exercise ball. Training on the ball is an effective way to work on the deep muscles on your midsection or core. These abdominal muscles work as stabilizers for the entire body, including the lumbar spine and pelvic balance. Without these muscles, simple movements like walking and running will go unsupported and opens up an individual to a high risk for injuries.
The instability of an exercise ball pushes the user to activate and increase the stomach muscles to keep one’s center of gravity and maintain balance on the ball. This stimulates core strength and improves posture.
Ten Things To Do With An Exercise Ball
Exercise Balls are not just made to sit on. Several other exercises can be performed on the ball, including the following:
Movement #1: Forearm Roll Out
This exercise not only strengthens the core, but it also works on the shoulders, the upper back muscles, and the pelvis. This makes for a great warm-up.
Movement #2: Push-Ups
Using an exercise ball during a push-up activates and strengthens more core muscles than the typical floor push-up because the exercise is done on an unstable surface. The ball can be used as a base for either the hands or the legs. Either way, it is a great way to increase the challenge and provide amazing results.
Movement #3: Side Crunches
This activity is a single-joint exercise that emphasizes on the obliques. The user lies sideways with one hip on top of the ball, arms crossed in front of the body, and feet in a staggered stance. By crunching in an upward motion, the motions help work on those side muscles while improving core stability and balance.
Movement #4: Crunches
Crunches are popular go-to exercises for getting that six-pack. And many opt to do this movement in a flat position. By doing crunches on an exercise ball, however, more core muscles are being hit and to a greater degree because the instability of the ball forces the core stabilizer muscles to activate.
Movement #5: Squats
This workout targets the glutes, hip flexors, and quadriceps. It also works on the core, calves, and hamstrings. This exercise follows the original squat workout exercise but with a ball propped between the wall and the lower back. The aim is to keep the ball in contact with the back during the squat movements.
Movement #6: Stability Plank with Tap Offs
This simple exercise routine works many muscle groups, including shoulders, abs, obliques, and chest. It starts in a plank position with the feet on the ball and then gently tapping one foot to the floor while maintaining balance and holding the plank.
Movement #7: Alternating Leg Arm Extension
This is considered to be a very challenging but effective core stabilization and glute activation exercise. Primary muscles being focused on includes the glutes and the anterior delts. The back and hamstrings are also being activated with this exercise.
Movement #8: Walk-outs
Start in a plank position with the ball situated under the hips. Slowly walk forward using your hands while maintaining balance on the legs on top of the exercise ball. Legs should stay straight, and hips should not sag. Walk back. This simple movement works the shoulders, the pecs, and the abdominals.
Movement #9: Supine Bridges
Bridging on the exercise ball requires the user to lie supine (face up) on the floor, with the heels on the ball. From a nice neutral position, slowly raise the hips until the spine is straight from heels to shoulders. This workout focuses on strengthening the muscles on the back of the spine, pelvis, legs, and shoulders. It also aims to engage the abdominal muscles as the body tries to prevent fatigue after a few repetitions.
Movement #10: Hamstring Curls.
By placing the back of the lower legs and heels on top of a ball, this exercise provides a full-body stabilization and direct hamstring activation. From the standard hamstring curl, the challenge is increased as several of the major muscles in the midsection, and lower half are activated.
The exercise ball is an awesome addition to any exercise routine. It can be done with all the standard workouts as it increases the challenge of these workouts because of the element of instability that it creates.