Stability balls, also known as exercise balls, Swiss balls, Physio balls, etc., are a low-cost versatile piece of equipment that can help improve core strength, facilitate flexibility exercises, and add variety to traditional fitness routines.
The exercise ball introduces an element of instability that isn’t available in a floor exercise. The body naturally and automatically responds to this instability by engaging the core muscles, both those in the abdominals and back and in the pelvic floor and hips. Over time, the core muscles strengthen, resulting in better posture, improved balance and enhanced athletic ability.
“Stability Balls are one of the top four toys/tools to help you stay out of my office. The other three would be the trigger point ball, trigger point roller, and the back vitalizer,” states Dr. Cohen, a chiropractor in the financial district of San Francisco.
Choosing a stability ball
It’s important to buy the right size ball and maintain the proper air pressure. The firmer the ball, the more difficult the exercise will be. However, if you are overweight, an older adult, generally deconditioned, or just beginning a fitness routine, you may want to consider using a larger, softer ball. When sitting on the ball, make sure your hips are level—or just slightly higher than the knees.
Basic Abdominal Crunch: Lie on your back with your calves resting on the top of the ball. Curl your upper body, squeezing your abdominals and lifting your shoulders and upper back.
Body Ball Crunch: Lie on the ball with your back supported at the arch. Cross your arms behind your head or across your chest. Keep both feet on the floor. Curl your upper body, squeezing your abdominals and lifting your shoulders and upper back. Return to starting position. Do not pull on your head and neck.
Ball Push-ups: Place the front of your knees and shins on the ball and your hands flat on the floor. Look down at the floor and lower your face to within a few inches of it, then push back up to the starting position. Increase the challenge by walking further out so that only your ankles are supported by the ball.