An exercise ball is a large inflated rubber ball often seen in fitness gyms, Pilates and Yoga studios and in office settings where people use it as a chair for sitting at a desk.
They are most used for stretching, core training, and strength training.
Although it is most frequently called an exercise ball, it also goes by the name like Swiss ball, fitness ball or Yoga ball.
It's one of the best pieces of exercise tools you can own. It's because the ball allows you to train your whole body with fun and innovative moves.
But before we get into the best use of the balls, let’s first learn a little bit about their "history".
The balls were developed in Italy during the 1960s by Aquilino Cosani, an Italian plastic manufacture.
Though, he did not design the balls to use in fitness and strength training settings.
The balls were first used by a Swiss doctor, Dr. Susanne Klein-Vogelbach in Switzerland in the field of orthopedic medicine at the physical therapy clinic she founded.
The concept of ball exercises and training was imported to America from Europe by Joanne-Posner Mayer in the late ‘80s. She was the first to really promote the use of ball exercises in fitness. Since then, exercises balls have quickly made their way into commercial gyms throughout the country and into personal gyms.
Today, countless fitness professionals are promoting the use and benefits of ball exercises and athletes from every sport and every level are incorporating them into their training program.
Benefits of Ball Exercises
One of the main benefits of exercising with an exercise ball as opposed to weight bench or on a hard flat stable surface is that the body responds to the instability of the bouncy ball to remain balanced— yes, you're forced to engage all muscles.
Those muscles become stronger over time to keep you balanced on and off the ball.
Most frequently, the core muscles —the abdominal muscles and back muscles— are the focus of exercise programs with a fitness ball.
Ball exercises can help anyone improve his or her fitness, allowing a variety of exercises with or without external resistance and can be used to overlord the muscles.
So, here are 5 uses of the an "exercise ball".
1. Sitting— Exercise Ball Chair
Practice perfect sitting by replacing your desk chair with an exercise ball.
When you sit on top of an exercise ball, your body is constantly making small adjustments to remain balanced. In other words, you are working a large group of muscles doing so, thus gain strength in your core muscles.
These core muscles connect your upper and lower body together. They also help support and protect your spine and back.
Strengthening these set groups of muscles in turn will help improve your posture and reduce your risk of back injuries.
Also especially for patients with lower back pain, using an exercise ball as a chair is proven to be beneficial.
According to the Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, two case studies reported lower back pain patients improved their conditions after consistently using the gym ball both for sitting and exercising.
And since your core and abs are constantly engaged, you might start noticing your waist slimming down and muscle definitions start to show in your stomach.
Tips for ball sitting: You should be able to sit with your knees at a right angle and your thighs parallel to the ground.
2. Core Training
Swiss ball exercises are ideal for building core strength since they increase the demand for stability in your shoulder, hip, and core. Even performing the simplest exercise like a crunch becomes more effective and demanding on your core.
According to Chapman University's study Electromyography Comparison of a Swiss Ball Crunch with a Traditional floor crunch, when crunch is performed on a ball, it activates more muscles.
The deep hard to reach transversus abdominis (lower abs) get activated 38% more than the regular floor crunch.
Swiss ball crunch also engages the upper abs (upper rectus abdominal) and external obliques (sides of your abs) 31% and 24% more than the regular crunch.
Michael Schletter, C.P.T. of mensfitness.com, explains the reason for this. To stay balanced and prevent falling off the ball, your core needs to work harder to maintain your body's balance, posture, and stability.
3. Better Balance
Improve your balance with ball exercises—balance is the ability to maintain one center of gravity over his or her base of support. The unstable surface of the ball forces your body and muscles to heighten their readiness.
Your body will call upon more muscles into action to help stabilize itself and control that unstable surface.
This higher muscle engagement and steadiness to keep you on the ball leads to improvement in balance.
Plus good balance and a strong core go hand in hand. So much so that a strong core usually means better posture and less back pain.
Give this ball workout a try to improve your balance and core strength.
4. Strength Training
You can use the ball to replace a weight bench for exercises like chest press, shoulder press or some triceps-toning skull crushers.
Simply lie with the ball supporting your upper back and head, and work your arms while stabilizing your unsupported core with your abs, glutes, and legs.
Using the ball as a bench replacement transforms these upper-body moves into full-body exercises. All in all, not just improving strength of your upper-body, but your whole body participates and gets stronger as well.
An exercise ball can work great as a tool to deepen stretches or support your body in a difficult position.
The ball can help to lengthen the front of your body by reclining with your back on the ball. This stretch is great after an intense workout or a long day hunched over your computer at a desk.
The exercise ball is a versatile piece of equipment that can be used to train your entire body effectively. It can also be used to enhance a movement you are already familiar with by adding some instability.
Below are a few ways you can use a stability ball to train a wide variety of muscle groups and motions.
Abs + Core
- Russian Twist
- Knee Tuck
Legs & Glutes
- Hip Raise
- Hamstring Curl
- Leg Lift
Here are 30 more ball exercises to try.
There you have it!
5 best uses of an exercise ball. The balls are versatile can be used in exercise settings to enhance muscular strength and flexibility. Or it can simply be used as a chair at the office.