Get On the Ball

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 22, 2008

As a unique and effective tool in strength development and overall fitness, stability balls have become another craze both in homes and wellness/fitness clubs across the country. The stability ball is inexpensive and extremely versatile.

Stability balls are also known as exercise balls, fitness balls, balance balls, body balls, swiss balls, gym balls or yoga balls.

The ball is a tool that can enhance any program regardless of age or fitness level. Because of its shape, the ball consistently challenges balance and core (abdominal/low back) muscles while an individual targets specific muscles or groups of muscles.

Balls have been used successfully in physical therapy and clinical rehabilitation since they were introduced in 1909.  However, 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 programs as well.  Who knew they would become the newest health club craze?!

Performing exercises with balls can provide a total body workout.

The intense abdominal, back and trunk work should be an integral component in any workout.

Below is how using a stability ball can work for you.…

1. Posture: using a ball will automatically improve your posture first.  It is a fact that when you sit on a stability ball one of the first things you will notice is how straight and tall you are holding your body.  Just to sit balanced on the ball forces you to use correct posture.

The ball challenges your whole body to participate in order to maintain correct posture and balance, and to perform dynamic exercise movements.

2. Motor Control and Balance: the ball will improve, develop or maintain motor control and balance.  When using the ball correctly, the body is required to utilize various muscles for stabilization.   Many times, these particular muscles may not have been previously challenged in your former workouts.

The challenge of maintaining perfect posture, on a round and mobile surface is fun and incredibly effective in building functional strength.

As you train with a ball, you will find that it is especially effective in targeting your abdominal and lower back muscles.  Even while training other muscle groups, the trunk (abs and back) is simultaneously working to balance and stabilize the body.  Strong postural muscles and proper posture are important for relieving and preventing lower back pain.

3. Functional Strength: a primary reason to use a ball is to help achieve and enhance functional strength (the ability of the body to move and respond without restriction, to meet everyday needs and challenges).  Obtaining and maintaining &uot;functional fitness&uot; should be considered just as important (or more so) than striving to &uot;look good.&uot;

4. Stretching: using a stability or resist-a-ball is also ideal for stretching and offers additional options to traditional stretching.  

5. Muscle Strength and Endurance: finally, using balls can improve muscle strength and endurance in all of the major muscle groups.

Use the stability ball as your new ‘weight bench’ to add difficulty to the movements and incorporate the muscles of your legs, buttocks and abdominals.

Beef up your training, get creative and GET ON THE BALL!

Russell Allen is the Coordinator of Member Services at ViQuest. He can be reached with comments or questions at