Using an exercise ball is a great way to add some interest to your workouts. They are infinitely adaptable, allowing you to work the body in a variety of different ways. Many people only use them for core work, but an exercise ball makes a great substitute for a bench, allowing you to perform dozens of other exercises on them.
Although they were originally developed for rehab work, these large elastic/rubber balls have multiple uses, whether for core work, stretching, or strength training. They go by many names, including:
- Exercise ball
- Swiss ball
- Fitness ball
- Sports ball
- Stability ball
- Pilates ball
The effectiveness of exercise balls comes from their instability. Because they want to roll away from you, you have to work to hold them in place. This effort engages the core muscles, key muscles in the abdomen and low back - on an exercise ball the core muscles have to work hard to keep you balanced, forcing them to become stronger.
When used specifically for core workouts, they can add a massive degree of further challenge to simple exercises like crunches - crunches on a ball are around 60% more effective than those performed on the mat.
Used regularly they have several benefits, including:
- Increased control and strength of the core muscles
- Increased low back mobility
- Improving balance and stability
What type of exercises can you perform? There are dozens of choices, with a quick internet search offering both descriptions and videos of good exercises to try.
Some of the most popular areas include:
- Core workouts:
Exercises like crunches, twisting crunches, and the "Superman" will build your core far more effectively than simple floor work. You can use them both for dynamic core exercises such as those listed above, and also for static exercises such as the plank.
- Strength Training:
This is a tool you can use to add some spice to many normal exercises. They are a good substitute for a bench with exercises like bench press, flyes, and one arm rows. You can also sit on them to perform biceps curls or triceps extensions, or place either your hands or feet on them for body weight exercises like push-ups or triceps dips.
This is also a good way to add something different to your stretching routine. They are an excellent way to stretch out the low back and hamstrings.
Once you start incorporating this piece of equipment into your workouts, you will find all sorts of different ways to use them. As with all workouts, one of the keys is variety - doing the same workout every time will soon lead to boredom and lack of progress, so use the ball as a way to add variety to what you do.