If I had to pick one piece of exercise equipment everyone should have at home it's the Swiss ball. Also known as the stability ball, exercise ball, or physio ball. These big balls are filled with air and are usually sold burst resistant. They are heavy duty and last forever. They are versatile and because of the rounded nature of the ball your body's core muscles are called into action while stabilizing the ball during movements. In other words you have to balance.
There are exercises for your lower body, upper body and core all without using anything but your body weight and the ball. Plus I think the ball makes any exercise more fun. I've been known to "play" at the gym and make up new ways to strengthen and stretch with the ball. The possibilities are endless but I've put together a few to demonstrate here.
This exercise is good for learning squat form or strengthening knees. Step your feet away from the wall so your body weight is leaning back against the ball on a wall. The ball will roll down the wall as you bend your knees like you're going to sit in a chair. Press into your heels as you stand back up.
This is a fun variation of the classic crunch. Begin by sitting on the ball and walking your feet 2-4 paces out in front of you as you lean back on the ball. This is the starting position for the crunch. Place your feet wide and firmly on the ground as you perform the crunch.
One of my favorite Swill ball exercises and it really works the hamstrings! You will lower your hips a little as you bend your knees and raise them when your legs are straight. Make sure your hips are off the ground the whole time. It doesn't take many reps before you feel it in your hamstrings so work up to 3 sets of 15 reps.
With your feet placed wide on the floor for stability, keep your neck in a neutral position as you bend at the waist to curl over the ball. Tighten your glutes as you extend your body skyward as far as it's comfortable. Hold for a count of 2 and repeat until you begin to feel fatigue. Posterior body strength is important for posture and helps build a healthy core.
This is a fun way to use the ball and strengthen abs at the same time. I like that you feel a stretch through the whole anterior body each time you move the arms and legs to an outstretched position. Protect your low back by only going down as far with your legs as you can without feeling pressure or pain. As you get stronger your legs will be able to go closer to the floor.
The Swiss ball's main advantage is forcing the use of muscles needed for balance. Machines at the gym for example take that element out of your movements by balancing the weight for you. Many times people exercise their abdominal muscles but forget the sides and back muscles need strengthening as well. Exercises on the Swiss ball use abs, obliques and back muscles. How can you not love that! It's efficient and complete exercise. Also, due to loosing balance as a natural part of our aging process it's wise to take advantage of any way to practice and improve balance. I hope you'll try it and enjoy using the ball as much as I do.
Until next time
Be fit, be strong and balance on the Swiss ball
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