workout routinesby Nora Wallace Walsh

Physical therapists have used stability balls (also known as Swiss Balls, physioballs, birth balls, etc) for years to treat a variety of injuries, but now these oversized balls are used in fitness centers, training gyms, and households as a versatile exercise tool for workout routines.

Unlike any mat or machine, the ball is a mobile surface. The instability of the ball “jump-starts” dormant muscles, recruiting both deep as well as superficial muscle fibers. The ball is an excellent tool to improve the strength of your abdominal and lower back muscles. By using the ball in different workout routines you are facilitating the neuromuscular system, increasing core strength, balance, posture, and flexibility.

For Your Workout Routines:

There are literally hundreds of different exercises that can be done with the ball, and both beginners and advanced exercisers can benefit from it. The ball will require you to slow down the exercise, giving you time to engage the correct muscles as you pay attention to how the exercises are performed.

Using free weights with the ball as a bench is great to strengthen stabilizer muscles. For example, doing a chest press lying on a bench is a good exercise but it’s limited to working primarily your chest, shoulders, and triceps. If you perform that same move on a stability ball, you have created an unstable environment. Additional muscles are activated that work to keep you balanced on the ball. That means, during your workout routines, you are now working harder and essentially getting more bang for you buck while not increasing your exercise time.

The ball can be used for a total body workout. With the ball you can work your legs, arms, chest, back, and abdominals.

Guidelines to Introducing Ball Exercises to Your Workout Routines:

Choose the right size ball. The size of your ball is based on your height. If you are 5’1″-5’6″ use a 55 cm ball. If you are 5’7″ – 6’1″ use a 65 cm ball. Inflate the ball properly – when you sit on the ball your legs should be at 90 degrees and your hips should be level with your knees.

Don’t overdo. When beginning, a time limit of 30 to 120 seconds for each exercise is recommended. Begin with about 25% of the motion until you get the feel for the exercise. As you become more familiar with the exercises and are able to perform them correctly, you can lengthen the time.

Train your core. The farther away the ball is from the core of your body, the more difficult maintaining your balance is. For example, you can do a push-up on the ball, placing the ball underneath your thighs, which engages your core. To increase the difficulty, roll the ball out to your lower legs or even your feet so it’s farther away from the center of your body and so maintaining your balance is harder.

Have fun rolling around during your workout routines!

From Sarah: Could you use some more health and fitness tips? Go to Nora’s site for her complimentary newsletter, or to order a workout ball. Her newsletter is full of all sorts of helpful advice, guidelines and ideas.  Don’t miss the next issue. Visit her site to continue improving your workout routines.

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