by Lynn Bode
Chances are if you've stepped foot in a gym or watched a television fitness program in the past year then you've seen the "big balls". You've probably wondered what all the fuss is about. Well, they may look like something found on a children's playground, but don't be deceived. These balls offer one of the best methods for strengthening your abdominals and core.
That is why the fitness industry is jumping on the ball bandwagon. According to the 2003 Idea Fitness Programs and Equipment Survey, 89 percent of IDEA businesses were offering balls to their customers and 71 percent had added ball group fitness classes in 2003.
Find it hard to believe that simply sitting, rolling or bouncing on a big inflatable ball can make you more fit? Read on to learn just how effective ball fitness can be.
While they are somewhat of a new craze in the public domain, the ball (commonly known as stability ball, fitness ball, Swiss ball, physio ball, etc) was used as early as the 1960s. It originally was used by physical therapist to assist with rehabilitation.
But, the ball is far more versatile and valuable then simply for re-hab use. It is a very inexpensive piece of equipment that offers a total body workout while also improving your balance. There are literally hundreds of different exercises that can be used with the ball. And, both beginners and advanced exercises can benefit from it. Plus, children to seniors can use it.
What makes this piece of fitness equipment so uniquely effective? It works multiple muscles at one time while forcing your body to balance itself. This creates a very effective and challenging workout. For example, lying on a bench to perform tricep extensions is a good exercise but it's limited to working primarily just the triceps. However, perform that same move on a stability ball and you have created an unstable environment. Additional muscles are activated that work to keep you balanced on the ball. That means you are now working harder and essentially getting more bang for your buck while not increasing your exercise time.
So, if you haven't already gotten on the ball, it's time to give it a try. You may think that your workout already provides everything you need but chances are you are focusing the majority of your exercise time on the lower body. It is essential to concentrate fitness time on your core, which is responsible for stabilizing the rest of your body. Having a strong core improves your performance in all activities, not just exercise but also daily activities like carrying groceries. The ball can help improve your posture, balance, and core strength. Virtually every exercise performed on the ball works your core area. And, yes, it can even help you get that sought-after six-pack!
Before you try out the ball be sure to choose the right size and firmness. The harder the ball is then the more difficult the exercise move will be. Therefore, beginners should probably choose a ball that is softer (e.g. not overly inflated). Also, it is important to choose the right size based on your height. The ball manufacturer or your fitness center can provide height guidelines.
As previously mentioned, the ball can be used for a total body workout. With the ball you can work your legs, arms, chest, back, abdominals and you can even get a cardio workout by doing such moves as sitting jumping jacks. Below are a few examples of the types of exercises that can be done with the stability ball.
Begin lying with ball resting under your back. Place hands behind head for support. Using your abdominal muscles slowly raise up lifting your shoulder blades off of the ball and rotate left shoulder toward right hip. Do not strain neck by pulling on it with hands. Keep elbows out to your side. Return to starting position and repeat then switch sides.
Lie across the ball with your head and shoulders supported on the ball and your legs bent with heals about two feet from ball. Extend arms overhead with palms facing away from you. Slowly separate your arms in a circular motion and bend your elbows slightly as lower your arms down and rotate your palms to face each other. Return to start position and repeat.
Squat Against Wall:
Lean your back against a ball that is placed against a wall and stand with your feet hip-width apart and about a foot away from the wall. Keep your back in a straight position. Bend your knees and let the ball roll up your back until your knees bend to about a 90 degree angle. Keep your knees behind your toes as you bend. Return to start position and repeat.
About the author: Lynn Bode is a certified personal trainer specializing in Internet-based fitness programs. She founded Workouts For You, which provides affordable online exercise programs that are custom designed for each individual. Visit: http://www.workoutsforyou.com for a free sample workout and to sign-up for their monthly fitness newsletter. Fitness professionals, visit: http://www.trainerforce.com