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Get On The Ball!

When we open up our closet and look way in the back, most of us can find one or two exercise gadgets such as the Thigh Master(TM) or an ab roller, gathering dust.  What happened?  When we buy exercise equipment, many of us make these purchases on an impulse or before we take the time to devise a good plan or investigate the effectiveness of the equipment.  Some of us may have found the equipment to be boring after a few workouts.

Any suggestions?

Let’s Play Ball!
Stability balls are colorful inflated balls that can be used by almost anyone at any age.  They are relatively inexpensive, have a number of uses, travel easily and they are FUN! Originally designed to be a toy, stability balls made their way into clinical settings in the 1960’s then into the fitness world in the 1980’s.

So how do they work?
 They work because you are sitting, lying, kneeling or standing (yes, standing) on an unstable surface. There are countless exercises you can do with these balls, but their biggest claim to fame is in the area of core conditioning (strengthening the middle of the body, abdominals, waist and back) and balance training.  Once you select a ball that fits your height, you can learn various exercises based on your fitness level and your goals.

What else can I do with them?
Use a stability ball as a chair at your desk or as a bench when you workout.  Sitting on a ball requires that the muscles in your midsection “engage” in order to maintain good posture.  Because the ball’s surface is round, it makes it very difficult to slouch.

Tired of the treadmill?
You can perform aerobic (cardiovascular) exercises by bouncing on the ball and incorporating a variety of leg and arm movements while you bounce.  These exercises do require that you consider the space around you to avoid falling onto a hard surface or other items in the room.  (Check in with your physician before beginning any exercises but especially the cardiovascular options).

An added plus - many of the exercises can be progressed to require more strength, skill and coordination.  The list is nearly endless.  Today stability balls are a common choice in gyms and for sports and athletic conditioning.

Ready to get started?!

Jumping Jack Warm Up
Sit on the center of the ball with your spine tall, navel drawn in with your feet hip distance apart. You may place your hands on the sides of the ball or on your hips.  Jump your feet out to a comfortable distance, bouncing on the ball to give you a lift, then jump your feet back to their original position.  Repeat for 1 – 2 minutes.

Abdominal Curl
Sit on the ball and slowly walk your feet out and forward, lowering your hips until your body is at an incline and your lower back is supported by the ball.  You may place your hands either behind your head or rest them on your thighs.  Be aware that you keep your neck “neutral” and avoid pushing your chin into your chest.  Draw in your navel, exhale slowly and curl your trunk, pause then slowly return to the starting position.  Work up to 3 sets of 10 – 15 reps.

Ball Squat
Place the stability ball between your lower back and the wall. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and lean slightly against the ball with your feet are slightly ahead of your knees.  Slowly bend your knees and lower your body until your knees are slightly above your hips.  Hold the position 5 – 10 seconds then push into your heels and straighten your knees, but avoid “locking” the knees.  Work up to 3 sets of 10 – 12 reps.

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