Read these 35 Exercise Balls Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Balance tips and hundreds of other topics.
Fitter1 Tip: When sitting on ball chairs, you automatically find the most efficient way to balance so you improve your posture without having to think about it. The Classic Exercise Ball Chair is great for most people. If you use the heavier DuraBall Pro, underinflate it a little.
Fitter1 Tip: Balls such as Duraball Pro boast a 1000-pound static weight limit and claims that it will not flatten out anytime soon. Balls like this one are good choices for heavier individuals or those who want to incorporate balance ball exercises with weight-lifting exercises.
Fitter1 Tip: Some posters describe in detail how to do exercises on, for example, an exercise ball. There are illustrated guides on how to use exercise tools such as dumbbells and resistance bands. There are balance and stability handbooks if you want to read more extensively on the topic. These books and guides can cost between $9 and $25.
You can use an exercise ball for a variation of chest flies. Drape your body across the top of the ball. Extend your legs, keeping the balls of your feet on the floor, and keep your stomach on the ball. Hold a small, weighted ball or a soup can in each hand and extend your arms perpendicular to your body. Raise and lower your arms about two inches and repeat 15 times.
Doing situps with an execise ball under your shoulders will engage your deep abdominal muscle much more than doing situps while lying on the floor.
Position the ball underneath your shoulders and bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor. You will engage the transversus abdominis, the muscle that wraps around the lower torso below the rib cage. This muscle helps you keep your balance while standing, and complements other ab exercises for a total abdominal workout.
Many serious athletes, and runners in particular, suffer from tight hips, and a fitness ball exercise can help. Sit on the ball with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Slowly rotate your hips clockwise 3 to 5 times, then reverse. Breathe deeply and concentrate on releasing tightness in the hips and lower back. Repeat as needed.
Start in a seated base position. Slowly circle your hips clockwise three to five times; reverse, circling counterclockwise. Focus on releasing tension in the hips and lower back.
Balance training on a BOSU Ball improved postural control and sport-related activities in a recent study. The BOSU Ball is a unique device. Although it is like half a ball, you can do exercises on it that you wouldn't do on other devices. Athletes and coaches devise sports specific exercises, and fitness enthusiasts use it for a variety of balance and agility exercises.
Inflatable fitness balls are remarkably sturdy and durable. Even so, it's important to get the best one for your purpose. If you are a small individual who intends to use the ball as part of a flexibility program, a quality ball with lighter construction is fine. If you are a large individual and/or you are going to sit on the ball while doing heavy strength training, you should use a stronger ball.
An ideal fitness ball size lets you sit on the ball with your knees at about a 90-degree angle and feet flat on the floor.
Some generally accepted guidelines for choosing a ball size are:
- 45 cm diameter: Under 4'8''
- 55 cm diameter: 4'8'' to 5'4''
- 65 cm diameter: 5'4'' to 5'10''
- 75 cm diameter: 5'10'' to 6'4''
If you are on the cusp of one of the sizes, stand next to a ball and see which size is at or just above knee level.
Strengthen both your glutes and calves with this exercise: Lie with your back on the floor, legs extended fully, and heels on top of the fitness ball. Rest your arms on the floor by your sides. Slowly raise your buttocks off the floor while contracting your abs. Lower slowly, and repeat 10-15 times. If you are strong enough, don't let your buttocks reach the floor between repetitions, just lower them to a few inches above the floor before lifting again.
For five weeks of core stability and balance exercises, researchers compared an experimental group who did curl-ups and back extensions on an exercise ball with a group who did the same exercises on the floor. Those who did ball exercises had better balance scores than a control group who did the exercises on the floor.
Thighs can benefit from a fitness ball workout. As an alternative to the adductor/abductor machines at the gym, try this: lie on the floor on your left side with the fitness ball on top of your right thigh. Use your right hand to hold the ball in place. Bend your left arm and prop your head on your left hand.
Lift the right leg, leading with the right heel, and use your right hand to hold the ball in place. Repeat 10-15 times, then switch sides.
Using an exercise ball will make the basic abdominal crunch more effective. Lie on your back, bend your hips and knees 90 degrees, and rest your lower legs on the ball. Curl up until your shoulder blades clear the floor but your lower back is flat on the floor, then return. Using a ball makes it easier to use the correct range of motion and trains core stability because of the slight instability introduced by the ball.
One way to build upper-body strength with an exercise ball is to roll across the top of the ball so your lower legs and feet rest on the ball while your hands are on the floor in pushup position. Do 10-15 pushups with your feet on the ball. This will not only build upper body strength, but it helps to increase your core body strength because you will engage your core muscles to keep your balance and keep from falling off the ball.
Consider your posture when you decide whether you want to sit on an exercise ball instead of a traditional chair. Do you tend to slump in your chair? You probably know that sliding down in your chair and rounding your back is bad for your posture, but it's hard to break long-time habits, and even the best designed chair may not correct this one. If you tend to slump, sit on an exercise ball whenever you can. It doesn't let you slump and you have to maintain your balance to keep your seat.
Performing an overhead triceps extension while sitting on an exercise ball also enhances your balance. Why? Because sitting on the ball engages your core muscles and keeps you from falling off the ball. Be sure to keep your abs tight to avoid arching and straining your back. Hold one end of a dumbbell in each hand, with your arms bent at 90 degrees. Slowly extend your arms until the dumbbell is above your head. Repeat 8-15 times, then rest and do another set of 8-15 repetitions.
Balance ball exercises are a great way to help you gain strength and mobility after an injury. Depending on the nature of the injury, a balance ball workout allows you to engage many different muscle groups without irritating the injured area. For example, a shoulder injury may keep you from traditional weight-lifting, but balance ball exercises can work some of the same muscle groups. But be sure to seek advice from your doctor, physical therapist, or other medical professional before returning to exercise after an injury so you can develop a safe injury rehabilitation plan.
Exercise balls strengthen the core muscles in the body and improve balance. This way, exercise ball workouts can help relieve back pain when done mindfully and carefully. Many people have an imbalance between the strength in the lower back muscles and the abdominal muscles that leads to back pain.
One exercise to try: stand with the exercise ball between your low back and the wall. Slowly walk your feet away from the wall and bend your knees to a 45-degree to 90-degree angle, depending on your fitness level, and hold the position for 45 seconds. Gradually straighten the knees and return to the starting position.
Balance balls aren't just for vigorous exercises. A balance ball workout can include simply stretching, especially stretching the sides and back. Try this simple, but effective stretch: Sit on the ball with your fingertips behind your head and your elbows pointing to the sides. Slowly walk your feet out until your upper back is lying on the ball. Allow your head to fall back, but support it as needed on the ball on with your hands. For more intensity, release your arms and stretch them overhead, and walk your legs out farther from the ball. Remember to breathe deeply and hold the stretch for as long as you feel comfortable.
Children can enjoy and benefit from exercise balls. Children aged 5 years and younger should stick to the smallest (45 cm) size. They can do many of the same structured exercises as adults, with modifications, or they may just want to roll, bounce, and play. If you want more information about Swiss ball activities for kids, search online for exercise videos for kids.
The ball by any other name is the same. The ubiquitous large rubber balls that have gained popularity as exercise equipment or as desk chairs are known as Swiss balls, fitness balls, exercise balls, or stability balls. The ball was first used for exercises by a Swiss physical therapist. When shopping for a ball online, remember that the term "Swiss ball" is interchangeable with exercise ball, fitness ball, and stability ball.
People with limited flexibility in their backs should opt for a slightly larger ball, since the greater degree of curve in a smaller exercise ball can cause hyperextension of the spine if you are lying on the ball and facing up. Different sized exercise balls allow for more flexibility in exercise ball workouts, and the inflation can be adjusted to allow for varying levels of balance.
Fitter1 Tip: The firmness of the ball is a matter of choice. The FitBall Sport is firmer than the original FitBall. This exercise ball is designed for fitness professionals and consumers who like a firm ball. It's good for abdominal work and other core strength exercises.
When you first inflate your fitness ball, follow the manufacturer's instructions and fill the ball to the point where it gives slightly when pushed. It should not be so tight that there is no give at all, but it should not be too squishy, either. Then you can add more air as desired, but the ball should not be so tight that there is no give at all; you may need to experiment. Remember that a firmer ball is more difficult to sit on, so if you are new to a fitness ball workout, start with a less firm ball that provides a wider platform for sitting.
Eventually, exercise balls will lose air and will need to be re-inflated, depending on how often they are used. You can re-inflate your ball with a hand-held pump. Pumps are available from many sporting goods stores or Internet sites that sell fitness balls. If you don't want to buy your own pump, bring the ball to your local gym and ask a staff member to help you inflate it.
Exercise balls are among the most versatile exercise aids around, but they are not the only thing you need. The standard exercise ball is great for abdominal exercises and core strengthening, not to mention agility and reflex training, but it falls short on lower body exercises. For one thing, you can sit on a ball, but most people cannot stand on it safely.
The obvious thing might be to use half a ball, and you can do that. It's called the BOSU Ball. Put the flat side down, and it won't go anywhere, but you can still stand on the curved surface for balance training. Do lunges off the ball in any direction, and try a variety of 1-leg squats for lower body strength. You can jump off and on for plyometrics. Athletes love the BOSU Ball, but it can enhance anybody's workout routine.
Even if videos or ads show models doing Swiss ball exercises shirtless or in tank tops, this mode of dress increases your risk of injury—exercise makes you sweat, and without a shirt you could slide off the ball in the middle of your Swiss ball crunches. The best bet is a top that coves your whole back, preferably made of a moisture-wicking fabric to absorb excess sweat.
Fitter1 Tip: The DuraBall Pro is one of the strongest and safest fitness balls on the market. It has a burst resistant rating of 1100 lb and a static load rating of 4400 lb. The DuraBall Pro is ideal for strength training and will hold you and the weight of the dumbbells you are using.
Fitter1 Tip: The BOSU Ball is a balance ball that makes any exercise more challenging. It's 25 inches in diameter and inflates to 12 inches high. It's made of burst resistant materials. You can turn the half ball so the unstable side is down and then do push-ups or other exercises on the flat side, making it a 2-in-1 device.
Fitter1 Tip: A well-maintained sense of balance can help make up for the dizziness sometimes caused by vision changes. In addition, when muscles are not toned, the resulting weakness and unsteadiness can contribute to falls. That is why it is important to maintain or restore physical agility through exercise which can help avoid the risk of injury from falls and accidents. However, before using a balance ball or other balance exercise tools, consult your physician.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|