Health Topics

Healthy Living

January 2011
On The Ball
Vidya Gajapati Raj Singh
The stability ball, also known as the Swiss ball, has made its way into most gyms in these past few years and is becoming increasingly popular as people begin to realise its benefits. This large air filled ball has several uses and exercises that one can do while balancing on it.

Physiotherapists were the first to incorporate its use into stretching and the range of motion for rehabilitation, as it allowed the user to perform stretches and isolation exercises without damaging the joints. As the popularity of the stability ball grew, other health and fitness experts began to incorporate these fitness balls into regular exercises programs.

Complete Workout
The stability ball is a great tool for a complete body workout. It can be used to strengthen the shoulders, back, arms and legs. It develops core strength and abdominal muscles, in an intensive and effective way. It allows you to work through a full range of motion and at the same time requires you to use more stabiliser muscles and hence make any exercise more demanding. It allows you to challenge your body to its fullest range.

  1. Unlike weight machines that are bolted to the floor thereby limiting natural movement, the stability ball workouts provide weight resistance through a full range of motion.
  2. The Swiss ball creates an instability that forces the user to engage the core muscles to counter the loss of balance.
  3. It enhances the routine, by isolating the core muscles of the abdomen, chest and back.
  4. Push ups performed on the ball can add an emphasis to the arms and shoulders by taking the legs out of the equation.
  5. Traditional sit ups have been replaced with different forms of abdominal crunches on the ball, which allow one to assume different positions to isolate the oblique, upper and lower ab muscles.
  6. Strength training with free weights can be performed while seated on a stability ball, adding to the core strength.
7 Bearings on the Ball
  1. A fitness ball may take some of the weight off the joints. But it does not make the exercises any easier.
  2. Make sure that you are physically healthy enough to start an exercise routine on the ball, as it can be one of high intensity.
  3. Use only a quality ball as inferior ones have been known to burst.
  4. Never over-inflate the ball as it will be a real hard place to lie on. You need some “give” when you place your body weight on it.
  5. Never overdo any exercise on the ball, as it may feel easier to work out on it.
  6. Work out at your own pace and only build up intensity gradually.
  7. Consult your family doctor before beginning a new routine.
Swiss Ball Crunch
  • Lie back on the ball, so that your head is resting on it and your back conforms to it. Keep your hips slightly lower than your torso.
  • Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle.
  • With your hands held behind your head, use your abs to lift your upper back a couple of inches off the ball as you crunch your ribcage towards your pelvis.
  • Contract your abs and hold the position for a few moments before lowering your self back to the starting position.
  • Continue for the desired number of crunches.
Swiss Ball Push Ups
  • Sit on your knees on top of the ball with your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor in front of you.
  • Slowly walk your hands forward until your body is in a straight line from your head to your feet and your hands are under your shoulders.
  • Tighten your ab muscles as you move forward as this will help you keep your body straight.
  • Do not allow your body to sink in towards the floor.
  • Bend your elbows to the side and lower your body until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
  • Exhale and press up until your arms are straight but not locked.
  • Repeat for the desired number of push-ups.
  • Walk on your hands back to starting position.
Hip Check
  • Lie on the back, on right side.
  • Extend and raise the left leg,keeping the toes pointed.
  • Hold for ten seconds.
  • Lower to starting position.
  • Keep the ball stationary.
  • Repeat the required steps.
Vidya Gajapati Raj Singh is a sports and fitness enthusiast, and popular columnist based in Chennai.
  • The information on this site does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for medical care provided by a physician.
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