What on earth is a swiss ball and how can it help me improve my strength??
Some of you might already have knowledge of the swiss ball but, for those of you who don’t, if you go to the gym, you’ve seen it. A funny, bouncy looking ball that looks like it would be fun to play with. Channel your inner child and go for it!
The swiss ball (aka balance ball, birth ball, fitness ball, and a slew of other names), isn’t just for kids, it is also used for a multitude of physical rehab programs. The swiss ball’s most important benefit is the increased load and intensity that it provides to the workout. Flat surfaces don’t “challenge” the muscles enough but the ball, with its inherently uneven surface, forces the body to utilize its stabilizing muscles.
Here’s five Swiss Ball routines to get you started:
1. The Swiss Squat
- Standing with the ball wedged against your lumbar spine and a wall, press slightly into the ball. Keep you hands by your sides with your feet hip-width apart but slightly in front of your body.
- Now, bend your knees and hips, slowly moving into a seated position, knees over ankles, keeping the ball in contact with your back as you move.
- Repeat for 10 – 15 reps.
2. The Swiss Ups
- Position yourself on the floor in the pushup position, ball under the belly, hands flat on the floor (the same position as in # 1).
- Using your hands to maneuver into a plank position, rest the ball anywhere from your hips to the ankles (positioning is important here as you want to perform a challenging pushup but your spine needs to remain aligned – ears, hips, and shoulders in a straight line).
- Do your pushup, bending your elbows, lowering your body to the floor. Don’t allow your shoulders to move toward the ears and engage your abs
- Repeat for 10 – 15 reps.
3. Swiss Squat Redux
Another version of #1, with a reach added for working the core.
- As you keep your back straight and arms parallel to the floor, bend your knees, holding the ball in front of you. Keep your knees from extending beyond your feet.
- Tighten your abs, rotating your trunk.
- Reach with the ball to the left. Inhale and hold for three breaths.
- Return to the start and repeat with the other side.
- Complete five reps with the goal to work up to 10-15.
4. Swiss Reverse Crunches
An advanced core exercise…
- Lie with the ball on your tummy, feet touching the floor behind the ball. Lean forward, touching the floor with your hands.
- With the ball under your stomach, walk away from the ball with your hands until the ball reaches your upper thighs, keeping the shoulders directly above the hands.
- Tighten those abs!
- Press your knees into the ball then, engage your abs, bringing your knees to your chest Hold for three breaths.
- Return to the starting position and repeat.
5. Swiss Pelvic Tilt
The primary feature of the Swiss Ball is it’s uneven surface. The simple act of sitting on one activates the body’s natural tendency to find its balance and it is the recruitment of these muscles that makes the ball so effective. Research findings have proven that the simple activation of the body’s stability muscles are two to three times more likely to prevent the recurrence of lower back pain! This exercise is particularly helpful to pregnant women.
- Sit up straight on your ball, feet hip-width apart and feet flat on the floor, hands resting on the legs.
- Begin with a good neutral lower back so the curve of your spine is neither pressed flat or hunched,
- Engage your abs and, without contracting the butt or leg muscles, tilt your pelvis up and slightly forward in the same motion, to flattening your lower back even more. Expect the ball to roll as you do this.
- Do this maneuver gently and slowly – your heels should remain on the floor.
- Start with eight reps in a set and progress as you feel ready. Do not rush into this as you want to “baby” your already achy back.
The swiss ball is an ideal tool for your exercise routine and a boon for lower back pain and overall physical strengthening. If you need tips or assistance, consult a trainer, exercise physiologist, or physical therapist and, if in doubt, always consult with your physician if it is appropriate for you.
Who knew that that big blue ball sitting in the gym could perform so many wonderful functions!
- “A Tough Swiss Ball Workout for Full Body Sculpting”. 1 October 2014. Watchfit.com http://watchfit.com/exercise/swiss-ball-workout-full-body/. Internet. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
- “Slide show: Core-Strength Exercises With A Fitness Ball”. N.D. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/fitness/multimedia/core-strength/sls-20076330. Internet. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
- Campbell, M., “Exercise Ball Work for Lower Back Pain”. 29 October 2013. Livestrong.com. http://www.livestrong.com/article/399663-exercise-ball-work-lower-back-pain/. Internet. Retrieved 18 February 2015.