What is an exercise ball? An exercise ball is a workout tool that you can use to improve flexibility and strengthen your core. Also known as a Swiss ball or gym ball, this piece of fitness equipment is used for exercise, physical therapy, and athletic training. It is filled with air and has a diameter of 35 – 85 centimeters (14 – 34 inches). You can adjust the air pressure either by filling it with air or letting it deflate. Learn how to use an exercise ball below.
Benefits of Using an Exercise Ball
What makes an exercise ball great is the way the body responds to the unstable surface, engaging more muscle groups in the process. Working out while trying to maintain balance makes these muscles stronger. The focus of exercise ball exercises is often the core body muscles – the abdominal muscles and back muscles.
Doing exercises such as a curl-up on the ball yields higher electromyography activity compared to exercises done on a stable platform (such as a bench). Furthermore, doing a push-up on an unstable surface such as with feet on an exercise ball can increase activation of core trunk stabilizers, leading to increased trunk strength and greater resistance to injury.
Uses of an Exercise Ball
• Weight training
You can use an exercise ball as a “weight bench” to perform exercises while sitting or lying, especially using dumbbell movements.
• Abdominal training
Doing crunches, twists and other exercises adds difficulty to the movement because you’re using more core muscles in your exercises.
• Flexibility exercises
An exercise ball is excellent for stretching and doing flexibility exercises such as pilates and yoga.
Just sitting on an exercise ball while using a computer or watching television is a good way to improve posture. Moreover, you can sit on it and raise one foot off the ground while balancing, or try some beginner ball exercises.
How to Use an Exercise Ball Correctly
• Select the correct size
If you are buying an exercise ball online and cannot test it out, get one based on your height. Take note of the following guidelines:
If you are shorter than 5’1”, choose a 45 cm ball.
If you are between 5’1” and 5’7”, choose a 55 cm ball.
If you are between 5’8 and 6’1”, choose a 65 cm ball.
If you are taller than 6’2”, choose a 75 cm ball.
• Adjust the air pressure accordingly
A firm exercise ball will make exercises harder, so you may want to use a ball with a lower air pressure when you are just starting out. As you get stronger, place more air into the exercise ball to make it firmer. When inflating it, stop when it can hold your weight but still has some give when you push on it.
• Use the exercise ball in an open area
You can use an exercise ball both indoors and outdoors. Make sure that you have enough space to move around. Before doing your workouts, remove any heavy or sharp objects from the area to avoid hitting anything in case you slip or slide off the ball.
• Observe correct posture
Sit on the ball with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. The knees should be directly over your ankles, and the back should be straight. Place your feet hip-width apart. If you are struggling to maintain balance, spread your feet a little wider.
• Breathe during exercising
When you’re exercising on the ball, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. It might help to count as you are doing this, to make sure you’re breathing slowly and evenly. Breathing is important to ensure your body is getting sufficient oxygen while you’re working out.
The exercise ball can be used for a wide variety of exercises that improve core strength, posture, and balance. Using an exercise ball is also good for flexibility. If you want to buy one, you can check out some high quality exercises balls here.