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The Exercise Ball, Try it For Core Conditioning

Aug 17, 2007
There is so much being said nowadays about working out with an exercise ball that you may have wondered what all the fuss is about.

Originally created for use in physical therapy, the exercise ball, better known as the Swiss ball, is a large, inflated, rubber ball around 25-35 inches in diameter. In the past, the exercise ball was used by physical therapists to help rehabilitate their patients, particularly those with lower back pain.

Today, the exercise ball is a common tool in many physical fitness programs. One reason for this is, like Pilates, the use of the exercise ball helps to firm up the trunk muscles in the core of the body. Training the core of the body not only lends strength to the limbs and trunk but it also keeps the body flexible, balanced and provides support for the spine.

The effectiveness of using an exercise ball for core conditioning is due to the round shape which creates instability for the body. This in turn causes your body's core muscles to react to the instability caused by the ball. Over time, your body will improve the strength and flexibility of those muscles as it begins to intuitively rely on core muscles for balance.

Using an exercise ball as part of a fitness program can include a wide range of difficulty levels from easy to moderate to difficult - each level requiring support from the core muscles.

If you've ever wanted to give the exercise ball a try, here are a few routines to get you started:

1) Squat and Lift

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart while holding the exercise ball in your hands with both hands on either side of ball.

Bend both knees (as if you are going to sit) so that you are squatting slightly as you lower the ball in front of you.

Slowly straighten your legs to a standing position as you lift the ball to shoulder length.

Once you have straightened up completely, slowly raise the ball above your head and then slowly lower it to shoulder height again.

Repeat the exercise 10 to 15 times.

2) Hip Extension

Lie on your back on the floor with your heels propped on the exercise ball.

Slowly lift your hips off the floor as you squeeze your buttocks and tighten your abdominal muscles.

Continue to lift your body off the floor until your body is in a straight line.

Hold this position for a few seconds and lower.

Repeat the exercise 10 to 15 times.

3) Lunges

Place the exercise ball on the floor and stand with your back towards it.

Standing with your feet together and your hands on your hips, place one foot on the ball behind you.

Slowly bend your front knee, ensuring that your knee doesn't pass your toes.

Try to keep your back erect - do not lean forward as you bend.

Repeat the exercise 10 to 15 times.

These exercises are just the beginning. There are so many exercises you can do on the exercise ball that you'll never become bored. You may also develop your own routines that you find helpful. Be sure, however, you warm up first for 5-10 minutes before getting started. Used properly, the exercise ball will increase the strength and flexibility of your core muscles with regular use. No matter what your fitness level is, give the fitness ball a try. You'll be surprised to see how much fun it can be.
About the Author
Patricia has been interested in Health & Fitness since the early 70's and knows how to seperate hype from fact.
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