Fitness Articles

Exercising with a Stability Ball

Put Some Bounce in Your Workout

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A fitness trend is sweeping the nation that involves balancing oneself on an oversized ball while performing functional resistance movements. The ball is referred to as a "physio" or "Swiss" ball and has grabbed the attention of numerous performance enhancement specialists. Traditional resistance training involves working a single joint in a single plane of motion, i.e. bicep curls. This type of training falls short in preparing an athlete for dynamic movements in sport or in day-to-day activities. Integrated training on the physioball facilitates multi-planar neuromuscular control that is more specific to athletic activities.

A tremendous amount of stress is placed on the human body during everyday functional activities, so stable joints and muscle control are very important. A perfect example of this is carrying a box down a flight of stairs. The lumbar spine must stabilize the simultaneous contraction of the lower body (descending stairs) and the biceps and deltoids (carrying the box). In addition to stabilization, the entire spine must be balanced while stepping down one step at a time.

Training on the physioball is excellent for strengthening the core muscle areas (abdominal, back, trunk). In addition to strengthening, physioball workouts teach and improve posture, balance, coordination, and flexibility. We need a strong core because it stabilizes our spine as we move. Attention to these areas can prevent low back pain as well as improve our dynamic balance.

The exercises listed below are good beginner physioball techniques. Always maintain a slight arch in your lower back when performing these exercises. Regular breathing is also integral; don't hold your breath. Always consult with a physician before beginning any fitness program. Good luck.


Alternate leg hip extension on physioball:
Lonnie Soloff
Lie on back with ankles on ball. Lift one leg up off the ball while raising buttocks. Lower leg and perform on opposite side.







Hip marching on physioball:

Lonnie Soloff
Sit on ball as shown with a slight arch in back. Lift one leg at a time and hold for three seconds. Lower and repeat with opposite leg.







Hip marching with alternate arm and leg on physioball:

Lonnie Soloff
Same as above while raising the arm opposite the leg raised.








Lumbar alternate arm on physioball:

Lonnie Soloff Physioball
A more advanced technique. While lying on the physioball with upper back supported, raise one arm over you head and slowly lower. Repeat on opposite side.







Hamstring and groin stretch on physioball:

Lonnie Soloff
Sit on the ball as shown with thighs apart and feet flat on the floor. Lean forward with the left arm towards the left ankle and hold at the end-range for 10-15 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.
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About The Author

Lonnie Soloff Lonnie Soloff
Lonnie has a master's degree in physical therapy and is the head physical therapist for the Cleveland Indians.

Member Comments

  • Maybe? - 4/3/2014 6:29:49 AM
  • LADEEBIKER1
    I haven't experienced this type of exercise yet but I will purchase the ball and get cracking. It looks like it will be a good thing for me. Thanks to SP for having a few starting exercises for beginners. - 3/22/2014 4:47:40 PM
  • i WATCHED THE VIDEO OF THE BEGINNING FOR THE THE BALL, I AM CONFUSED , HOW DO YOU KEEP THE BALL WHERE YOU WANT IT. i TRIED THE WORK OUT AND ENDED UP ON THE FLOOR. I AM NEW TO THIS SITE AND NEW TO EXERCISEANY HELP WILL BE GREATLY APPRECIATED. THANK YOU - 10/19/2013 7:04:16 AM
  • FATZSO
    very informative on core exercises with the ball.Can't wait to try this method of core training. - 2/14/2013 10:17:35 AM
  • I need do dust off the ol' swiss ball. So glad I came across this article...I really used to enjoy working with the swiss ball! - 2/2/2013 9:31:31 PM
  • New Year-New Ball dropping In on me! Starting 2013 off right starting on Monday the 7th. - 1/4/2013 2:38:01 AM
  • I'm starting a Bootcamp Sunday that involves a ball but everything I have been reading says the smallest size is for people 5'2"-5'7". I am only 4'11". Does anybody know if the come smaller or if it would be okay to just use the smallest size? - 9/21/2012 1:43:08 PM
  • I'm always afraid to sit on ours for too long because technically I'm too heavy for it...but it hasn't popped yet :) - 7/18/2012 1:02:47 AM
  • I got the largest one even though I am only 5'2" because I also had a bad knee when I bought it and knew that I could not get down that low and be able to get back up. It helped my knee so that there was no stress on the knee to do the exercises. So go by how you know your body and if you can't get down that low then go higher. That is safer since your knee will not give out since it does not have to go down so low. - 11/27/2011 9:46:11 PM
  • MLTOSH
    Contrary to what was posted in the article, you do not FULLY inflate the ball. You leave a little air out so it slightly flattens out when you are sitting/laying on it. These balls are great for core, ab and chest work! - 11/27/2011 2:09:55 PM
  • I have 2 neither one is in use right now :(. I used to like them but I got out of practice and I think there should be MORE resources for them on SP. - 11/4/2011 9:11:20 PM
  • I do enjoy using the exercise ball, and hyave heard about the sizing, but nobody addresses what to do when a person is shorter than the "normal". I am not quite 5' tall... - 11/27/2010 11:55:10 AM
  • I've seen one of colleagues sitting on the ball. I hope it's not against our company safety rule! - 7/19/2010 12:04:11 AM
  • Yes - I too love the Swiss Ball and use DVD's as instruction. It is challenging but not beyond anyone's capabilities and well worth the effort. Also it is fun. So don't forget to enjoy it. - 7/18/2010 6:26:30 AM
  • BERTSMOM1
    Folks, don't be afraid of the fit ball but do take a class at a local rec center or fitness center where it is used. I teach some senior fit classes and we use the fit balls in each class successfully. I sometimes start people seated on balls with a chair on either side for support. - 5/31/2010 3:43:57 PM
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