Build a Better Body - Part VI: Have a Ball!

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Jill Murphy, DPT, LAT, CSCS

Part of our Build A Better Body series.

There comes a time in life where your schedule becomes monotonous, your work uninspired, and your workout mundane. It is in those times you could just suck it up and plod onward, or you can change it up to keep things fresh and new.

Just like your mind and spirit, your body doesn’t like doing the same thing all the time either. Whether is a repetitive work motion, or a repetitive, one-dimensional work-out, your body needs variety to stay healthy (more cell build-up than break-down) and to gain strength, speed, and endurance.

Exercise Ball

So in an effort to spice things up AND step it up, this month’s article in our Build a Better Body Series revolves around exercises on the exercise ball (also known as a plyoball or Swiss ball). The benefits of the exercise ball are multi-faceted. The round surface creates a fitting convex curve for spine stretches over the top of the ball, whether you lie on your back, on your side, or actively rotate across the ball. The mobility of the ball acts as an aid to your motion if you sit on the ball and tilt your pelvis in all the directions of the clock to loosen the low back muscles and joints. Performing exercises on an unstable instead of a stable surface forces your muscles and joint receptors to work harder to not only do the exercise movement, but to also keep you on the ball! Ball exercises also have the benefit of working the whole body, not just your abs and hips.

Choosing an exercise ball is fairly simple. Just about all of the balls on the market are durable (i.e. burst-proof), but you can read the packaging for any specifics. For any exercise ball, don’t leave your ball in a hot car on a summer day, because the ball can explode! The correct size of ball depends on your height if you are planning to perform any seated exercises. Most of us find the 65 cm diameter ball just right, and this is the most common ball you will find sold in retail stores. If you are 5’10” or taller, you will need to purchase a 75 cm ball. If you happen to be 5’3” or less, you would benefit from a 55 cm ball. Balls do need to be blown up with some sort of pump. Many clinics, including MotionWorks Physical Therapy, will inflate any ball that you purchase to the correct diameter free of charge.

Exercises on a ball are generally more challenging than other isolated abdominal and hip exercises, so the set of exercises below is probably not the best place to start an exercise program. If you have been following along in our Build a Better Body Series, you are now more than ready for this type of exercise. Since the exercise directions below refer back to the terms and techniques you would have learned in earlier articles in this series, you may need to read those first even if you are accustomed to working out to understand exactly what to do. So have a ball while you work out your abs, hips, arms, legs, and trunk!

 

Seated Position on Exercise Ball with Abdominal Brace

Seated Position on Exercise Ball with Abdominal Brace

Position: seated on an exercise ball with your feet flat on the floor and your knees at a 90 degree angle.

1) Find your neutral spine position, which means sitting on the bony part of your bottom with a slight curve in your low back.

2) Perform an abdominal brace. (See the Build a Better Body - Part II: Mythbusting the Abs if you have never done this before for further directions.)

3) The ball should not move at all as you hold this position for 10 seconds at a time. Perform 10x.

4) Progress this exercise by slowly performing marching while sitting on the ball with the abdominal brace. Don’t let the ball move!

 

Exercise Ball Knee Extension With Ab Brace

Exercise Ball Knee Extension With Ab Brace

Position: seated on an exercise ball with your feet flat on the floor and your knees at a 90 degree angle.

1) Perform an abdominal brace.

2) Slowly straighten one knee, and then return your foot to the floor softly. Repeat with the opposite leg while maintaining the abdominal brace. Don’t let the ball move!

3) Perform 15x on each leg.

 

Exercise Ball Bridging

Exercise Ball Bridging

Position: lying on the floor with your feet on the ball with your arms resting on the floor.

1) Perform an abdominal brace.

2) Lift your hips up into a full bridging position, so your body makes a straight line.

3) Hold for 5 seconds. Then return to the floor, and then relax your brace.

4) Repeat 10-15x.

5) Progress this exercise by positioning your arms in a crossed position over your chest instead of resting flat on the floor.

 

Exercise Ball Hamstring Curls

Exercise Ball Hamstring Curls

Position: lying on your back with your feet on the ball and your arms resting on the floor.

1) Perform an abdominal brace.

2) Lift your hips up into a full bridging position, so your body makes a straight line.

3) Perform a hamstring curl by bending your knees to move the ball up toward your hips, then straighten your legs to move the ball away.

4) Repeat 20x while holding your ab brace and bridging position.

 

Exercise Ball Tabletop Bridge

Exercise Ball Tabletop Bridge

Position: lying with your shoulder blades and upper back resting on the ball and your feet flat on the floor.

1) Perform an abdominal brace.

2) Find the table top position by lifting your hips up so that your trunk and hips form a straight line.

3) Hold this position as long as you can.

4) Repeat 2-3x.

 

Exercise Ball Prone Walkout with Push-Up

Exercise Ball Prone Walkout with Push-Up

Position: lie on your stomach with your hands flat on the floor in front of the ball.

1) Perform the abdominal brace.

2) Roll over the ball with your hands walking yourself out into the push-up position.

3) Perform as many good quality push-ups as you can.

4) Walk yourself back into the start position.

Read the Entire Build A Better Body Series

Part I Hips: Laying the Foundation
Part II: Myth Busting Abs
Part III: Stabilizing the Scapula: The Secret to Strong Shoulders
Part IV: Strengthening Stabilizing the Neck
Part V: The Big Picture
Part VI: Have a Ball
Part VII: Advanced Exercise Ball Routine

You can now Build A Better Body at MotionWorks by joining one of our Build A Better Body fitness classes!