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Exercising with a Stability Ball

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:

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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:

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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:

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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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Member Comments

Always thought they weren't that useful, but have recently changed mind and am planning on getting one of these balls. Report
thanks Report
Thanks, I have one and was not sure what exercises to start with. Report
Thank you Report
Thanks for the information. Report
Thank you for this great info! Report
very helpful article Report
This looks interesting. Report
Thanks! Great ideas! Going to try this one. Report
Good info on the ball and will try some of them with my ball. Report
This article makes me miss my stability ball--gotta get a new one...my last one broke after about 10 years of getting some fabulous work out of it (even used it as my chair). Report
Thank you for the article. Report
Good article. Report
saving to use with my workouts Report
Maybe? Report
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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.