I thought that I would try something else new this month and use the Swiss Ball. They are reported as being the most effective method for core conditioning, So exercising on the Swiss Ball develops your abdominal muscles, stabilises your lower back as well as improving posture. There are many different names for the Swiss Ball – here’s a list…
By the way, the reason it is called a Swiss Ball is that it originated from Switzerland in the 1960s and therapists used it for physical rehabilitation.
Using the Swiss Ball ensures that exercises are concentrated on core areas such as abdominals - often a key area for women to tone and condition. It’s portable, easy to store, versatile and pretty cheap. Also, using the Swiss Ball can really help prevent back injuries by strengthening this area.
Don’t try to blow up by hand!
The Swiss Ball is a really excellent piece of equipment for home. It’s inexpensive and you can do lots of great exercises on them. There are loads of example exercises on the internet to make it fun and interesting. Just remember though to also do some aerobic/ cardio work as you do not get this from using the ball.
I also recently came across covers for the Swiss Ball – amusingly named Furriballs, these are a funky accessory to your Swiss Ball and I have recently bought a black Furriball cover for my long-haired teenagers’ ball which I encourage him to sit on in front of the television.
Balls come in three diameters: 55, 65 and 75 centimetres. The right one for you is dependent on your height. It is also well worth checking the ‘load’, the one I tested was tested to 250kg if this is not quite enough the Fitball is tested to 300kg. Worth making sure you get a pump too and a good quality ball that won’t burst.
You often see rows of Swiss Balls in little plastic rings lining the back of the gym, ready to burst out and roll around the floor!
Swiss Balls allow you to do many variations of abdominal and back exercises. The range of motion allows you to take the strain off your lower back. And excellent results can be achieved if you stick with it. And guess what Ladies, they are supposed to help with continence!
The extra benefit of using a Swiss Ball to do abdominal exercises is that as opposed to exercising on a flat surface, the body has to respond to the instability of the ball, challenging your muscles more and using more to do the exercise – all good stuff methinks!
Here’s what I did…
Warm up – of course.
I tried some of the exercises in The Great Body Ball Handbook and really felt them, it is definitely worth trying this especially if you want to isolate the abdominals, get a better posture and build up your lower back muscles. The Swiss Ball Exercises included:
I also tried three other exercises which are Pilates-based they were - stomach strengthening, body stabilisation and upper body rotation. They were all challenging, but doable and I really felt that I had done them the day after.
I have used the Swiss Ball for about a week and I definitely sit straighter and my abdominals feel stronger, it is also supposed to help with pelvic floor muscles (hooray!). What is great about the Swiss Ball is that it suits all fitness levels as you can vary the level of exercise by taking one or both feet off the floor during sitting exercises, so as you get better at using the Swiss Ball you can make it harder. In addition, deflating the ball slightly makes it easier if you are just starting out as the ball is more stable. Having recently visited an Osteopath because of a problem with my shoulder, he advised that using Pilates-based exercises like the ones on the Swiss Ball would help ease this and mean that I wouldn’t have to visit him so often, certainly helps my finances!
As an added extra, I put one in front of the TV for the kids to sit on; it’s amazing how much exercise they get as just sitting on it makes you want to wriggle. So if you have slug-like teenagers at home like I do, replace the chair with a Fitball…
Using it as a chair is becoming quite popular and advice is to build up from about 15 minutes a day. Basically you will be building your core fitness without even realising it. Using the Fitball in this way helps by introducing ‘active sitting’ where you are stabilizing your body constantly when sitting on it and prevents slouching – so get your boss to buy you one!
Joining a class is often fun and the instructor can help you get the best from using the Swiss Ball. I am a member at a gym and have now started to go to the Pilates on the Ball sessions. These in conjunction with a Swiss Ball DVD I bought are really good and have improved my technique considerably.
Get one! It’s easy just to do a quick set on the Swiss Ball, they don’t take up too much space and the rest of the family will get some use out of it too.
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