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Benefits of Using an Exercise Ball

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

An exercise ball, also known as a Swiss ball, physio ball, stability ball, and a number of other clever names relating to either its use or origin, is nothing new in the world of fitness and rehabilitation. Made of soft elastic, with a diameter of approximately 35 to 85cm (14 to 34 inches), and filled with air, the Swiss ball was developed in 1963 by Aquilino Cosani, an Italian plastics manufacturer, and was initially named the "Pezzi Ball".

Within a decade of its creation, the ball began to be used by physical therapists across Europe, including a Swiss physical therapist concerned with postural re-education and back rehabilitation. In the 1980s a number of American physical therapists became fascinated with European, particularly Swiss, methods of rehabilitation, and were so impressed with the Pezzi Ball that they brought it back with them to the United States and renamed it the Swiss Ball.

A Choice of Colourful Swiss Balls

Now that we've established what an exercise ball is, and that Swiss ball, physio ball, balance ball, body ball, gym ball, Pezzi ball, Pilates ball, yoga ball, therapy ball and even Swedish ball all mean the exact same thing, we can dig into the many benefits this simple yet clever piece of equipment can bring. The primary benefit of exercising with a Swiss ball is that the body responds to the instability of the ball to remain balanced, leading to greater activation of core muscles, which can result in improved back and spine health, core stability, posture and muscle balance.

Back and Spine Health

We should never forget that the exercise ball was first used by physical therapists as a method of rehabilitation. Even if the goal of your ball exercises is to strengthen your core, working out with a Swiss ball will also offer back pain relief.

Recommended Exercise

The best way to stretch your lower back muscles for instant relief is to lay your whole body over the ball. This is one of the most basic exercises with a Swiss ball, and recommended for all types of users, from beginners to advanced.

Back stretch using a Swiss ball
Stretching your back on a Swiss ball can offer instant back pain relief.

Core Stability

There's a reason why the Swiss ball is also called a gym ball, Pilates ball or yoga ball. Maintaining core strength is extremely important, as these are the muscles in your body that stabilise and support all your movements.

The three muscle groups in your midsection are:

  • Deep abdominal muscles (Transverse Abdominus)
  • Back muscles that support the lumbar spine (Tultifidus)
  • Lower back muscles that maintain spinal and pelvic balance (Quadratus Lumborum)

Training with an exercise ball, whether during Pilates, yoga or simple stretching exercises, is an excellent way to work this group of hard-to-reach, deep muscles.

Recommended Exercises

Just sitting on the ball activates the stabiliser muscles and helps you connect with your centre of gravity. To further engage your core muscles, move your core farther away from the body, where maintaining your balance becomes a bit more difficult. Great examples of more advanced ball exercises include planking, push-ups, squats and abdominal crunches.

Push-Up on a Swiss Ball
Push-ups on a Swiss ball are excellent for maintaining your core stability.

Muscle Balance

If you don't know what you're doing in the gym, muscle imbalance can occur more quickly than you would imagine. Muscles need to work together to perform certain tasks, which is why muscle imbalance can lead to bad posture, pain and a multitude of injuries. A common imbalance occurs between anterior (front) and posterior (back) muscles, partially due to natural everyday activities that engage your front more than your back, but partially also because people tend to train their abs and neglect their back.

This is often the main cause of lower back pain and discomfort. Swiss ball exercises engage your whole core, as the ball supports the lower back and other posterior muscles during training.

Recommended Exercises

Strengthening your core goes hand in hand with muscle balance, so the best exercises for muscle balance are the ones that will help you strengthen your core as well. Advanced users can attempt abdominal crunches, push-ups, squats, bridges and planking.

Crunches on a Swiss Ball
Doing abdominal crunches on a Swiss ball can help you maintain core muscle balance.

Improved Posture

The wonderful side effect of strengthening your core and ensuring muscle balance is having a healthy posture. Regularly exercising with the ball helps you maintain the natural curve of your spine, which helps you to keep from arching your back and protect the spine.

Finding Your Ideal Swiss Ball

Most exercise balls are very similar, and selecting the right ball for you is simple. All you need to pay attention to is its size (a properly sized ball should allow you to sit on it with your knees and hip at 90 degrees). By consulting the table below, you should be able to find the right sized ball for your height in no time.

Ball Size Ball Height Your Height
Small 45cm (18") Up to 4'10" (145cm)
Medium 55cm (22") 4'8" to 5'5" (140 - 165cm)
Large 65cm (26") 5'6" to 6'0" (165 - 185cm)
Extra Large 75cm (30") 6'0" to 6'5" (185 - 195cm)
XX-Large 85cm (33") Over 6'5" (195cm)

Our Top Picks

Physioworx Anti Burst Exercise Ball 250 Kg

Available at a highly affordable price, the Physioworx Anti Burst Exercise Ball is the perfect choice if you're a complete beginner in the world of exercise balls. You can choose from five different sizes, from 45cm to 85cm, that are suitable even for children.

The ball has a weight resistance of 250 kg and is very versatile, allowing the individual to really concentrate on core stability which is vital for improving sitting posture, strength, flexibility and balance. Moreover, with its anti-burst technology, the Physioworx Ball is guaranteed not to explode when punctured.

TheraBand Pro Series SCP Exercise Ball

The TheraBand Pro Series SCP Exercise Ball is available in five sizes, which makes it the right fit for virtually anyone, including children. To ensure that all users of the TheraBand Pro Series exercise balls can get the most from their exercises, the ball features a host of safety considerations ideal for therapy use.

In case of punctures, the ball has been designed to deflate slowly. This helps to prevent users falling through the ball if it becomes punctured, keeping them safe and protected from harm. Moreover, the TheraBand Pro Ball comes complete with an inflation adaptor and two plugs, which makes keeping it at optimal resistance level super easy.

Live on the Edge Swiss Exercise Ball

The Live on the Edge Swiss Exercise Ball is available in three sizes, making it suitable for most adult users. The air-filled ball features anti-burst technology that makes your workouts safer, and has been tested to exceed 1200kg under pressure.

It comes complete with an air pump and air pressure guidelines, ensuring the ball remains in optimal condition for longer. Quick and simple to inflate, use and deflate for more convenient storage, the Swiss Ball is ideal for your home workouts.

A Swiss ball is an inexpensive, highly practical piece of equipment anyone can incorporate into their exercise routine. Whether you are a seasoned gym rat or a complete beginner, your body will thank you if you do so.

Do you have any experience with using an exercise ball? Share your thoughts in the comments below or find us on Twitter and Facebook!

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