181219 Exercising with a Stability Ball by Danny M. O’Dell MA., CSCS

181219 Exercising with a Stability Ball by Danny M. O’Dell MA., CSCS

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS

The big exercise stability balls, as they are known, are displayed in the catalogs and stores all over now, it is as if they were a brand new tool to get fit. Well let me tell you they have been around now for at least forty-two years.

There have been numerous articles and routines written up for their use in the various publications and now they are even showing up in the infomercial’s on television. The reason for this proliferation of information is they work.

Stability balls help build a better balance base, a stronger center part of the body commonly known as the “core”, better proprioceptive action, and in addition to the good benefits, they provide a challenge to performing regular exercises in a different manner on them. How does a simple ball provide all of this you ask? All right, you didn’t ask but I will tell you anyway.

A stability ball works on the basic principles of instability, mobility, lever length and positioning.

Instability is the bedrock, shifting bedrock you might say, of the balls usefulness in exercise. Challenges await those who alter their foot or hand positions closer together, change their center of gravity higher or lower, and use weights or change the lever length of the weight load.

Mobility implies, at least in this case, that if you do not use good form the ball will roll away form you. Thus, you have instant feedback that is critical to the performance of the exercise. After all, a ball by its nature rolls around.

Lever length is how you position yourself on the ball in the first place. Take for example the pushup. This common exercise is made more difficult simply by moving the ball forward as the pushup is performed. On the other hand, it is easier if the ball is placed under the chest in the normal pushup position.

In either case, the length of the lever arm changed, thereby increasing or decreasing the difficulty of doing the pushup.

Positioning as used here means you can sit on it or lie on it sideways, prone or supine depending on just what you are trying to accomplish. You can put your feet, hands, elbows, knees, chest, and in short almost any part of the body on the ball to make an exercise easier or harder.

Explosivelyfit does not recommend kneeling or standing on the stability ball.

The fact that it shifts around, forces the body to maintain stability while performing an exercise on it. Your body is constantly adjusting to maintain itself on the ball, regardless of the position you have taken on it.

The stability ball is not a quick fix to physical fitness and health. It is however, simply another tool to employ in gaining the fitness level you desire.

If you decide to buy a stability ball, make certain it is of the burst resistant sort. Some of the cheaper ones may develop a break and then collapse very rapidly, much as a balloon does when it breaks. The burst resistant balls allow a gradual escape of the air pressure.

Fit your size (height) to the dimension of the ball

The general rule is to choose a ball that allows you to sit on the ball with your knees and hips at a 90° angle. This will position your thighs parallel to the floor.

The correct air pressure for the ball will be in the area of the correct height for your body as listed in the following chart.

Measure the height on the wall then inflate to the correct height.

Follow the chart for correct sizing recommendations:

A Body height of Requires this size ball
Up to 4’ 10” Small-45cm (18 inches)
4’ 10”-5’ 5” Medium-55cm (22 inches)
5’ 5”-6’ 0” Large-65cm (26 inches)
6’ 0”-6’ 5” X-Large-75cm (30 inches)
Over 6’ 5” XX-Large-85cm (33 inches )

Buy a ball that has been tested to 800 pounds and is burst resistant which means they do not collapse rapidly if punctured.

Other stability balls are available but are not recommended if you are using extra weight such as dumbbells or barbells in your stability ball training.

Remember the old adage of “you get what you pay for”; buy cheap and get cheap will be the result. Isn’t your health and physical safety worth the price of a good stability ball?

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