Strength training with the exercise ball
April 5, 2013
You enter the parking lot of the local gym and see car after car and know it's going to be a busy day. The rainy weather combined with summer right around the corner has every gym member seemingly working out at the same time. All the treadmills and bikes being used, the squat racks filled with teenage boys doing curls, even your favorite stretching area is occupied. The only piece of equipment you can find is one of those big bouncy Swiss balls and some open space. Good thing you can improve strength, flexibility and balance using this Swiss ball-only workout.
The workout comes from the study, Effects of Swiss-ball core strength training, and was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. The study took 21 female administrative staff workers who were currently not exercising and put them on a Swiss ball-only workout.
The women trained three days a week for 45 minutes with a 5 minute walk as a warm up. The participants then went on to preform two to three sets of seven different Swiss ball exercises (Visit http://www.KCstrength.com for the list and images of the exercises). The results of the 8-week program showed improvement in lower body and core muscle strength while at the same time the women saw an increase in balance and core endurance.
The authors point out that core strength in important for everyone. "Athletes who experience lower back pain while running and playing tennis and golf were also characterized by lack of core muscular strength". Non-athletes need core strength to stay healthy and active, "this Swiss-ball core strength training protocol can be implemented as a preventative training against falls and subsequent injuries in the sedentary women that is related to poor balance, lower limb and core strength".
One of the great benefits the researchers found was a significant increase in balance. This can be attributed to a stronger inner and outer core. The outer core is the core must people think of, the abdominals and obliques, the muscles people can see. However, there is also another set of muscles that make an inner core.
The inner core, which is a group of deeper muscles that includes the transverse abdominus, multifidous and others, is primary used to hold the hips and spine in a safe place. These muscles tend to be weak in people with low back pain. Training on the Swiss ball, and training while standing or kneeling can improve inner core strength.
Just like any piece of exercise equipment the Swiss ball does have its downsides. It is not recommend that people perform heavy strength training on the ball for the potential it could break and cause the person harm. Like any tool in the toolbox, the Swiss ball, along with kettlebells, dumbbells and workout machines all have a place and a time in a good workout program.
Kyler Crouse, BS, CSCS, FMS is a personal trainer and strength coach who trains at Sierra Athletic Club and in the homes of clients in the greater Lake Tahoe area. Crouse specializes in performance enhancement and injury prevention. Visit http://www.KCstrength.com for more information.