Swiss balls are those big inflatable plastic balls that you probably have used or seen in the gym environment. Also known as stability balls or gym balls they have become a huge training accessory in the fitness industry over the last decade.
The abdominal crunch seems to be the main exercise that is always performed on this brilliant piece of kit and yet Swiss balls offer so much more. It is an essential part of any of my client’s training program.
So what is all the hype about these inflatable balls? The key benefits of Swiss ball training are that it improves posture, balance, stability and reflexes. All these components are important for everyone, not just gym enthusiasts.
Exercising on the ball works our postural muscles which helps maintain optimal alignment of our muscular-skeletal system and leads to high levels of carry over to daily function.
If you sit at a desk all day then typically your postural muscles are weak and you have more chance of injuring yourself during a simple task like picking up a bag of groceries.
Performing exercises on the Swiss ball that will fight gravity in upright and lying positions will go a long way in delaying postural fatigue when sitting or working for long periods every day.
This is the reason why we slouch at the desk.
Swiss ball training improves our function in all planes of motion -forwards/backwards, sideways and twisting.
In order to stabilize joints effectively we need to work in these planes of motion. Just watch any sport and you will release that our body moves in multi-directions.
Most exercises in the gym are mainly performed in the forward/backward motion, for example squats and bicep curls.
Everyone needs to train in all three planes to avoid injury and enhance movement. Swiss ball exercises are a great tool for this type of training.
Our reflexes can also be greatly developed with the use of a Swiss ball. When we are sitting or lying on the ball and it moves under us during exercises it changes our centre of gravity and forces our reflexes to be tested.
No other gym equipment can replicate this training effect and is ideal for activities such as mountain biking, surfing and skiing where the surfaces change frequently.
Finally, using the Swiss ball as a chair is a great way to keep the spine healthy and I suggest this to all my clients.
When sitting at our desks all day any movement from a seated position take places above the hips and it is only when you reach across your desk that the lower spinal discs start to move.
Sitting on a Swiss ball allows your hips to move around, bounce and wiggle.
This action will move the spinal discs from the bottom first and gets spinal fluid pumping through the discs, keeping the spine hydrated throughout the day and reducing any lower back pain.
Next time you are at the gym, ask one of the fitness professionals on duty to show you other exercises apart from the abdominal crunch and I guarantee the Swiss ball will be part of your regular exercise regime. Or at least, you will now have a new chair!