All About Stability Balls

By: Denise Villani

The importance of core strength cannot be emphasized enough. Core strength focuses on the major muscles that helps stabilize and support all of the body movements including the back and the deep abdominal muscles. Having a strong core can help alleviate and prevent back pain. Additionally, since all the major muscle groups are exercised, the muscle tone, strength and endurance are also improved resulting in increased flexibility, stability and resistance. Strengthening the core also allows for better workouts and helps reduce the risk of injury.

A popular tool for core strength training is the stability ball. Also known as a physioball or a Swiss Ball, it was originally used in rehabilitation as early as the 1900's. In the early 1960's, Aquilino Cosani, an Italian toy maker, made the ball and sold it, known then as the Gymnastik. Two decades later, Cosani came up with a company called Gymnic and became the major supplier of the stability ball to most rehabilitation programs and centers. The ball then shifted from the rehabilitation to the athletic area in the 90's. It was used to condition the body of professional athletes. Since then it has become very prominent in the fitness community.

Fitness experts say that using a stability ball is ne of the best ways to strengthen the abs and back and increase stability. Exercise balls challenge you by putting your body in an unstable position. When you lie on the ball, your legs and abs immediately contract to keep you from falling off. Add an exercise like a chest press or a crunch and you've just increased the intensity of the movement.

The stability ball can be used in many different ways including:

Weight training - the stability ball is used as a weight bench to add difficulty to the movements and incorporate the muscles of your legs, butt and abs.

Abdominal training - doing crunches, twists and other traditional exercises on the ball adds difficulty to the movement by recruiting more muscles. The abs and the back muscles are simultaneously moved as you work in your balance.

Sitting around - Just sitting on an exercise ball can be a challenge and it's a great way to improve your posture when sitting in front of a computer or watching television. Practice by sitting on it and raising one foot off the ground and balancing.

Proper Alignment - Using the ball during training will test the body to make use of the different parts to maintain the proper balance. The dynamic movements during exercise will improve the natural motor reflexes of the body as by using muscles that aren't usually used. The challenge posed by the ball is to maintain balance. As you try to gain the proper balance, the alignment of the body parts is also improved.

Weight Loss - With regular exercises and training with the stability ball, a person can lose some unwanted pounds as the body is firmed.

A great thing about using a stability ball is that the perception of working is reduced, especially for beginners. The ball gives some element of play and can make the training seem less like work. In addition, the ball can be used by anybody at any fitness level. It'a also portable, durable, lightweight and inexpensive compared to other exercise equipment.

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