Stability, Control, and Strength: The Fitness Ball Benefits


In a world of kettlebells and burto bungees, the fitness ball can seem like old news. However, you can still experience amazing benefits to your wellbeing with the good old fashioned fitness ball.


According to wellness expert Ellie Herman, author of the Pilates For Dummies, ‘Fitness balls are still used by physical therapists and Pilates teachers to rehabilitate back, knee, and hip injuries, but they can do a whole lot more. The big balls can really make exercise fun, and they can be a great tool to help you master core stability, balance, control, and strength. Sitting on a ball instead of a chair is a great way to keep your spine healthy. Try to sit on a ball for at least part of your work day, if you have a desk job. When you sit on a ball, you’re forced to sit up with good posture because you have nothing to lean back on. Also, because the ball rolls around, it keeps you on your toes and keeps your body moving, which help prevent the stiffness and back pain that you can get from being too sedentary.’


But how do you use a fitness ball to really work your abs? Herman asserts, ‘If you want to really feel a burn in your belly, try Upper Abdominal Curls on the big ball. To stabilise on the ball, you must find your deep Abdominal Scoop! This is one of the most challenging abdominal exercises you’ll find anywhere. The farther your pelvis is from the ball, the easier the exercise. If you need to make this exercise easier, walk your feet away from the ball so that your shoulders are making contact with the ball. Do the curls from this position. You should be lying back with your mid back making contact with the ball, your feet planted firmly on the floor a little more than hip distance apart, and your knees facing slightly away from each other. Squeeze your butt and pull your belly in to keep your hips at the same height as your shoulders. Make your torso as stable as possible.’


Herman continues, ‘Now, interlace your fingers and put your hands behind your head. Exhale: Make sure that your butt is squeezed and your navel is pulled in. Roll up to your Pilates Abdominal Position…Raise your head just high enough that your shoulder blades are off the ball. Don’t let your hips drop down as you roll your upper body up. Don’t bounce up and down, but go slowly to really get the benefits of this exercise. Inhale: Control the movement back down to the Bridge position. Complete eight repetitions slowly, and go right into your Open Back Stretch. Believe it — after this exercise, you’ll need it!’


When it comes to upper abdominal curls, there are a few dos and don’ts to bear in mind:

  • DO: ‘think of pulling your belly so far in that you flatten your lower back onto the ball as you initiate the roll up,’ says Herman. ‘You’re not in Neutral Spine during this exercise.’
  • DON’T: ‘strain your neck,’ Herman instructs. ‘Allow your hands to hold the weight of your head and keep the space of a tangerine between your chin and your neck.’


Herman adds, ‘To make the exercise more difficult, walk your feet in and start with your pelvis and lower back making contact with the ball. Stabilizing is more difficult when your belly is actually on top of the ball as you roll up. Think of flattening your lower back onto the ball as you initiate the roll up. You can also modify the exercise to work your oblique abdominals (the deep abdominals that twist your torso). Instead of rolling straight up, try rolling up with a slight twist, reaching your right elbow toward your left knee and then reaching your left elbow toward your right knee, alternating sides every time.’

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