Swiss ball, physio ball, stability ball, exercise ball … you still see plenty at the gym, pro sportsmen use it for sport-specific functional work and there’s hardly a personal trainer who doesn’t incorporate it into their prescribed routines. Despite this, many people shun away, intimidated and unsure of how to use it, or convinced it’s a gimmick.
Forget what you have or haven’t heard here are some basics.
Your core “is the foundation to any kind of physical activity,” says Yossi Montrose from PerformaBall (www.performaball.com), a Gauteng-based specialist exercise ball training company. According to Montrose, who’s developed over 1300 exercise variations on the ball, many people are aware of this, but still target it incorrectly – by simply incorporating a bunch of sit-ups into their routines. Here’s how to step it up.
Oh and what, or where is my core? You ask. Wikipedia.com, that bastion of anatomical and physiological info defines it as “in its most general of definitions, the body minus the legs and arms.” Of course it is much more specific than that, but think of it as your abs and then some – the muscles in your abdominal and lower back essential for good posture, back support and balance.
Bridge (three sets – 10-15 reps each)
Lie face-up with your feet flat on the floor and your head and upper back on the ball. Draw in your abs and raise your hips so your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Squeeze your glutes, then lower your hips.
Back Extensions (three sets – 10-15 reps each)
Lie with your stomach on the ball. Place your legs shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Place your hands on each side of your head and curl your chin toward the ball. Then extend up, bringing your elbows back.
Seated leg raise (three sets)
Sit on the ball, making sure your back is straight and your core activated. Now lift one leg. Hold for 30 seconds. Do the same with the other leg. Extend the hold time as you improve.
Seated double leg raise
Set-up as with the single leg raise, but lift both legs.
Kneeling (three sets of 30 seconds)
Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. With your feet still touching the ground, place your knees on the ball. Slowly push off until your feet are in the air. Stabilize and maintain that position for a few seconds. Then slowly move forward using your hands to ‘walk’ forward on the ball. Once you’re comfortable, take off one hand and then the other. Straighten your back straight keeping your neck and shoulders relaxed. Hold for 30 seconds.
For more info and tailored sport-specific routines go to www.performaball.com. They also have a very useful smartphone app.