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Swiss Ball Training Exercise Article Information.
How to use the Swiss Ball for Workouts and Exercise.

Article provided by Krista at

the swiss ball

weird but useful

The Swiss ball is essentially a giant beach ball made of durable vinyl. It's one of the few fitness thingamajigs that is actually useful and, dare I say it, almost indispensable. Not only is it great for abs, but you can also use it in place of a bench for some exercises. If your gym doesn't have one, buy your own and use it at home. At $25-$40, it's a pretty cheap piece of equipment. With that price, and with the ball's wide range of uses, it's definitely money well spent.

The Swiss ball has two advantages: one, it provides an unstable platform on which to perform exercises (greater instability supposedly leads to greater recruitment of stabilizing muscles, thus you theoretically reap more benefits from each exercise); and two, it provides an excellent range of motion for ab exercises. I think the first aspect is a tad overrated, since I don't think there's a whole lot to be gained by substituting the ball for a bench, although it does provide some variety. That being said, I quite enjoy doing chest work on the ball, since the curvature of the ball provides the perfect alignment of my upper body. Nobody else I've showed Swiss ball chest presses to seems to like it as much as I do, so you can decide for yourself whether or not I am just a crackpot on this subject.

Since, as I said, the Swiss ball provides an unstable platform, it will take some getting used to before you will feel comfortable balancing on it. Don't despair; you will get the hang of it. Because the ball is squishy and made of vinyl so it won't slip around, you can actually get away with putting yourself quite off-balance without falling over.

Before you try anything on the Swiss ball, just get comfortable with how it feels. Sit on it, holding on to something if you are really timid. Roll your butt around on it, and feel how you have to balance when you shift your weight. Practice moving your hips from the front of the ball (so that the ball moves up to the small of your back) to the back (so you are sitting on it), and side to side. One thing which helps to maintain balance is to keep your feet relatively wide apart.

Once you've mastered basic balance, take a crack at the exercises below.

ab crunch | reverse crunch

exercise 1 - ab crunch

You can see here in the pic on the left one of the significant advantages of using the ball for ab work. I can use a much greater range of motion than I would be able to if I was crunching on the floor. In addition, my abs have the added resistance of being forced to work against gravity. To increase the difficulty of this exercise, I simply hold a plate behind my head. This is a relatively simple exercise to perform.
Begin the exercise by hanging upside down, as shown in the pic on the left. At first, you may not feel comfortable with this position, so it's OK to begin in a position more like the centre pic, but aim to get your upper body as far back as possible. Keep your feet fairly wide apart, as shown, which will help you balance.

Using the contraction of your abs, crunch upwards and forwards, as shown. At the same time as the upper body comes up, tilt your pelvis forward and push your hips up. This ensures a nice strong crunch. Hold for a few seconds, then release, and lower your upper body and your hips back into the starting position. You may have to re-roll yourself slightly back into position with every rep, since the ball may shift a bit under your body during the crunch.

If you find these hard to do, you're not alone. This is a challenging exercise. But it is worthwhile, so do your best to learn it. If you have to at first, have a partner stabilize you by holding your waist.

exercise 2 - reverse crunch

This exercise is a bit harder than the first, but if you can master it, it's a great companion exercise the first. You can do this with someone hanging on to your waist till you get the hang of doing it unassisted. To make the exercise harder, shift your hips closer to the front of the ball, and/or hold a plate between your ankles or knees.

To begin the exercise, lie across the swiss ball as shown in the pic on the left, and grab something behind you. I'm using a square pillar, but this isn't the best choice. The best choice is something that you can actually get a grip on. One of my workout buddies likes to hang on to a regular bench with either someone sitting on it, or with a 45 lb plate on it. Just look around for stuff to grab on to: low railings, parallel vertical bars on a machine, whatever. Bring your feet off the floor, knees slightly bent. Using the contraction of your ab muscles, tilt your pelvis forward, and bring your hips up. Do this slowly, so you aren't tempted to cheat by swinging your legs. At the top of the rep, your legs are perpendicular to the floor. Then slowly lower your legs into the starting position. Don't touch the floor with your feet at the bottom.

Swiss ball training Exercise Article Information.
How to use the Swiss Ball for Workouts.

Article provided by Krista at

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