Exercise balls, also called stability balls and fitness balls, were designed by a Swiss doctor in the 1960s for use in physical therapy. The balls are an effective means of building muscles and endurance, strengthening your core, and developing flexibility and balance. The balls are rubber inflatables that can be used for a variety of exercise routines.
You can perform various types of exercises on a stability ball. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you can perform crunches on the balls to build and strengthen your abdominal muscles or side lifts to build your obliques. Chest presses and bicep and tricep lifts can be done while sitting on the ball holding free weights. In addition to the muscle toning you'll get from the lifting, you'll engage other muscles in your core and glutes to keep your balance. Exercise balls also are ideal for stretching your back, core and legs.
A stability ball can provide a platform for your entire workout routine, or you can reserve it for specific exercises. You can increase the intensity of your workout on the ball and place increased stress on your core by moving your feet closer together. The effort to remain balanced engages additional muscles. For example, move your body around on the ball so that it supports less of your body while doing crunches or pushups.
Use the proper size ball to get the most out of your workout and to be able to properly perform the exercises. You should make sure the ball is inflated enough so that you can sit on it with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. According to the American Council on Exercise, beginners and seniors may consider using a softer, larger ball until they gain strength and get accustomed to the ball. As a rule, you should get a ball that suits your size. For example, if you are between 5 feet 1 inch and 5 feet 7 inches tall, you should use a ball with a 22-inch circumference. Balls generally range from 12 to 30 inches in circumference.
To prevent injury and accidents, as well as achieve the maximum benefits of your exercise, you should use the ball on a padded surface, carpeting or mat in case you lose your balance. When doing sitting exercises, keep your feet about shoulder-width apart for better stability. To prevent falls, you should use an exercise ball near a wall so that you don't fall if you lose your balance. Sit on the ball and maintain the natural curve of your back to prevent strains.