Fitness balls -- commonly referred to as physioballs, exercise balls or Swiss balls -- are one of the most versatile pieces of exercise equipment. With the ability to aid a person performing stretches, core, upper body and lower body exercises, fitness balls can be used for effective total body workouts. Using a fitness ball for an entire workout has several advantages, including improved flexibility, core stability, strength and balance.
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Every workout should begin with a warm-up and finish with a cool-down stretching routine. The goal of the stretching workout is to increase the flexibility and elasticity of the muscles to prevent injury. For the warm-up, stretch dynamically to help prepare the muscles for the workout; while the post workout stretches should be static to relieve muscle soreness and promote recovery.
Fitness ball workouts were first popularized by its ability to target core and abdominal muscles. Fitness ball core workouts can strengthen the abdominals, back and pelvis. Using a variety of positions allows you to train every muscle in the core including the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis and obliques. Perform a total of 10 to 15 repetitions per set with a total of five sets. Abdominal crunches, bridges, planks and reverse crunches are the most common and most effective exercises for a core workout.
Using the fitness ball for a lower body workout adds variations to several functional lower body exercises. Squats, for example, can be varied between bodyweight squats using the fitness ball against the wall, holding the ball overhead for an overhead squat or single-leg squats with the opposite leg balancing on top of the ball. Other lower body exercises in a fitness ball workout include lunges, hamstring curls and hip raises. Perform a total of 10 to 15 repetitions and two to three sets per exercise.
Similar to lower body workouts, the fitness ball allows for a variety of upper body exercises. Adding dumbbells, barbells, cables and resistance bands can add weight to traditional exercises such as the chest press that increases the intensity on the core for balance. Other common upper body fitness ball exercises include pushups, seated shoulder press and seated biceps curls. Perform 10 to 15 repetitions per exercise and choose a balance of exercises that work opposing muscles such as the triceps and biceps.