Paul Chek

Swiss balls are a familiar sight in many gyms these days and are commonly used for ab training – crunches and cross crunches are quite popular using the Swiss ball. However these are just a fraction of the fantastic exercises that be performed on a Swiss ball! By combining five or six Swiss ball exercises in a mini-circuit, with a short rest between each circuit, you can get a complete and exhilarating workout. For best results, alternate movement patterns so that antagonistic muscle groups will be worked, e.g. alternate upper and lower body exercises.

Tips for Safe, Effective Swiss Ball Workouts

  • Always check you ball and workout area and clear away any stray debris, such as grit, staples, tacks, thorns, etc. These can make for a "deflating" workout experience if one of these punctures your ball!
  • Take care that the ball does not slide out from underneath you. Use a mat if the floor is slippery.
  • It is important to warm-up correctly. The best way is to perform the particular activity you will be doing, at a reduced intensity e.g. one set of each exercise at a perceived effort of 60% training intensity, or what you would consider easy. You will know your body is ready for exercise when you begin to sweat. After your warm-up, take a short rest of approximately 60 seconds and begin your workout.

 

Add a ball!
Here are some exercises you will be familiar with, but you can add a twist and some nervous system excitement by using a Swiss ball.

Push-ups
A push-up can be made easier or harder than a regular floor push-up, by using as Swiss ball. To make the exercise easier, lie face down with your hips supported by the ball. Increase the level of difficulty by walking forward on your hands and letting the ball roll towards your feet. A more advanced version of the exercise is to perform each push-up with only one leg on the ball.

 

Key Points

  1. Keep your body in good alignment throughout each rep. There should be no sagging or bending in the middle and your head should be in line with the rest of the spine – do not look up or let your head drop. Keep your eyes looking straight down at the floor.
  2. To start, take a deep breath and draw the umbilicus inward as if you are zipping up a tight pair of jeans.
  3. Lower yourself until your nose is just off the ground.
  4. Exhale through pursed lips as you push back to the starting position.

 

Alternating Superman
For a more advanced version, simply try to fly like Superman without letting your arms or legs touch the ground for up to 1 minute. Great for training balance!

 

Key Points

  1. Lie face down over a Swiss ball, balancing on toes and fingertips
  2. Pick up one leg and the opposite arm and hold them parallel to the ground. The arm should be positioned at a 45° angle to the spine and the thumb should be pointing upward, as if hitch-hiking. This will improve the activation of the shoulder stabilizers. The butt muscle should also be activated.
  3. Hold this position for 3 to 10 seconds.
  4. Lower the arm and leg at the same time as lifting the opposite arm and leg into the same position.
  5. Do not let the back hyperextend (excessively arch), nor the head lose its axial alignment with the spine – do not look up or let your head drop.

 

Whole Body Ball Exercises
These exercises work multiple muscles groups and joints at one time – great functional training!

Forward Ball Roll
For a more advanced challenge, try shifting the weight to one leg as you roll forward, changing from one leg to the other with each repetition.

 

Key Points

  1. Kneeling behind the ball, place your forearms on the ball.
  2. Inhale and draw your umbilicus inward.
  3. Roll forward with simultaneous motion at the hip and shoulder joints. Only go as far as you can while holding perfect spinal alignment. At no time should you feel any pressure in your low back nor should your head drop down.
  4. Hold for the prescribed number of seconds and then roll backward, breathing out through pursed lips as you come back.

 

Supine Hip Extension + Knee Flexion
Warm up for this exercise by just performing the hip extension without the knee flexion. To make the exercise more difficult, move the ball closer to your feet, and fold your arms across your body. For an extra challenge, try one leg at a time!

 

Key Points

  1. Lie on the floor with your calves on the ball, arms out to your sides with your palms face up.
  2. Extend up from the hips until you body forms a straight line with your feet-hips-shoulders.
  3. Keeping the hips lifted, draw the ball towards you by bending your knees. The hips should remain in line with the shoulders and knees.
  4. Slowly straighten the legs, then lower the hips to the staring position.

 

Supine Lateral Ball Roll
This exercise does not seem to be too difficult, but appearances can be deceiving!

 

Key Points

  1. Lie face up with your head, shoulders and upper back supported by the ball. Hold your arms straight out from your shoulders, palms up, parallel to the floor. Keep the hips lifted until your body forms a table-top position.
  2. Taking little steps sideways, roll to one side of the ball, maintaining the flat table-top position with your body and the arms parallel to the floor. Do not let your body tip or twist.
  3. Hold for a count of 1.
  4. Return to center and repeat other side.
  5. If you move far enough to the side, your head will come off the ball. Make sure that it remains in the same position relative to the body and put your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind the front teeth, to help support your neck.

 

ACUTE EXERCISE VARIABLES FOR THE SWISS BALL CIRCUIT

 

EXERCISE

REST

INTENSITY

REPS

TEMPO

SETS

Supine Lateral Ball Roll

no rest

-1 to 2 reps

4-6 each side

212

3-4

Push-up

no rest

-1 to 2 reps

12 max

Slow

3-4

Supine Hip Extension + Knee Flexion

no rest

-1 to 2 reps

12 max

Moderate

3-4

Forward Ball Roll

no rest

-1 to 2 reps

10 max

333

3-4

Alternating Superman

90 seconds

-0 rep

Up to 10 each

Hold up to 10 sec.

3-4

NOTES:

  1. After completing the first exercise, go immediately to the next, as indicated by "no rest". After completing the circuit of five exercises in the order shown, rest for 90 seconds for the first two to three weeks of training or until four circuits can be completed while maintaining optimum form. Once you are able to complete four circuits with good form, you may reduce the rest period to sixty seconds, again challenging the body.
  2. Chose a weight or adjust the lever arm against your body by positioning on the Swiss ball such that on your first workout set you feel as though you could comfortably complete two additional reps. If you go harder than that, your form will deteriorate before you complete the workout! On the next circuits you can stop when you feel you could do one more rep.
  3. A moderate tempo is a 1-2 up and 1-2 down count.
  4. A slow tempo is a 1-2-3 up and 1-2-3 down count.
  5. 333 = Roll the ball out for a count of 3, hold for a count of 3, and return to the starting position for a count of 3.

 

 

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