Skip to main content

Get Great Abs and a Strong Heart With a Balance Ball

A balance ball is a large plastic inflatable ball used for sitting upon and for exercise.

A balance ball is a large plastic inflatable ball used for sitting upon and for exercise.

It is vital, especially as we grow older, to work on our balancing skills. Balancing exercises work your core muscles, lower back, and legs. Lower-body strength-training exercises can also help improve your balance.

While balancing exercises can be challenging at times, consistent effort will make the exercises easier. You can gradually increase the number of repetitions as the exercises become easier.

I use a balance ball part of my yoga or Pilates routine as it is beneficial in a variety of ways. You could do the same.

For beginning yoga practitioners, moving into poses with the support of a balance ball builds confidence and can help their muscles to gradually stretch and strengthen.

For people recovering from injuries, some injuries create muscular weaknesses that make it difficult or painful to do yoga poses such as back-bends. A balance ball can ease them into a pose with less risk of re-injury.

Work Your Abdominal Muscles (Abs)

Generally, we associate a strong body with large muscle groups. But the tiny muscles that run along the spine and support the joints are more essential to your core stability than a set of six-pack abs.

What really improves overall body fitness is the strength of these tiny muscles. They are the muscles that keep you from falling, straining a disk in your back, or twisting your ankle when you slip on a patch of ice.

This workout requires strength and balance.

This workout requires strength and balance.

Exercise Your Pecs, Shoulders, Triceps, and Abs

  • Place the front of your knees on the ball and your hands flat on the floor. Your body should be parallel to the floor
  • Look down and lower your face to within a few inches of the floor, then
  • Push back up to the starting position; and
  • Repeat a few times.

Workouts you could do on a balance ball include a supine bridge, torso curl, oblique torso curl, opposite arm/leg raise, supine hip extension with leg curl or with alternate hip flexion. Emphasis is put on the start and finish of each movement.

The balance ball rolls around easily, so core strength and balance must keep it still. The challenge of keeping the ball still makes the ball an excellent tool for stability and rehabilitation.

The simplest movement can become a challenge when you do it on the ball. Using a ball can give your workout extra challenge.

The Run Down on Balance Ball

The balance ball is also known as the stability ball, Swiss ball, exercise ball, fitness ball, and physio ball.

Athletic trainers, coaches, personal trainers, and physical education teachers integrate the Balance Ball into their fitness programs as they are useful in developing balance and core strength.

The balance ball is a conservative treatment option for back pain sufferers designed to help prevent more bouts of low back pain as part of a rehabilitation program. It is effective in rehabilitating the back because it helps strengthen and develop the core body muscles that help to stabilize the spine.

Once restricted to the rehabilitation and clinical setting, the balance ball can be found in all sectors of the health and fitness community. They are still used in clinics to provide gentle proprioceptive stimuli (see term explained below) for individuals recovering from surgery.

What is unique about the balance balls is that they use the neuromuscular system in a way that no other exercise equipment does. They include the use of:

  1. Multiple muscle systems
  2. Neurologically induced muscular responses
  3. A normal and natural process of balance, and
  4. The body’s own normal processes to establish and restore balance.

Get a Strong Heart With a Balance Ball

The benefit you may want from exercise may differ from what someone else wants, but some things remain the same.

A strong heart does not have to work too hard, so you are less likely to have a heart attack. Regular exercise increases your HDL (good) cholesterol and helps lower your total cholesterol. Your heart is a muscle that works hard, pumping blood every day of your life. You can help this important muscle get stronger by doing aerobic exercise.

Exercise helps lower your blood pressure. Using a balance ball is a great way to get great abs.

Your lungs will also benefit from exercise as they become better conditioned so that activities such as climbing stairs will not make you out of breath.

As with most physical activity, yoga helps boost your immune system. However, it also stretches and strengthens your body simultaneously, while also balancing your mind and spirit. It benefits the whole human.

— Jennifer Nettles

Increased Self-Esteem

Having control of your body size and weight through fitness is an amazing way to enhance your self-esteem. You look better and are more confident, which empowers you in everything you do.

The self-discipline learned through regular exercise spills over into other areas of your life, and you will be better able to make other desirable changes.

Start by checking with your doctor. This is especially important if you have not been active for a while, if you have a health problem, if you are a pregnant woman, or if you are an elderly person.

Basic Guidelines for Use

  • Be sure to wear appropriate exercise clothing and footwear
  • Remove all objects from your body, such as clothing with pins, buckles, belts, etc. that could puncture the ball during use
  • Use the ball on a padded floor material, as it can slip on carpet surfaces or hard and waxed floor surfaces
  • Make sure you have adequate clearance in the area around the ball while using it
  • Keep the ball away from any sharp objects or debris
  • Use the ball indoors only
  • Mount, dismount, and change position on your ball slowly. Due to its round shape, the ball could roll out from under you if you make quick movements which might result in injury.

To Inflate the Ball

If you are using your own ball, use the pump that comes with it to inflate it. Do not use the ball if it is over-inflated or expanded to a size greater than the correct size.

Follow the instructions given in the associated guide.

Use of arms' positioning to strengthen the abs and the tiny muscles along the spine.

Use of arms' positioning to strengthen the abs and the tiny muscles along the spine.

Abdominal Exercises Progression

As you get stronger, doing more crunches is not the way to go. For optimal results, increase the weight you lift every time you crunch.

Owing to tradition, abdominal exercises are often done in long sets of 50, 100, or even 200 repetitions. Long sets of abdominal exercises are not the best possible if you want six-pack abdominal muscles. Muscles grow better on heavy, medium repetition of 8 to 12 sets.

You can make the crunches harder by increasing the weight you lift in every repetition by positioning your arms differently.

Here are arm positions you can use with all abdominal exercises to make them harder and more effective at building six-pack abs.

  1. Arms along your sides. Easy.
  2. Arms crossed across your chest. Intermediate difficulty.
  3. Hands behind your head.
  4. Arms overhead. It cannot get any harder without adding external weights.
  5. Arms crossed across your chest with some external resistance, such as a plate or a heavy book, for example.

So, keeping with the crunch example, once you hit 12 repetitions with your arms along your sides, start your next set with your arms crossed across your chest. Once you can do 12 repetitions with your arms crossed across your chest, start your next abdominal exercise set with your arms overhead.

Once you can do 12 repetitions with your arms overhead, use an external weight such as a dumbbell or heavy dictionary. Hold it across your chest or at arm's length, overhead. The same principle applies to all abdominal exercises in that when you hit 12 repetitions, you increase the difficulty by changing the position of your arms.

Next time you are about to start a set of 200 crunches, try crossing your arms across your chest. See how many repetitions you can perform this way and how the burn in your abdominal muscles feels.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Liliane Najm