Stability ball, physio-ball, exercise ball – these are all names for the large vinyl balls used during exercise. When trying to exercise for weight-loss these balls can be an invaluable tool. If you think about stepping on a loose stair, your torso tilts forward slightly, tightening your abdomen; your pelvis and hip muscles tighten to stabilize the body; your arms extend to further aid in balance. This means that even though you are just taking a single step you use many more muscles just by making the environment slightly unstable. Keeping in mind muscles eat fat and calories to perform, thus the conclusion is that a slightly unstable environment burns more calories resulting in more efficient weight-loss!
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when seeking to purchase a stability ball. Most stability balls are created equally — of a thick rubber or vinyl material. Some discount stores are turning to manufacturers that use a thinner material (presumably to save cost). So, if you are obese or more than 230-250 lbs then I suggest going through a true sports supplier as this will ensure the ball lasts longer. Furthermore, there are different size balls available – 45, 55, 65 and 75 cm are the most common. How do you choose? Well it primarily depends on your height. To determine the correct size either sit on a ball (where your knees are bent at 90 degrees) or measure from the floor, up the back of the calf to the middle of the knee, then choose the ball that best matches that measurement. This will result in maximum control while using the ball during exercise.
Weight Loss Exercises
There are several exercises I suggest my clients perform when working toward weight-loss. You should perform 12-20 repetitions (how many times you repeat the exercise) and 2-4 sets (how many times you come back to an exercise). (a) = beginner exercises; (b) = intermediate exercises; (c) = advanced exercises.
(a) Ball Wall Squat – Place the ball between your low back and the wall. Walk your feet forward until you’re leaning back against the ball. Tighten your abdomen. Slowly bend your knees, lowering your rear toward the floor, until your knees are bent at 90 degrees. Push through your heels to straighten your legs.
— (b) Ball Wall Squat with Bicep Curls – Start in the same position as above, holding dumbbells in each hands down by your sides. Throughout the exercise, keep your elbows locked into your ribcage. As you lower into the squat, bend your elbows bringing the weights to your shoulders. As you push through the heels to straighten the legs, release the weights back next to your hips.
(a) Ball Bridge Variation 1 – Sit tall on the stability ball. Slowly walk your feet forward as you lay back on the ball. Walk forward until your head and shoulders rest comfortably on the ball; knees should be bent at about 90 degrees. Place your hands on your hips and tighten your abdomen (like trying on a tight pair of pants). Slowly lower your rear toward the floor (not by much, just until you feel your muscles loosen). Push from your heels to lift your hips until your body is in a straight line.
(b) Ball Bridge Variation 2 – Lay on a comfortable mat, hands down by your sides, feet flat on the ball, with knees bent. Inhale. As you exhale, tighten your abdomen and rear to lift the rear toward the ceiling. Inhale as you release your hips back to the mat.
— (c) Ball Bridge Leg Curls – this is a build on the variation 2. Lay on the mat, hands down by your sides, feet on the ball with legs out straight (knees soft). Inhale. As you exhale lift rear off of the mat. Maintain the lift as you bend your knees bringing the ball to your rear. Slowly extend your legs back to straight, then release the hips back to the mat.
(a) Seated Arm Series – In this series you’ll perform a full set of each exercise before moving onto the next. Sit tall on the ball, holding dumbbells down by your sides. Roll your shoulders back and keep your abs tight. Exercise 1: Bicep curls (starting with the weights down by your hips, bend the elbow to bring the weights up to the shoulders). 2: Overhead Press (starting with the weights level with your head, elbows wide press arms overhead). 3: Lateral Raises (arms straight by sides, slowly lift out wide – like a bird – to bring weights to the shoulder level).
(b) Push-up Variation 1 – Kneel on the floor, place hands wide on the ball. Push up onto the balls of your feet and arms are straight. Keep shoulders rolled back and abs tight. Once you can hold this position for 45 seconds you are ready to begin the push-up. Slowly bend the elbows to bring the chest toward the ball. Push through the palms to straighten arms.
(c) Push-up Variation 2 – This variation is with the feet on the ball and the hands wider than shoulder width apart on the floor. Keep your abdomen tight. Bend your elbows bringing your chest toward the floor, until your elbows are bent to 90 degrees. Push through the palms to straighten elbows.
(a) Ball Crunch Variation 1 – Lay on the floor with your feet on the ball, knees bent to 90 degrees. Place hands behind your head. Inhale. As you exhale tighten your abdomen as you lift shoulders up toward the ceiling. Inhale as you release your shoulders back to the mat.
(b) Ball Crunch Variation 2 – Sit tall on the stability ball. Slowly walk your feet forward as you lay back on the ball until the ball is under your lower back. Place hands behind your head, elbows wide. Inhale. As you exhale tighten your abdomen as you lift your shoulders toward the ceiling. Inhale as you release.
(a) Ball Toe Touches – Stand tall with feet braces wide apart. Hold the ball over your head. Inhale. As you exhale, tighten your abdomen as you tip over — keeping your spine straight — bringing the ball next to one of your feet. Squeeze your rear as you lift back up to tall, then repeat on the other side.