Review: The Bender Ball
The Bender Ball: What We Found continued...
The researchers compared core muscle activity during abdominal exercises using a 7-inch mini stability ball, the larger Swiss ball, and traditional floor crunches. The study showed that range of motion during exercise made a big difference in ab activity.
It found that regular floor crunches required only about 2/3 as much muscle work as exercises on the Swiss ball. With the mini ball, the exercisers' muscle activity varied from 1/2 as much to 4 times more than floor crunches - depending on the range of motion they used. The key to increasing ab muscle activity was to increase the range of motion from 50 to 90 degrees, the study found.
At the Human Performance Laboratory at Auburn University-Montgomery, we did our own comparison of abdominal muscle activity with the Bender Ball and other types of ab exercise. Electrodes were placed on subjects' ab muscles to measure muscle activation. The exercisers then did ab crunches using the Bender Ball, a standard floor crunch, the bicycle exercise, crunches on a large exercise ball, crunches on a round, 4-inch diameter piece of foam rubber, and crunches using a standard 9-inch playground ball.
While all the devices gave a better abs workout than the standard floor crunch or bicycle exercise, we saw little difference in abdominal muscle activity between the Bender Ball and the large ball, playground ball, or foam roller.
Our results did not find the ball provided a workout that’s up to 408% more effective than ordinary crunches. In fact, the muscle activity was very similar between each of the devices. However, the various balls and the foam roller increased muscle activity to about twice that found with standard crunches.
Marketing materials for the Bender Ball also say users will get results quickly, but provide no documentation as to what results you might expect. Only personal testimonials are used to substantiate these claims.
The Bender Ball: The Bottom Line
We found the ball to be easy to use and appropriate for most people, though we did not test it with obese people or those with physical limitations.
While the Bender Ball can be an effective device for abdominal training, it is no more effective than exercising with foam roller, a large exercise ball, or a small playground ball. Also, for a total-body workout, you would need to add other exercises. You can't expect major changes in weight or appearance with a 3- to 6- minute ab workout.
The videos, however, are a good instructional tool. If you order the Bender Ball online, make sure you're familiar with pricing, billing, and customer service issues. If not careful you could end up with additional charges on your credit card.
If you want more information on how to select an exercise ball, the American College of Sports Medicine web site (ascm.org) offers a brochure called Selecting and Effectively Using a Stability Ball.