Review: The Bender Ball
The Bender Ball: How to Use It
The DVD that comes with the ball includes instruction on ball inflation, exercise technique, ball placement, and breathing. To use the Bender Ball, the exerciser places it behind the lower back, under the hips, or between the knees, depending on the exercise.
The DVD is essentially a tutorial on how to do basic exercises with the ball, as opposed to a workout video you would follow every day. No information is provided about frequency, intensity, or duration of exercise.
On the core training portion, Leslee Bender demonstrates three levels of workouts. In Level 1, which lasts approximately 3 minutes, she demonstrates basic crunches with the ball. Level 2 (about 6 minutes) includes additional ab exercises. In Level 3 (about 6 minutes), Bender adds several Pilates exercises. With each level, the exercises become more intense.
The 23-minute buns and thighs portion of the video includes an intro, warm-up, and exercises for glutes, hamstrings, and inner and outer thighs. The video concludes with stretching exercises.
Throughout, Bender provides excellent instruction and demonstrations on how to perform each exercise.
The Bender Ball: What We Found
The Bender Ball web site does not explain how it came up with the information that the Bender Ball workout is 408% more effective than regular crunches. We conducted a review of the literature and found the study, cited in Journal of Applied Research: in Clinical and Experimental Therapeutics.
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.