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Review: The Bender Ball

By Henry N. Williford, EdD
WebMD Expert Review

The Bender Ball: What It Is

The Bender Ball, as seen on many a late-night infomercial, is a 9-inch inflatable plastic exercise ball used to perform a variety of abdominal and Pilates-type exercises. The ball is part of the Bender Method fitness system, developed by trainer Leslee Bender.

According to the Bender Ball web site, by giving you a greater range of motion during exercise, the ball provides an abdominal workout that’s up to 408% more effective than ordinary crunches. The web site also says the soft, flexible Bender ball produces a higher intensity workout than you can get with large exercise balls.

You can order the ball from the Bender Ball web site for $12.98 (plus $7.93 shipping).  The price includes the Bender Ball, Bender Method Manual, and a DVD/video featuring two Bender Method workouts: The Bender Method of Core Training and Buns & Thighs.

But be aware that when you place an order, you're also agreeing to buy two additional workout DVD/videos every month for a monthly fee of $19.99 plus $6.99 shipping. This could come as a surprise when you see additional monthly charges on your credit card bill. If you don't want the additional workouts, you have to call customer service to cancel that part of the order. 

It took about five weeks for the ball we ordered to arrive. In the interim, we had to make several calls to try to straighten out the order.

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.

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