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Fitness & Exercise

Having a 'Ball' With Exercise

Exercise balls are a recent trend in fitness, and they target muscles that are often forgotten.
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Mastering the Bounce continued...

 

"Exercise balls are very forgiving," says Sullivan. "You can't break them, and more importantly, they won't likely hurt the user."

 

To begin, you should find an exercise ball that is appropriate for your size.

 

"The strength of an exercise ball is really important, as is the size of the ball," says Cotton.

 

Exercise balls come in a range of sizes; to be appropriate for a person's size, it should allow the hips and knees to relax at a 90-degree angle, while the back is in a neutral position.

 

According to Spine-Health.com, to find a "neutral lumbar spine position":

 

  • Slouch slightly while on the ball by rounding the lower and upper back.
  • Begin bouncing lightly.
  • Allow your body to automatically find your straightened posture, which will allow you to maintain your balance and continue bouncing. The straightened posture, which occurs during the "up bounce," is your neutral lumbar spine position.

 

When you feel comfortable practicing "the bounce," you've found your center of gravity, and even changing it slightly, according to Spine-Health.com, will require you to correct it to stay on the ball. This exercise challenges core muscles and is a good introduction to using an exercise ball.

 

When you've got this down, you can introduce more advanced exercises into your regimen.

Exercise Ball Exercises

There are a variety of exercises that can be done on the exercise ball, from spine rotation exercises, to mobility and stretching techniques, to pelvic isolation exercises.

 

"A crunch is a good start for the exercise ball," says Cotton.

 

Simply lie back and rest your calves on the ball, and do a stomach crunch. The difference between doing a ball crunch and a crunch on the floor is that the ball crunch forces you to maintain balance while you perform the exercise, targeting the abdominal and back muscles more directly.

 

"Also, a squat rolling the ball down the wall, with the ball between your back and the wall, targets your leg, back, and stomach muscles," says Cotton.

 

Other exercises include doing a push-up with your hands on the floor and your legs extended on the ball, and leg lifts with the ball squeezed between your ankles. Keep in mind, though, that even sitting on the ball or practicing the bounce is beneficial since it forces proper posture and maintaining a center of gravity.

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