Strength Training with the Exercise Ball
If you've reached a
plateau in your strength training, you may need to strengthen your
stabilizers using exercise
to push past that sticking
point. Excessive movement or
in a joint
stimulates receptors in the joints and muscles
sending inhibitory messages (a negative feedback mechanism)
to decrease the activity in the prime mover of the joint.
This reduces power and strength.
movers or "mobilizing muscles" can exert a stronger force across the
joint while strength training without stimulating these inhibitory
messages to the spinal cord,
weakening the effort.
you first start
exercising with the ball you will not be able to handle as much weight.
For instance, if you can bench press 100 lb for 10 reps, you may only
be able to do 5 reps on the ball. Continue strength training with the
press using the ball for six weeks until you reach the point where you
can press 100lb for 10 reps on the ball. When you go back to the bench
you will find you can press more than you could before. This is due to
increased joint stabilizer strength and activity.
You are only as strong as your weakest link, and often that is the core
for weight training with the exercise ball:
put your tongue on the roof of your mouth when
head is not supported by the ball. This helps activate the neck
flexors, stabilizing the neck without the risk of the neck extensors
- Another way to assist engaging the deep neck flexors
when your head is not supported is to pretend you have a grapefruit
stuffed between your chin and your chest. Hold that imaginary
grapefruit throughout the exercise.
safety, always ensure you have a spotter to aid
lifts, onto and off, while on the ball.
- Always clear the area you are training in to reduce
incidence of the ball being damaged.
- Always ensure that your feet are anchored by more
than you are lifting. This ensures you do not flip over the ball and
lose your balance.
first performing exercises on the ball with
start with about 60% of the weight you are accustomed to lifting and
build up from there. It is better to be safe than sorry (always).
- Always warm up adequately before any
- When strength
training on the ball, always inspect a
ball for any marks or damage that may
cause the ball to puncture.
the ball is the correct size for you. To do
first choose the size (small, medium, large) recommended for your
height for exercise. With the ball inflated to ~95% maximal diameter,
the correct size ball will keep your thighs parallel to the floor or
slightly raised so that your hips are slightly above your knees.
Click here to find your size.
- For safety and optimal effectiveness
always use a top
quality ball. If your gym or personal trainer does not have the genuine
article ask them to get one before you start to train. This will ensure
you have the best equipment for the best workout to give you a
jump-start on everyone else for a better physique. After all, it's your
Click here to learn what to look for.
- Where possible have your own exercise ball so
take responsibility for its care and use. That way you can train your
abs at home or double it up as a chair.
Muscle activation patterns differ when lifting on
unstable and stable surfaces (1)
Muscle activity in trunk muscles and extremity muscles
was measured through the use of surface electromyography
during and overhead lift. 30 individuals that train regularly
participated in a shoulder press for three sets of three reps with a
barbell and dumbbells. Electrodes were placed over the trapezius,
anterior deltoid, middle deltoid, rectus abdominis, triceps
brachii, external obliques, and erector spinae to measure
muscle activity on those muscles.
Results showed that as the instability of the surface
(ie bench vs ball) increased the load the individual was capable of
lifting decreased. As the instability of the weight increased
(ie dumbbells vs barbell), also, the load lifted decreased.
The muscular activity in the erector spinae was greatest
when performing the barbell and dumbbell presses on the exercise ball.
In essence it seems intuitive that if we are to
substitute a ball for a bench we must lighten the weight lifted as we
start to recruit muscles needed to stabilize our trunk.
Kohler JM, Flanagan SP,
Whiting WC. Muscle activation patterns while lifting stable
and unstable loads on stable and unstable surfaces. J
Strength Cond Res. 2010 Feb;24(2):313-21.
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