Hey there Angry Trainer,
A trainer at my gym is a big believer in exercise stability balls and says all the exercises that I used to perform on a bench (flyes, presses, pullovers, etc) I should now be doing using a ball.
I must admit I’ve always been a little skeptical about using an exercise ball and when I’ve tried one I find I can only lift a fraction of the weight I’m used to.
I wondered what your thoughts were regarding stability balls and how you like to use them. Can I still build muscle using less weight? And when are using them NOT appropriate?
Hey Toby, good question.
Performing various exercises on Swiss or Stability balls is a great addition to your training, but I wouldn’t suggest that all of your training be done in that fashion. Using exercise balls are great for enhancing stability, focus and coordination. Their use requires more brainpower, as there is a lot more for you to control. Think of it this way – when performing dumbbell bench presses on a ball versus a traditional flat bench, you have to engage your glutes to maintain a bridge and keep yourself from falling over; either side-to-side or front to back. Training on a ball fires off a lot of intrinsic and stability type muscle structures that generally get skipped over in more traditional settings. What this means for you is eliminating weak links, and better neural efficiency (a big word for your brain being able to better multi task)
You may have to use lighter weights initially, because those weaker structures I was just mentioning can’t support the same load of the bigger muscles that are used primarily in your current routine. But don’t worry, stick with ball training and you’ll eventually get to almost the same, if not even more weight than what you’re used to using. And also remember that the amount of weight you lift isn’t an indicator of your fitness, or how hard your workout is. So focus on form, feeling the movement, how you lift the weight, not how much.
Here’s the really cool part, and its validity is a topic of discussion amongst many trainers. By training in fashions that challenge your balance and stability I believe it makes you even stronger than you were before in terms of your basic movements. It makes complete sense to me that if your brain can better focus on very challenging exercises, that when some of the challenge is taken away (as in a traditional dumbbell bench press) than your stronger drive will now be able to handle a greater load. I can tell you that in my experience the balance, stability and functional training that I use has absolutely made me stronger and more fit in my traditional weightlifting exercises. And when I see new exercises that I’ve never done before, I pick them up almost immediately. This again I believe is a result of my body being fine tuned from all the crazy things I put it through and challenge it with.
To start, I suggest that you incorporate ball training a couple of days per week, or as part of your existing exercise program. Perhaps you can throw in a few sets at the end of each workout, or actually start it off with ball work and then move to the less challenging, more stable movements. There are also complete ball routines, and if you go to www.Performbetter.com you’ll find many DVD’s on ball only training and some exercises you’d never think of. There’s a whole world of fitness wrapped up in Swiss Balls, try it out and let me know how it goes!
And if any of you out there would like to book a more in-depth consultation with me – just drop me a line via the How To Book button in the sidebar.
And if you have a question – please just click here. I’d love to help you!
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