If you’ve been wondering what the oversized, beach-ball shaped equipment is located in the corner of your gym or underneath a coworker’s desk, that’s an exercise ball. Exercise balls are also known as Swiss balls and can improve your stability alongside toning your midsection. Exercise balls come in several different sizes and colors. It’s crucial to find the right size ball for your own individual needs and to use it properly to avoid injury and maximize your efforts.
A general guideline when buying the right size exercise ball is based on your height, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. For those under 4 feet 10 inches, choose a 30- to 35-cm ball. For those measuring between 4 feet 8 inches and 5 feet 5 inches, select a 45-cm ball. If you’re between the height of 5 feet 6 inches and 6 feet, the proper exercise ball for you is the 55 cm.
If you’re on the taller side with a height between 6 feet and 6 feet 5 inches, you will benefit from the 65-cm ball. Use the 75-cm exercise ball if you’re over 6 feet 5 inches, and for those who are heavier or have extra long legs, try the 85-cm exercise ball. It’s important that your exercise ball allows you to sit up straight with your hips and knees at a 90-degree angle based on your height and the length of your legs, according to the American Council on Exercise.
While exercise balls are beneficial for strengthening the abs, obliques and back muscles of your midsection, they’re also great for increasing your overall flexibility. You can lie on your stomach to stretch the muscles of your back, and you can lie on your side to stretch your oblique muscles. The exercise ball can also increase the strength of your muscles without using free weights. There are several exercises that can be performed to increase the strength of your upper and lower body as well as your midsection. Add variety to your exercise ball by adding in free weights or other resistance, such as resistance bands or tubes. You can sit or lie on the ball while performing exercises like tricep extensions or bicep curls.
Don’t limit yourself to just abdominal exercises on the ball. While performing crunches, regular crunches and oblique crunches is essential for strengthening your midsection, incorporate other strength-training exercises for a total body workout. To engage the lower body, try exercises with the ball such as the hip bridge or the ball leg curl. You can target your upper body by performing pushups on the ball. This exercise requires you to balance your legs on the ball while performing a pushup, the chest, back, arm muscles as well as your abs and obliques.
Before using your exercise ball, make sure it’s inflated to the proper size. Read the manufacturer’s instructions, making sure to inflate the ball to its proper size. If you’re using a gym exercise ball, keep in mind that the firmer the exercise ball the more difficult the exercise will be and the softer the ball the less difficult it will be. If you are not well-conditioned, start with a softer ball and work your way up to a firmer exercise ball, according to MayoClinic.com. Find out the weight limit of the exercise ball before using. Do not use a ball that cannot support your weight. Check to make sure the exercise ball is not damaged and has not been torn. Any exercise ball that has been damaged or has holes should be replaced rather than repaired.
Danielle Clark has been a writer since 2009, specializing in environmental and health and fitness topics. She has contributed to magazines and several online publications. Clark holds a Bachelor of Science in ecology and environmental science.