You enter the parking lot of the local gym and see car after car and know it’s going to be a busy day inside. The rainy weather combined with summer right around the corner has every gym member seemingly working out at the same time. All the treadmills and bikes being used, the squat racks filled with teenage boys doing curls, even your favorite stretching area is occupied. The only piece of equipment you can find is one of those big bouncy Swiss balls and some open space; good thing you can improve strength, flexibility and balance using this Swiss ball only workout.
The workout comes from the study, Effects of Swiss-ball core strength training, and was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. The study took 21 female administrative staff workers that were currently not exercising and put them on a Swiss ball only workout.
The women trained three days a week for 45 minutes with a 5 minute walk as a warm up. The participants then went on to preform 2 to 3 sets of 7 different Swiss ball exercises.The results of the 8 week program showed improvement in strengthen the muscles of the lower body and core at the same time the women saw an increase in balance and core endurance.
The authors point out that core strength in important for everyone as, “Athletes who experience lower back pain while running and playing tennis and golf were also characterized by lack of core muscular strength”. Non-athletes need core strength to stay health and active, “this Swiss-ball core strength training protocol can be implemented as a preventative training against falls and subsequent injuries in the sedentary women that is related to poor balance, lower limb and core strength”.
One of the great benefits the researchers found was a significant increase in balance. This can be contributed to strengthen both the “inner and outer core”. The outer core as the authors stated it is the core must people think of, the abdominals and obliques, the muscles people can see. However there is also another set of muscles that make an inner core.
The inner core, a group of deeper muscles, that includes the transverse abdominus, multifidus and others, are primary used to hold the hips and spine in a safe place. These muscles tend to be weak in people with low back pain. Training on the Swiss ball, and training while standing or kneeling can improve inner core strength.
Just like any piece of exercise equipment the Swiss ball does have its downsides. It is not recommend that people perform heavy strength training on the ball for the potential it could break and cause the person harm. Like any tool in a tool box, the Swiss ball, along with kettlebells, dumbbells and workout machines all have a place and a time in a good workout program.
Sekendiz, Betül; Cug, Mutlu; Korkusuz, Feza
Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 24(11):3032-3040, November 2010