To improve your stability control, stay on the ball
Words by Simon Margheritini for The Australian
In the past few years the buzz word around the gym floor has been "core".
And with very good reason. Working your core muscles will help in keeping your body well balanced and help also in avoiding injuries.
It is amazing how a knee injury can be related to weakness in the core, back injury can be related to weakness in the core. Even headaches can be related to weakness in the core.
So what exactly is the core? The major muscles of the core are the multifidus and transverse abdominas muscles - at the heart of the abdomen and around the base of the spine.
These muscles are used to stabilise the thorax and the pelvis during dynamic movements such as running, walking, lifting, pulling, pushing or any form of exercise that requires the use of multiple muscles.
For strengthening the core, the Swiss ball is vital. Also known as the fitball or exercise ball, it is an inflatable ball that can be used to sit, lie or roll on to perform exercises. The key factor with the ball is that it is unstable — it will roll out from under you unless you control it.
Keeping it under control forces you to work those core muscles.
Research has shown that performing sit ups on the Swiss ball is far more effective than on the floor. Firstly, the unstable nature of the ball will activate more muscles, such as the glutes and hamstrings.
Secondly, on the down phase of the exercise you go right back on the ball, which gives you that natural lumbar curve. Then on the up phase, performing with good technique, you lift yourself back up to the start. This will activate all core muscles as well as your glutes, trunk and neck and shoulder stabilising muscles.
To work your abs, lie on the floor and lift a Swiss ball off the ground between your feet. Or build up your hamstrings and core muscles by doing squats with a Swiss ball between your back and the wall. The degree of difficulty is increased by the need to control the ball.
In recent years, Swiss ball design has improved and the basic ball has been modified. The bosu ball is a half Swiss ball. The bosu is often used for balance training.
When the dome side faces up, the bosu ball provides an unstable surface while the device remains stable. This combination of stable and unstable means the bosu can be used by a wide range of people, from the young, the elderly, or injured to elite athletes.
With the dome side up, the device can be used for athletic drills and aerobic activities.
Doing squats on the bosu will dramatically improve the intensity of the exercise and work your core muscles as well as your legs.