Fit Balls, Swiss Balls, Physio Balls and Exercise Balls! Call them what you will, we all know what you’re talking about – those big blow up balls of different sizes and colours you have always wanted to try but never had the chance. They are becoming a favoured tool of the personal trainer, the ‘must have’ piece of equipment for the home studio, and an essential item for complete programming for the development of core strength and reduction and termination of lower back pain.
Because of a sedentary lifestyle, most people have poor posture. The muscles of the trunk are no longer able to support the body in the most efficient way possible. Because of external support from a chair, couch, car seat, etc., the neuromuscular system has “forgotten” how to maintain posture easily and efficiently. This usually leads to breakdown, pain and dysfunction.
I have found that using a Fit ball is a very effective way to correct postural alignment. Exercises on the ball can be very mild or extremely challenging depending on the needs of the client. By balancing on the ball, the client now has no other support to rely on except his or her own body. The body will automatically call on the righting and equilibrium responses, facilitating a coordinated effort of the postural muscles. The client unconsciously finds a way to balance on the ball with the least amount of muscle use possible, therefore reinforcing positive movement patterns.
Fit Balls are one of the most effective exercise tools to improve and develop spinal, pelvic and shoulder girdle stability. Total core stability is achieved along with improved posture and an increased awareness of your own body – the way it moves and the way it is designed to move. An enhanced kinesthetic sense is discovered and refined, allowing you to ‘feel’ your own actions and be able to adjust incorrect positions and movements performed throughout the exercises.
Fit Balls add variety to create new and challenging demands on the body in a number of different planes. Just about any exercise done in the gym can be performed using the Fit Ball. We all know how important variety is to every program. Not just from the point of view of changing the stimuli to allow for continued adaptation but to enhance motivation. Without it, the likelihood of adhering to our current exercise program and achieving our goals is somewhat slim.
Available in a number of sizes, from 45cm to 75cm in diametre, the right size Fit Ball is determined by your height and more importantly your leg length. While sitting on top of the ball, with calves perpendicular to the ground, your thighs should be parallel and at 90-100° with your knees and your body weight evenly distributed over both feet. This is your correct postural position. Imagine a straight line starting from your ear, travelling through your shoulder and stopping at the centre point of your pelvis. This visual connection will help you adjust and maintain correct postural alignment in the initial stages of learning with the Fit Ball.
Implementing the use of a Fit Ball recruits your ‘stabilizer’ muscles to establish and maintain a solid platform from which you develop strength, endurance and correct postural adaptations. They encourage the contraction and stimulation of deep muscle fibres within the trunk including external and internal obliques, rectus and transverse abdominals and the erector spinae and quadratus lumborum. I’m sure those of you who have sought professional advice for lower back pain and postural correction have heard of these muscles before. The relationship between the abdominal and lower back muscles is crucial to core stability, yet neither should be the sole focus of any particular training session.
When using the Fit Ball it is possible to reach muscular exhaustion without showing any normal signs of physiological fatigue due to the high involvement of stabilizing muscles and joint structures. Rotate exercises between the upper and lower regions and the trunk. This guarantees complete recovery of all muscle groups to allow each muscle to be utilized with maximum efficiency and productivity.
As with all exercise, the quality of the movement is more important than the quantity of exercise, repetitions or sets performed on the Fit ball.
The Fit ball is a great tool for the personal trainer to use. Clients enjoy using the ball, and it also promotes body awareness, improves balance and coordination, and reinforces proper spinal alignment along with a great new and challenging stimulus for your brain, as well as your body!