Posted May 29, 2013 by Gareth Evans in swiss ball

How to actually use that Swiss Ball

how to actually use that swiss ball
how to actually use that swiss ball

Swiss Balls were the big fad of the early 2000s. They have been around since 1963 as a device for rehabbing, but became part of the main stream around 10-15 years ago. I remember the moment they hit the gyms, every gym. You couldn’t walk into a mainstream gym without being overwhelmed at the amount of people seemingly just rolling around on them.

And then time passed.

If you walk into most gyms today, they still have an absolute ton of Swiss Balls, but, aside from the occasional avid or informed user, they lie in the corner of the aerobics room or stacked up in the corner of the gym.

When discussed, the topic of Swiss Balls tends to garner as many positive as it does negative comments. For every person who swears by them, there are another two lining up ready to tell you that they are little more than a fashion accessory from yesteryear.

The reality, however, is that Swiss Balls are great pieces of gym kit, if used correctly. The problem is that very few people take the time to learn what they should be doing, and even fewer have the patience to persevere when they don’t see drastic improvements right away. Frustration sets in and they are cast into the corner once again to gather dust.

 Why Swiss Balls should be at the core of your workout

 Swiss ball training is a form of functional stability training. The benefits arise from placing the body in an unstable position, which forces the core to engage, restabilising the body.

While there are benefits such as the improvement of neuromuscular efficiency, the Swiss Ball is most effective for those trying to improve their core stability and abdominal strength. The ability to engage the core, crucially, has direct benefits in all sorts of other areas, such as improving posture, improving 1RM lifting, as well as sport specific benefits.

I, for example, have long utilised a lot of Swiss Ball work in my workout routine, especially when I was playing professional rugby, because increased stability allows you to stay on your feet when you are hit in the tackle for longer periods of time, allowing you to either offload or ride the tackle.

 5 great Swiss Ball exercises to improve your core stability

1.  Swiss Ball crunch.

The basic starting point for anyone new to the Swiss Ball, and a great place to begin. Lie with your back on the stability ball, ensuring that your feet are planted so that your thighs are roughly parallel to the ground, with your hands grabbing your ears. Raise your upper body upward, in a controlled manner, while keeping your lower back in contact with the Swiss Ball. Hold the position for one second, and then return your body to the starting position.

2.  Swiss Ball side crunch

Lie on your side against the Swiss Ball. Place your arms across your chest, while keeping your legs straight and feet wide apart. Raise your upper body from the ball, pause for a second and then return to your starting position. Make sure to do the same number of reps on each side. It’s a simple one, but it’s also extremely effective at building your oblique muscles.

3.  Jack knife

Place the top of your feet on the Swiss Ball, with your shins touching it too. Making sure that you keep your back straight, place your straightened arms on the floor, in an elevated press up position. In a controlled manner, use your abdominal muscles to roll the ball forward, until your knees are almost touching your chest. Pause for a moment, and then return the ball to its starting position.

4.  Straight arm rollout

Things are starting to get a bit more advanced now. Kneel down, with the Swiss Ball placed in front of you. Place your wrists on the middle of the Swiss Ball. Making sure that you keep your back straight, start to lean forward and roll the ball out. When you reach around the 45 degree position, begin to straighten your arms. The intention is that you should keep your back straight, while extending the rest of your body, engaging the core. Once you have reached the stretched out position, begin to retract your body and roll the ball back to its starting position.

5.  The Swiss Ball balancing act

There’s no getting away from it, this one’s tough. If you play any sport, however, it’s one of the most effective exercises that you can perform on a Swiss Ball, especially because as you get better, you can build on it to make it more difficult.

Stand up straight, with the Swiss Ball in front of you. Place both hands on the ball with a wide grip, enough space for you to fit in between. Place one knee on the ball, then when you feel balanced, place the other knee on the ball. At this point your shins should be on the ball, with your bum touching your heels. Slowly, and carefully, try to kneel up, while simultaneously removing your hands from the ball. The ideal is to be as tall as possible, with your back straight. Just hold that position for as long as you can. Don’t worry if you can’t fully straighten your torso at first, it will come with practice.

Once you get the hang of this, you can add all sorts of innovative things to make it more difficult. Try holding a 1kg medicine ball out in front of you and rotating your body from side to side or ask someone to throw you a ball to catch and return. Once you’ve mastered this, it’s time to try a squat standing on the ball, but that’s a story for another post, and something which took me more than six months to perfect.

The converted

Swiss Balls are without doubt one of the most underutilised pieces of gym equipment. It requires patience and perseverance to master their use, but once you do, the payoffs are excellent and your new found core strength will transfer into almost any sporting arena. Why not give it a go and let us know how you get on?

Once you convert to being a Swiss Ball enthusiast, you’ll never go back.

Gareth Evans

Gareth Evans
A former professional rugby player in his youth, Gareth is now a bit of an all-round amateur when it comes to sport. He continues to play rugby for his local club, has studied Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Argentina, played Basketball in Peru, trekked in the Andes and the Himalayas, is a reluctant adventure racer, and is now studying KFM (Keysi Fighting Method). He has a passion for a whole host of sports, as well as travel, but feels truly at home on the rugby pitch or in the mountains.