The 10 Best Exercise Balls
The Myriad Benefits of Owning an Exercise Ball
With all of the advances in fitness equipment over the past 30 years, it might seem surprising that an exercise ball (aka stability ball) has remained so relevant. That is, of course, until you consider that an exercise ball is - and always has been - inexpensive, lightweight, low-risk, low-maintenance, durable, easy to use, and effective.
While a lot of fitness machines can help you develop core muscles, an exercise ball is actually proven to alleviate nerve inflammation, while working to correct certain orthopedic disorders, as well. What's more, an exercise ball is elastic and soft, whereas a squat rack can impose a pulsing strain on your back.
Exercise balls are portable, which means that you can take them with you to the park, or even the beach. Along those lines, a lot of exercise balls weigh less than 4 lbs, which means that they won't be a hazard for your children, and they could potentially provide a source of entertainment for your pets. Exercise balls have a significant weight capacity of at least 500 lbs, which means that you can sit on them. Exercise balls are also resilient, which means that you can squeeze them in between other items in your car.
The point of all this being that an exercise ball has more hidden benefits than you would probably think. It's a gateway into fitness with built-in assets for your health.
Several Basic Fitness Drills That Are Built Around an Exercise Ball
Exercise balls are so easy to use that simply leaning back against one of these devices and holding for several minutes can strengthen your core muscles. If you stand upright with an exercise ball wedged between your back and a wall, lowering your body and then raising it several times can tone your glutes, your lower-back, and your obliques, as well.
You can do incline push-ups that work your abs by lying vertically with your thighs resting on the exercise ball and your hands pressing down against the floor or mat. You can work your quads by doing several squats (with your legs hip-width apart) while holding an exercise ball with both hands above your head.
If you really want to challenge your abdominal muscles, then position your shins on the exercise ball with your arms, unbent, supporting your upper-body (You should look like you have just completed a push-up.) From this position, roll the ball forward (slowly) using your shins. Fold your body until it appears like an inverted V. Hold. Then roll the ball back until you are in the resting position. Hold, and then repeat several times.
When you're warming up or cooling down, you can exercise your obliques by standing, and then leaning down and placing one hand on the center of the ball. Raise your other arm out so both arms are stretched into a vertical line (pointing upward from the ball). Now take your outside leg and stretch it horizontally so it is running in a straight line from your hip. Hold, and then bring your leg back to the ground. Complete several reps, and then switch sides to work the opposite hip.
A Brief History of The Exercise Ball
In 1963 an Italian manufacturer named Aquiliano Cosani invented a large elastic ball that could be used for therapeutic purposes. Cosani named his product the Pezzi Ball, and he initially marketed it to physical therapists. These therapists discovered that a Pezzi Ball had a remarkable impact on certain types of back pain, and that it could be used to alleviate certain types of nerve conditions, as well.
One of these therapists, a Swiss doctor named Susanne Klein-Vogelbach, developed an entire system of physical therapy that was centered around a Pezzi Ball. Vogelbach's system, functional kinetics, was comprised of two types of exercises. There were static exercises, which required the patient to hold a position while leaning back against the ball, and there were mobile exercises, which required a patient to engage the ball while doing exercises that could stimulate the core.
Vogelbach's system yielded enough positive results that it caught the attention of American therapists, who were particularly interested in a Pezzi Ball's potential for promoting fitness. Based on research, America's physical therapy community found that a Swiss Ball (as they had taken to calling it) stimulated a variety of muscles by forcing the back to maintain stability amidst responding to an unstable object. This opened the door for manufacturers who rebranded the product as an exercise ball, subsequently promoting it as a resource for building muscles throughout the abs, quads, glutes, obliques, and thighs.
A lot of professional trainers, sports teams, and athletes began using exercise balls (or "stability balls") during the 1980s as a form of low-impact rehab from injuries. Shortly after, fitness instructors began building aerobic workouts around an exercise ball. Today, these balls continue to be a staple of the fitness and therapy communities. They've been adopted by the yoga community, as well.