There are a lot of different ways out there to strengthen your core, but one of my favorites to increase core strength and improve balance is the Swiss ball. This simple piece of equipment is not only inexpensive but very effective for building overall strength that will improve everyday functional movements. Many Americans have one of these balls, but often it’s just hanging around in their basement collecting dust.
The ball can hit several different muscle groups at once while improving flexibility and muscular balance. It can also help strengthen muscles in your core that take excess pressure off your back. Finally, it can make a great addition to rehabilitation exercises for a variety of joints including the knees, back and hips.
I know you hear many people mention the word “core,” but what exactly is your core?
The core is made up of a group of different muscles that support your hips, spine and abdomen. Most people know it as their midsection.
These muscles support and stabilize the body when it moves to keep the spine aligned and the upper body properly coordinated with the lower body. The Swiss ball enhances your core strength because it makes spine alignment and coordination more difficult. Just sitting on the ball forces your body to search for balance, causing your core to be under constant stress.
Sitting on a chair, weight bench, or park bench generally doesn’t work any of your core muscles. Not focusing on your core probably won’t affect you on a day to day basis. But having a weak core means your body isn’t prepared for sudden movements that require more of your body than usual. With your back unprotected and unsupported, you can get injured doing simple activities like hiking, carrying groceries, or picking up a suitcase. Training on the ball is great way to strengthen your core and avoid those injuries.
So why the Swiss ball over straight crunches or sit-ups? I often hear clients say they have lower back pain during these movements. But the second I give them a ball to use, the back pain almost immediately disappears. This is because your body contours to the shape of the ball leaving you with a more natural curve in your spine. The ball also absorbs unnecessary pressure on your back.
If you’ve been looking for a way to get your core in shape and stave off back injuries, start with the Swiss ball. There are lots of exercises for all skill levels that tone and strengthen your core at the same time.