Stability balls are oversized inflatable spheres that look like giant beach balls. They offer real fitness benefits without a complex new equipment learning curve. Stability balls increase the intensity of an abdominal workout; they make even the dreaded abs exercises seem manageable. Sit-ups are a whole new experience on a stability ball but there are a few reasons for caution when deciding whether to use them to tone your abs.
Stability balls support your back so there is less chance of injury when you use the balls for sit-ups. They also raise you higher off the mat or floor, permitting a greater range of motion for the exercise. Maintaining balance on the balls requires constant small adjustments by many muscles. While you are working the abs with the sit-ups, you are working other muscle groups, like glutes and upper thighs, to hold your position without slipping or wobbling. And you can work at your level or challenge yourself by adjusting the amount of inflation. The harder the ball is, the tougher the exercise routine will be. An older person, a newbie or someone rehabilitating an injury might choose to work with a slightly underinflated ball. A more athletic person will want the stability ball pumped hard to increase the need for balance while working with it.
Stability balls are fairly inexpensive, can be used in almost every type of exercise and are sturdy enough to last under constant use. They come with their own simple pump and can be deflated and tucked into luggage for travel. Even though you are working hard while using them, a workout can be bouncy and fun. While you focus on a supported sit-up, your deep abdominal muscles and back muscles are working at the same time to stay balanced on the ball. Working all those hard-to-reach muscles makes the entire core more flexible and stronger.
While stability balls are the darlings of the fitness center, there are a few things to watch out for when using them. Use the right size to get the best workout. The balls come in three main sizes -- test them to see which size lets you sit with your knees at a perfect right angle. Make sure that your gym cleans and disinfects the stability balls regularly and that they are checked for weak spots, cuts or punctures. The balls should be clearly labeled “anti-burst.” They are very sturdy but safe is smart on that one. Stability balls may require a spotter until you get strong and fit enough not to wobble. They won’t give as tough a workout if they are not fully inflated. Some people with back problems and other physical disabilities should not use the stability ball for sit-ups due to the risk of injury. And last, they take up a lot of room in your home. Decide where you will keep it before purchasing your own stability ball.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.