Stability balls: 10 facts you need to know 1/1
The second installment of how to utilise equipment to add variation and intensity to classes to keep the classes fresh, interesting and challenging.
A core workout at any level
Abdominal toning is always a welcome benefit as your core is forced to work harder due to the unstable surface, forcing more control and stimulus of the abdominals and supporting muscles. Clients with contraindications or less core strength can prefer toning exercises on the ball as it is a great option for a gentle programme. You can even use the ball for squats! Many people have problems with strain on the joints and alignment during this exercise but placing the ball against the wall and using it against the spine to roll up and down from the squat can help with support, alignment, precision, control and body awareness.
Realignment and strength
The ball helps to build strength in weak or overused muscles and promotes realignment. Offering clients a stability ball while exercising will allow them to gently ease into their rehabilitation and enjoy the exercises you give them.
Aiding neuromuscular stimulus helps with coordination and control by forcing your body to activate different muscles and use them in a more controlled manner. This can then help prevent and correct muscle imbalances, which is what we are trying to achieve in a Pilates class, so the ball is a perfect partner. It can be as simple as isolating parts of the body using the ball such as placing the ball between the legs or using the ball to initiate movement, for example placing the feet on top of the ball and extending away for double leg stretch.
Rehabilitation through supported movement
An increase in the range of motion of exercises can also be given more often to clients that may struggle to do so in a mat Pilates class. After a knee or hip injury for example, part of the rehabilitation process is to increase the range of motion of the injured area. So clients will be glad to achieve this as quickly as possible. Even rocking back and forth on the ball can increase the range of motion in your hips, or exercises such as swimming where the extension of the hip can be exaggerated.
Developing and building core skills
it is also great for developing the core for co-ordination and balance, which ties in to the aims and objectives of a Pilates class. Balancing skills can increase and additional resistance and intensity can be added for more advanced clients. For example Shoulder Bridge and Scissors either with the hips down or elevated and the feet on top of the ball are particularly challenging.
However it is important to give both you and your clients time to progress. Start off with the fundamental movements and when they have adequate strength, endurance and control they can advance. You can increase the difficulty of an exercise by adding balance and/or leverage challenges to Pilates mat exercises by experimenting with the instability of the ball, or using the weight or shape to increase difficulty. For example, The Hundred with the legs propped up on the ball for cushioning or balance, or holding the ball between the ankles for added resistance, such as using the ball between the legs to perform the Roll-Over.
Stretching and relaxation
The ball is ideal for stretching. It offers variation for your classes or clients and can help to maintain or achieve stretches that may be difficult or challenging. The range of movement is usually increased using the ball also as it promotes a sense of relaxation and support.
For rehabilitation, strength, creativity or support, give the stability ball a try and creative an effective synergy in your classes.
Its great fun
Exercising with a stability ball is challenging, but at the same time, great fun and your class will smile a lot as they try to maintain balance and co-ordination. Introducing stability balls into your class will bring a new dimension and interest.
You can read facts 1 to 5 of using stability balls here.
Written by Katie Farnden