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Stability balls: 10 facts you need to know 1/2

School Of Pilates Posted Dec 12, 2014 Future Fit Training

Instructors use equipment, such as the stability ball, to add variation and intensity to classes to keep the classes fresh, interesting and challenging.

Stability balls: 10 facts you need to know 1/2

Instructors utilise equipment to add variation and intensity to classes to keep the classes fresh, interesting and challenging. The Pilates Method has always encouraged the use of equipment, particularly pieces of specialised equipment such as the reformer and the Cadillac.

Adding variety to your Pilates class

Classes that incorporate equipment such as the stability ball have become very popular lately. They are stocked within most gyms and studios so it makes sense to use them to give our classes a modern edge and variation. Clients are always looking for classes that will challenge them or accommodate their needs.  Make your class stand out from others, amalgamate the traditional with a more modern edge and offer an additional flare to your class choreography. You could start by introducing the stability ball for a couple of the easier Pilates exercises such as Swan Dive or Swimming.

Swan Dive

Lying prone on the ball with the abdominals and hip bones supported, stretch and relax the chest over the ball.  Arms should be at right angles in alignment with the shoulders and legs shoulder-width apart. Gently raise the chest as much as possible without squeezing the glutes or losing balance, then re-lower with control.


Use the same set-up as above but as the chest lifts so does alternate arm and leg, keeping balance and control and the hips in contact with the ball.

Aiding special populations

This equipment can also be used to aid a wide variety of special populations as it is primarily used as a physical therapy tool. It can be used to support the body and is effective when modifications are needed for pregnant clients, clients with joint, bone or muscular problems and/or limitations to movement as the body weight is cushioned and supported.  For example, using the ball to modify the push-up can really help to cushion the joints for people who struggle with joint problems.

It can also help alleviate chronic pain and reduce stress on the spine by targeting core muscles that are essential for stability and good posture. This is often overlooked when exercising with fixed position equipment found in gyms. However, clients with contraindications may still need assistance with stability. Even then, placing the ball against the wall can rectify this need.

Body awareness and the mind and body connection

Clients are often unaware of what their body can do or is doing. Stimulating the muscles using the ball helps to connect your mind to your muscles, which is what we are constantly teaching within the Pilates principles. Exercises such as swimming or one-leg stretch using the ball can be priceless for clients with recent health concerns such as stroke rehabilitation or anyone who struggles with muscle or motor control and co-ordination. The risk of injury can be decreased as we become more body aware and conscious of alignment.

One-leg stretch from the mat

Lying supine with one foot on the ball, knee bent at approximately 45°,  one foot to the floor, knee bent in set-up position. Extend the elevated leg with control then draw back to the start position.

One-leg stretch from seated

Sitting tall in neutral on the ball, lift one knee and extend the leg straight, re-bend and return to the floor.

Balance and centring

As the stability ball has an unstable surface it helps to improve balance by activating proprioception. Even sitting on the ball will activate this and the core muscles.

Note: the more inflated the ball is the harder it will be as it is less stable. You should be able to press your thumb into the ball but the hand should not be able to sink in. For example single knee folds from a seated position will allow the client to concentrate on the precision of movement and the core control to allow the movement to occur.

When seated you should aim to sit in the centre of the ball with the hips and knees in alignment. It is sometimes helpful for beginners to widen their legs if they cannot maintain balance. If we look at the implementation of neutral spine we can see that the muscle action needed to maintain an upright or lying position on the ball or even to balance helps to find neutral spine. This then aids spinal mobility.

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.

Keep a look out for the 5 remainder facts...!

Written by Katie Farnden

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