Free Weight Stability Ball Exercises-Swiss Ball Core Exercises and More
The stability ball or exercise ball, (also known as Swiss ball) is a great addition to the home or commercial gym. It even has practical applications in a hardcore powerlifting gym, and can help any athlete improve core strength.
While this inexpensive and simple piece of exercise equipment is great on its own, it can make free weight exercises exceptionally challenging.
You won’t benefit from trying all the traditional exercises on a stability ball (squat on the floor please!) However, here are a few free weight exercises, and bodyweight exercises that are enhanced by lying, or leaning, on a swiss exercise ball.
Start out slow with ball exercises until you grow accustomed to doing the movements on an unstable surface. It forces you to consciously engage the core, so use a lighter weight to begin with.
Dumbbell Presses or Flyes
Why do these on a Swiss ball? Yes, it engages the core, but if you are doing them right, the core should always be engaged. On a swiss ball, the exercise engages the whole body to some extent in order to maintain core stability. At the same time, the primary movers (pecs, shoulders, triceps) need to be work just as hard.
Some trainers have advocated using the bounce of the ball to help move heavier weight. However, if you choose to do this, it should be after you have learned control. A ‘ballistic bounce’ will place less emphasis on the primary movers, and may cause a loss of balance.
A couple of tips:
-Use spotters to hand the dumbbells to you when the weights get heavier.
-The shoulders and upper torso should be on the ball, while the hips and legs are in bench press position on the floor.
Straight arm pullovers are an excellent chest exercise, as well as affecting the lats, and to a lesser extent, the shoulders and triceps. Done on the stability ball? You guessed it, a serious core workout.
As with the dumbbell presses or flyes, you are forced to concentrate harder on the primary movers while maintaining a stable core. Use a single dumbbell and hold it under the flat of the weight on one side.
Start with the upper body on the ball, the hips and legs on the floor, and the dumbbell (or barbell) raised above your chest. Arms should be straight throughout the movement.
This can also be done with a cable pulley and a straight bar attachment. See the video below for a demonstration.
Dumbbell Russian Twists
With a heavy enough weight, the Russian twist is difficult enough. Progressing this exercise to the stability ball with a dumbbell is quite an accomplishment.
With the upper body on the ball, the hips up and the entire core engaged, start with the dumbbell in both hands with the arms extended over the chest. Keep your eyes on the weight as you lower it first to one side and then to the other.
Done properly, this swiss ball exercise engages the rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, the transverse abdominis and other muscle groups of the upper body to a lesser extent.
Shoulder Work: TYW Flyes
The reverse flye ball exercise is a great way to work the rear deltoids, and to a lesser extent, the muscles of the upper back (rhomboids, trapezius.) To hid all three heads of the shoulder, try a round of TYW. 'T' for laterals straight out to the side, 'Y' for bringing the arms straight up into a Y formation and 'W' for the shape made when the dumbbells are raised straight up with the elbows bent.
While there are many more free weight exercises you can perform safely on a swiss ball, not all of them are enhanced by using an unstable surface. Try the exercises above to mix up your routine, but be sure to build the foundation of your program on stable ground.