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Swiss Exercise Balls-Truly Effective Exercises for Stability Balls

Updated on December 17, 2012
Decline stability ball pushups; feet on ball, hands on floor
Decline stability ball pushups; feet on ball, hands on floor | Source
Regular pushup, hands on ball.
Regular pushup, hands on ball. | Source
A double swiss ball pushup challenge!
A double swiss ball pushup challenge! | Source
Elbow planks on stability ball. Roll elbows back and forth or extend arms from this position for a harder exercise.
Elbow planks on stability ball. Roll elbows back and forth or extend arms from this position for a harder exercise. | Source
Pike on knees.
Pike on knees. | Source
Hamstring curls.
Hamstring curls. | Source
SPRI Professional Xercise Workout Swiss Ball Slate (55cm)
SPRI Professional Xercise Workout Swiss Ball Slate (55cm)

Ideal for home use. This versatile, high grade ball is the perfect ball for individual use. Slow deflate up to 300lbs makes it appropriate for body resistance strength and flexibility activities. General Guidelines for choosing the size of Xercise Ball that is right for you: 45cm = under 5ft. tall 55cm ball = 5' to 5'7" 65cm = 5'8" to 6'3" 75cm = over 6'3" tall


Got Balls?

Swiss exercise balls have become a common fixture in commercial and small gyms everywhere, and with good reason. As a core workout tool, an implement to be used for rehabilitation, or to add a degree of instability to any exercise, they are an excellent tool.

While the stability ball can provide a great workout by itself, its use has been abused by those who would risk injury to perform barbell squats or military presses while balancing on top of it. Save the weight work for the bench, the floor or the rack, and try these safe, but seriously effective swiss ball exercises instead:

Stability Ball Pushups

This should seem obvious, right? After all, every one falls back on the pushup when no free weights or machines are involved. The difference with doing pushups on the swiss ball, however, is extreme.

There are several variations, here are the basics:

  • Hands or fists on ball, feet on the floor.
  • Feet on ball, hands on the floor.
  • Feet raised on stable surface, hands on ball. This is like an incline pushup, but with your hands on the ball.

This exercise can be varied by lifting one foot off the ball, placing the hands at different widths, and increasing the length of time in the locked out position.

Swiss Ball Plank Exercises

Planks are a great isometric strength exercise for the entire core, but they do not offer any range of motion for the muscles to work through. For this reason, the Swiss Ball is ideal for planks.

Start with the basics:

  • Planks (feet on floor; elbows on ball, easier)
  • Planks (feet on ball; elbows on floor, harder)

Then progress to harder variations:

  • Planks (feet on ball, using sawing motion from hands to elbows.)
  • Planks (feet on floor, palms on ball with elbows bent, but not flared; roll the ball out until the arms are fully extended, then back.)

Once you are proficient at the basics, try advanced movements like the extended arm side plank, or side plank on the elbow. Add the rollout from the elbow for more difficulty.

  • Hamstring Curls: Depending on your fitness level, this is either a really comfortable way to warm up/cool down, or it is a viable exercise squeezing your hamstring muscles into shape.

With your back on the floor, your heels on the ball and your palms flat against the floor at your sides for support,lift your hips off the floor and "curl" the ball towards your butt and back to full extension.

  • Hamstring Curls to Half Scorpion:

To add an element of core stabilization to this exercise, roll up higher onto your shoulders as you twist to one side, and back to full extension. At the top of the movement, your feet are flat on the ball, pushing you up.

  • Caterpillar Walks:

With feet on ball and hands on the floor as if you were about to perform a pushup. Now, walk it up until it you can crunch your knees almost to your chest, then walk it out again on your hands to full extension. Repeat over a distance.

This is a great quadriceps and glute exercise that also engages the core when done properly. Squat onto the ball and let your full bodyweight rest. At the same instant your downward momentum is gone, re-engage your muscles and drive upwards.

The list of stability ball exercises is extensive. But, you should start with basic, easy exercises until you become comfortable using this unstable surface. Then add some creative movements to add interest to your workout. Just leave the barbell squats for solid ground!

Best Swiss Balls to Buy

Should you buy the $20 special from Walmart, Target, etc.? Or, is it advantageous to spend more for thicker rubber, more variety in sizes and perhaps additional choices of colors?

The answer is yes and …yes. The $10 or $20 stability balls are likely sufficient; they will typically come with a foot pump for easy inflating, and an exercise instruction guide. Unless you are taking it out and rolling around in the gravel, they are tough enough to last through a lot of workouts.

On the other hand, there is something satisfying about higher quality Swiss exercise balls. The nicer material is easier on your skin and the extra thickness is not only reassuring but very durable as well. On a personal note, I've noticed the higher quality swiss balls seem to hold air better. Then of course is the burst capacity. The stronger the ball, the heavier the weight it can handle.

Note that "anti-burst" does not mean the ball will not burst, but will release the air slowly if punctured. A safer alternative if it happens to spring a leak while you have your full body weight on it. Always check the package to make sure it won’t blow up on you.

No matter which one you choose, get the right size for your body. The hips should be just above the knees when seated; almost parallel. If the knees rise above the hips when you sit, get the next size up. Always check this when the ball is properly inflated, and always, always, have fun!


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    • MosLadder profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Montgomery 

      7 years ago from Irvine, CA

      Thanks KBEvolve, good luck with the balancing act! Cheers, Mo.

    • KBEvolve profile image

      Kenneth Brown 

      7 years ago from United States

      Great explanation of the benefits that can be attained from using a stability ball. Oh, and whoever that is doing the two ball pushup in that pic just inspired me to try something new.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      GREAT REVIEW! I agree with all your thoughts you said in your article, especially at the middle of your article. Thank you, your post is very valuable as always. Keep up the good work! You’ve got +1 more reader of your super blog:)

    • MosLadder profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Montgomery 

      8 years ago from Irvine, CA

      Aloha Dexter! Yeah, they can be. Good addition to the home gym. Cheers!

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      8 years ago from United States

      Hi MosLadder! I wasn't aware that the Swiss Ball was so effective in toning up the body. Great info. Thanks!


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