How to get in shape while having a ball

If you’re looking for a quick way to work your muscles no matter where you may be, get ready to play with large balls — or even half balls. You can get great conditioning even while sitting at your desk — if you’re sitting on a ball.

Consistent use of a Bosu half ball will improve both athletic ability and balance.

Whether you use a ‘fitness’ ball or the Bosu half ball, consistent use will improve both athletic ability and balance. Using the ball as a chair allows you to work your core without even being aware of it. Continuous adjustment of the core muscles is needed to maintain the sitting balance; at the same time, you must keep the glutes and thighs tensed and activated to keep the ball in place. Even one moment of chair-like relaxation will roll you onto the floor, and send the now vacant ball skimming away. Shannon Mulder, of the Exercise and Sports Science Fitness Department at the University of Utah, advises using a ball or a Bosu daily. “One workout gives anyone a response, but it’s the continuation of those workouts that begin to promote the growth of muscular strength,” she says.

The Bosu ball is half an exercise ball fixed to a firm platform. You can work out on either side — balance on the ‘ball’ side with the platform on the floor, or go for more difficulty by balancing on the platform with the ball on the floor. The more inflated the Bosu ball is, the harder the challenge of balancing. Once you’ve got the balance down, practice jumping from left foot to right to build the ability to balance while shifting your weight. Being able to balance while shifting your center of mass is required in nearly every sporting activity. You can also make the Bosu more of a challenge by doing squats on it. Raise it even more by holding dumbbells while doing squats, but start slowly until you learn the balance involved.

On a regular ball, Mulder suggests getting an increased training effect by doing frequent sets of seated leg extensions and torso rotations while sitting. Other exercises that can be done anywhere include pushups and crunches. With face down, place your knees on top of the ball with hands on the floor, bend the arms to lower your upper body, then push it back up. Turn over, put your calves on the ball and do crunches. Work your glutes by putting your head and neck face up on the ball, bringing the feet close enough to allow the hips to sink down. Then lift the hips so your body is straight from the knees up.

One of the hardest ball exercises is the ‘core rollout.’ Lay on the ball face down with hands on the floor. Using your hands in a walking motion, roll yourself out until only your feet and ankles rest on the ball. Keep your body straight; no sagging. You may have to keep trying until your core gets strong enough to let you roll your body all the way out. Balls come in various sizes. The correct size will put the knees level or slightly lower than the pelvis, with the knees bent at a 90 degree angle when the feet are flat on the floor. The thighs should be parallel to the floor.

Although the right ball size is usually selected according to height, body weight must also be taken into consideration. A heavy weight will compress the ball, creating a larger contact surface on the bottom, thus eliminating the necessity for balance. Heavier people should buy the next larger size. Inflate the ball firmly to keep its roundness in place. If a firm ball is too skittish, let only a little air out. You may not notice the increase in your strength and balance at first. But after a few weeks of using the ball or the Bosu, you will certainly notice how much your athletic ability has improved, whatever sport you do.

By Wina Sturgeon – Adventure Sports Weekly