The Swiss Ball – Instability Makes A Good Core Challenge

What Is A Swiss Ball?

A Swiss ball refers to an inflatable, bouncy exercise ball that can be commonly found in the functional training corner of the gym. Swiss balls are not just there for you to sit down and bounce on; in fact, they can be useful exercise tools to develop stability during movement. Find out how the Swiss ball can be used for exercise and to introduce a more challenging aspect to your workouts!

What Is Instability Training?

In this day and age, instability training, or performing exercises on unstable surfaces to force the body to balance and stabilise itself, is either all the rage or beaten down. Instability training has its uses; trying to improve strength is probably not one of them and can be unsafe. After all, there was that one story of a man doing barbell back squats on a Swiss ball… which received much criticism over its safety and inefficacy. However, when used well, the Swiss ball can be used for instability training to improve coordination and balance.

How Does Instability Training Improve Fitness?

A paper written by Behm and Sanchez in 2013 covers this topic fairly well. For one, instability training has been used as a rehabilitation tool during injury to develop or maintain muscle performance, but with lower loads and forces. Without including resistance training, balance training improves both balance and functional performance, such as during running and when preventing falls. Overall, when resistance is added, not only will balance improve and muscle activation be enhanced, but motor control, which is how well we control our voluntary movements, will be improved. In this regard, the Swiss ball can be used to perform resistance exercise in an unstable setting.

Performing Instability Training Using A Swiss Ball

The main reason for instability with a Swiss ball comes from 2 factors: the ball can roll away and the ball can compress and bounce. This means a large amount of delicacy needs to be put into controlling the Swiss ball, unlike other spherical objects like medicine balls or basketballs which simply roll away. Simple ways to start using the Swiss ball for instability training would be static exercises done for a certain amount of time.

Swiss Ball Resistance Training – Static Exercises

One of the most common static exercises done with the Swiss ball is the plank. By resting the legs on the ball, one needs to contract their core muscles to prevent the ball from rolling sideways and away. However, to make the exercise a bit easier, doing it with the arms on the ball with the feet on the ground can make it easier to control with the upper body. The slight inclined position also helps.

Swiss Ball Resistance Training – Dynamic Exercises

For a greater challenge to the core muscles such as the rectus abdominis, some dynamic movements can be done on the Swiss ball. The crunch is a great exercise here as it allows the trunk to stretch out over the curve of the ball, stretching out the rectus abdominis fully. For a greater challenge, the knee tuck which is done in the plank position requires both control of the upper body in the static position and dynamically pulling the ball towards and away from the body using the legs. Of course, there are several other exercises that can be done using the Swiss ball for instability training and this article is non-exhaustive.

Incorporating Swiss Ball Exercises Into An Exercise Program

Swiss ball exercises can be used at the start or the end of a workout. If the exercise is not too difficult, it can be used as a warmup exercise to prepare the core muscles for other exercises. Shorter durations for static exercises and a moderate number of repetitions should be used. An example of a warmup incorporating Swiss ball exercises is illustrated in the table below:

Shoulder Circles10 circles per arm
Dumbbell Goblet Squat15 repetitions
Swiss Ball Plank30 seconds

If done at the end of a workout, performing the Swiss ball exercises for a longer duration or until failure is a fantastic option to completely torch the core muscles.

Use The Swiss Ball With The Gym Pod!

Unsure of how to incorporate Swiss ball exercises into your current exercise program to make more gains? Consult one of our Gym Pod Academy personal trainers, who can provide you with the necessary coaching and guidance for your exercise program. Swiss balls can be found across many of the Gym Pods located in Singapore and worldwide. What are you waiting for, arrange a consultation with our personal trainers now!