Balls, used as fitness tools, are a staple in the fitness arena these days. Balls of different shapes, sizes, weights and materials are being utilized for dozens of applications to challenge your core, develop kinesthetic awareness, and improve power, stability, mobility and strength. It is, however, important to understand which ball to use for what purpose and why. There are certain situations when a ball should be avoided either due to safety or effectiveness issues. And, balls, regardless of shape, size, weight or material, may not be appropriate for everyone. Consequently, this and next week we will highlight the different types of balls, what the ball may be used for and what benefits might be experienced. Additionally, safety and effectiveness issues surrounding the use of balls will be discussed. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
Stability balls are the larger balls in our ball tool box. Ranging in general from 55cm to 75cm in size, the size may determine how the ball is utilized. For example, a larger, heavier gauge ball may be utilized for "bench" style exercises such as a dumbbell bench press, while a smaller ball may be chosen for a kneeling roll out core exercise. The size of the ball is also dictated by the size of the client, lever length and the preferable hip/knee joint angle when in seated positions.
-Safety/Effectiveness - balls should be well inflated, cleaned and cared for following the manufacturer's instructions. Additionally, there are some populations that may avoid using stability balls such as those with serious balance issues, vision or inner ear problems. All neuromotor exercises should be mastered on stable surfaces prior to attempting on an unstable surface. The trainer should perform a risk-benefits analysis to determine whether using the ball is appropriate for each individual client and for each specific exercise and in a group setting whether there is enough space to safely/effectively utilize the balls.
Medicine balls are weighted balls. They come in varied weight increments, sizes, shapes and materials. Some are hard, some are soft which enable the balls to be thrown at hard surfaces, some come with handles or straps for slinging-type actions, often used in sport's drills/skills training and some are small and pliable enabling the client to hold the ball with one hand. Medicine balls may be used to develop power, muscular strength throughout the body, including core strength and stability. The balls allow the client to work across multiple planes of the body improving functional and performance-oriented activities whether a novice or elite athlete.
-Safety/Effectiveness - a medicine ball may be added to an exercise once the client has mastered that exercise. The weight increment may be increased in some exercises to further challenge the client. Additional increases in load, however, should not be added until the client has mastered each exercise with the current load. Whether or not a specific client is a candidate for performing various skills/drills with a medicine ball (i.e. throws/catches, swings/slings, pushes/pulls or rotations) should again be determined by the trainer performing a thorough risks/benefits analysis.
Next week, mini balls, myotherapy balls, and Ballast balls will be featured.
Jackie Wright is the owner/manager of Never Summer Fitness, LLC located in Grand Lake, Colorado. She may be reached at her website at www.neversummerfitness.com, her email at NSFGL@comcast.net, her blog at www.skyhidailynews.com and her Facebook page at Never Summer Fitness.