In January I started teaching Pilates on the Swiss Ball. I love working on the swiss ball as it has many benefits. Working with the ball develops muscle tone for the entire body as well as improving core stability, posture and muscle balance. It also improves flexibility and can be used to add cardio into the workout.
Core muscles made up of:
· Transverse abdominus: The deep abdominal muscles
· Multifidus: The back muscles that support the lumbar spine
· Quadratus lumborum: The muscles of the lower back that maintain spinal and pelvic balance
Combine the core muscles with the pelvic floor muscles and you have the muscles that stabilise your spine. Just sitting on a Swiss ball activates all the core and pelvic floor muscles as you must engage all these muscles to balance on the ball, which is one of the reasons it is recommended for use in the office.
Traditional mat Pilates can be modified to be done on the ball with the ball creating an unstable ground, forcing you to use your core and pelvic floor muscles. The ball is great if you have back problems because it supports your lower back as you exercise and stretch allowing you to work hard without unnecessary pressure on your lower back.
What become really obvious working out on the ball is which side of your body is the stronger side. This means you must work harder on the weaker side as you can’t rely on your stronger side to compensate. The ball does not allow you to cheat.
Another benefit of the ball is that you can work many muscle groups at the same time, which makes it perfect if you are short on time but would like a workout. For instance, when lying your head and shoulders on the ball holding your body is a straight line and using dumbbells to do chest flies, you are working your chest, shoulders, arms, back, core, pelvic floor, glutes and your legs as you are balancing on the ball to keep your body in a static position. Some of those muscles are working secondary to others but are still working!
While working on the ball, the difficulty level can be adjusted and exercises can be made easier for beginners and more challenging as you go on, which means you are always pushing yourself, no exercise ever gets boring!
Above all else, working on the balls is fun. There is a lot of wobbling, the occasional fall off the ball, but it is a laugh while working hard and who doesn’t want to do a fun exercise!?