Get on the ball

***image1***Chances are, if you are reading this column, you have at least a glimmer of interest in your health and fitness. And chances are, if you have an interest in your heath and fitness, you may own some exercise equipment. Perhaps you own a set of weights. Maybe a treadmill or stationary bicycle. Hopefully you have also acquired one of the best pieces of exercise equipment available today . . . the stability ball.

Also known as a physioball, exercise ball, Swiss ball, and balance ball, the stability ball runs about $25 and can be found at places like Target, Marshalls, and Bed, Bath, & Beyond, as well as specialty fitness stores. What a small price to pay for a piece of equipment with which you can perform a wide variety of exercises! With the stability ball, it is possible to get an entire full-body workout, as well as perform several stretches. In fact, one of my favorite workouts is a 30-minute full-body stability ball workout.

If you have decided to purchase one of these great tools, it is important to know a few things about how to properly use it in order to get the most effective workout. The first thing to know is what size is appropriate for you. Stability balls come in various diameters, from 35 cm to 75 cm. The average person can use a 45 or 55 cm, but depending on your height you may need a smaller or larger ball. Your ball should be firmly inflated, not squishy. When seated on the ball, there should be a 90 degree angle at your hips and knees, with your thighs parallel to the floor.

Although there is a myriad of exercises for all the major muscle groups that can be performed using a stability ball, one of the most basic and most common is the stomach crunch. Unfortunately, it is also very easy to perform this exercise incorrectly, making it less effective. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when doing crunches on the ball:


The ball should rest in the small of your back. Some people may experience discomfort or tightness in the back; if that happens simply shift your weight forward so the ball is higher on your torso – closer to the shoulders – with your lower back more supported by the front of the ball.


As you begin your crunch, make sure that your ankles are lined up directly beneath your knees.


During the crunch, try not to let the ball move beneath you. This means that your legs are pushing you into the crunch, as opposed to the abdominals pulling you up.


Do not sit all the way up. Stop your movement just prior to reaching a seated position – maybe ¾ of the way up.


Between each repetition, try not to completely relax. Maintain some tightness in the abdominals, letting your shoulder blades just lightly touch the ball before moving into the next repetition.


Perform only as many repetitions as you can with proper form.

Once you have mastered the basic crunch, there are several ways to add intensity and variety. Try twisting slightly to one side as you crunch to target the obliques. Or find a smaller range of motion – usually the top half of the crunch – that makes you work the hardest and do your last few repetitions within that range.

So get that ball out of the closet and pump it up! Twenty crunches a day will have you ready for next week, when we’ll target another body part with the stability ball.

Meredith Nelson, M.Ed, is the owner of PrimeTime Fitness, Inc, on Sullivan’s Island. Offering group fitness classes, PrimeTime Spin, private yoga, personal training, and monthly gym membership, Meredith divides her time between the gym on Sullivan’s Island and limited in-home training here on Daniel Island, where she resides along with her husband and two cats. Meredith can be reached with your fitness questions at 883-0101, or

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555


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