Benefits of Exercise Balls

There are several types of exercise balls used by fitness enthusiasts, athletes and therapists to improve performance and restore functional capacity. Heavy medicine balls are used for muscular power training, while the 1-lb. to 3-lb. medicine balls are used for rehabilitation exercises. Swiss balls are larger than medicine balls and used for core conditioning.

Increased Power

Power is your ability to rapidly push or pull a resistance. The National Strength and Conditioning Association encourages you to include medicine ball throws against a rebounder, or angled mini trampoline, as part of your upper body plyometric training. Plyometric exercises require you to stretch your muscles slightly before quickly and maximally contracting those same muscles to produce powerful movement. Upper body power is required for many sporting activities such as volleyball, tennis and baseball.

Increased Core Stability

Your core is made up of your abdominal and your lower back muscles. When you stand or sit on an immovable surface such as a flat bench or the floor, you can easily maintain your balance. However, sitting on a Swiss ball or standing on half of a Swiss ball, referred to as a BOSU, requires greater activation of your core muscles to maintain balance and stability. The more highly trained your core is, the better you are able to correct your body position when you lose your footing, decreasing your risks of injury.

Improved Rehabilitation

Lighter medicine balls are thrown against rebounders to regain stability for injured muscles and joints. Rehab exercises are done by balancing on one foot and throwing/catching a small medicine ball with the same arm. Increase the difficulty of this exercise by throwing/catching the medicine ball with the opposite arm.

Increased Variety

Swiss balls add variety to your workouts. Instead of performing push-ups with your feet on the floor, place both shins on a Swiss ball. Or, place your hands on the Swiss ball and your feet on the floor to increase the difficulty of a push-up. Doing basic crunches on a Swiss ball gives you a greater range of motion compared to doing crunches on the floor. Perform a dynamic core exercise instead of static core exercise such as a plank by sitting on the Swiss ball and rotating your hips in a large circle. Complete shoulder presses by quickly throwing and catching a 12-lb. medicine ball above your head. Use heavier balls as you get stronger.

Work Out With a Friend

Use medicine balls to work your abs while catching up with a friend. Do abdominal exercises by sitting on the floor and throwing a 6-lb. medicine ball to each other as you do full sit-ups. Stand with your backs against each other, twisting to pass the ball for an oblique workout.

About this Author

Paula Quinene has been writing since 2006. She received her B.S. in exercise science from the University of Oregon in 1997, and is ACSM/ACE certified. Quinene has worked in the health and fitness field since 1990. She also taught CPR and first aid classes for 13 years with the American Red Cross.