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Swiss Ball Core Exercises

June 9, 2010

By Gerard Bochese

If you want to effectively strengthen and challenge your core try these three Swiss ball exercises.

1) Supine Lateral Ball Roll

  • Lie supine on a ball with upper back, shoulders, and head supported by the ball.  Place feet on the floor, with the knees at 90 degrees and hips fully extended until the trunk and thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Activate the deep abdominal wall by gently drawing the belly button in towards the spine.
  • Extend your arms to the side parallel to the floor, with palms facing up.  A wooden dowel rod resting lightly on the hands can assist in cueing the exercise.  Do not grasp the rod, just let it lie in your palms.
  • Roll laterally on the ball until only one shoulder is on the ball and the other is suspended in the air. At this pint it is critical to keep the hips and shoulders parallel to the floor.  It is at this point that the core is fully engaged to prevent the body from rotating down toward the floor.
  • Repeat for the other side by rolling back across the ball so that both shoulders are on the ball and then continue across until the opposite shoulder is suspended off the ball.
  • As your strength improves, increase the end point of the roll.

Common errors:

  • The arm drops toward the ground – the arms need to stay level.
  • The hips drop and twist towards the floor on the side opposite the supported shoulder.  Keep the hips fully extended and the body in a flat table-top position
  • The head lifts up

2) Prone Jackknife – great for integrating shoulder, core, and hip flexor strength

  • Get in a push up position with your feet on the Swiss ball and your hands underneath your shoulders on the floor. The head stays in line with the spine
  • Activate the deep abdominal wall by drawing the belly button in towards the spine. Maintain a neutral spine position
  • Slowly draw the legs up underneath the body.  The hips should not rise up into the air – this is not a pike.
  • Slowly extend the legs straight to return to the start position.

Common errors

  • Many will try to use the rectus abdominis (6 pack) to perform the exercise rather than the deep abdominal wall. When you do this, the back loses its neutral position and flexes (rounds)
  • Those with a weak core tend to drop into extension (arching the back) at the start and end of the exercise, because they cannot hold activation of the deep and/or lower abdominals.
  • Hips lifted too high.

3) Side Flexion

  • Lie sideways over the ball, with the legs split for support.
  • Side flex up without rotating the body forward or backward and return to start position.

Common errors

  • The individual will rotate the trunk as they flex.
  • Loss of good postural alignment, often adopting a round back and forward head posture.

Choosing the right Swiss ball for your size

Sit upright on the ball with your feet on the floor.  If the ball is the correct size for you, your thighs will be parallel or a little above parallel to the floor.  If you have low back pain, it is better to have the thighs slightly above parallel.

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