9 Myths about stability ball exercises and the truth behind them

Exercise myths are only misconceptions of facts and based more on popular belief. Only a scientific explanation can help in getting to the hard facts which can be derived from statistics and experience. Read on to know the facts behind some commonly believed myths about stability ball exercises:

Stability balls tighten core muscles

Stability balls are great as exercise equipment, but much of the publicity it gained has been over hype. The biggest myth is that just using this ball instead of a chair while at home or in the office tightens your core muscles. Take that with a pinch of salt. Just sitting on an exercise ball will not give you harder abs than sitting on a chair. Sitting on a chair and leaning slightly forward activates the muscles just as much. Initially, you might use your muscles more to get the balance and sit on the ball, but after that there is no specific advantage of using a stability ball.

Posture improves by using the exercise ball

This is another myth that is gaining ground. You may start by sitting straight on the ball when you are conscious of using it, but gradually after the novelty has worn off, you quickly slouch. This is very bad for the back and can cause back pain after a long day. If you do want to exercise on the ball at work, limit sitting on it to about 15 or 20 minutes and switch back to the chair. Do this once in 1 or 2 hours. This will turn out to be a better exercise and keep you energized the whole day.

Doing curl ups on the exercise ball strengthens the core

Doing sit ups or curl ups cannot strengthen the core muscles. This is because this is again just a movement of the spine and not stabilization. Holding a body part still and bracing the muscles is stabilization which strengthens the muscles, whereas moving the muscles, called mobilization, does not improve the strength. The only advantage of the exercise ball is the possibility of working the abdominal muscles and the oblique muscles with a wider range of motion. This is because the spine is stretched backwards while lying on your back on the exercise ball.

Doing superman exercises on the exercise ball strengthens core muscles

Lying on your stomach over the stability ball, lifting the trunk and raising an alternate arm and leg is called the ‘superman exercise’. Lying on the stomach gets the muscles supported by the surface of the ball and does not make them work harder. Core exercises are most effective when the lumbar-pelvic-core-complex is left suspended and the pelvis is neither tilted backward, forward, sideways or rotated. Quadriped, bridging and planking are the best exercises for core muscles.

Sitting for a longer time helps back muscles

Sitting for a long time on the ball can decrease the blood flow to the very muscles that are used for holding us upright. Poor circulation makes the muscles tired and causes slouching. Studies have shown that sitting on the ball is worse than sitting on a chair or stool. The pressure on the back increases and causes great discomfort to the lower back. Moving around or standing releases the pressure on the back, so getting off the chair or the stability ball is what you can do to help your back. Try active sitting instead. Sit on the ball with your feet close together. Lift one foot slightly and hold on to the table for balance. Hold this position for each leg for five counts.

Anyone can exercise with the stability ball

No, not everyone can exercise with the ball. If you suffer from osteoporosis, back pain or any balance issues like ear imbalance or motor coordination, you must consult your physician. You have to also make sure that the ball is the right size for you to avoid accidents. The size of the ball depends on your height. When you sit on the ball, your legs should hang at 90 degrees from the knee and your feet must lie flat on the floor. Sitting on a small or too large a ball can upset your balance and cause injuries.

Floor exercises are not as beneficial as stability ball exercises

Opinion on the effectiveness of exercises with the ball are quite divergent with many people rubbishing the claims about the ball as self funded marketing. Even claims about developing core strength with the ball are said to be the biggest hype in the fitness industry. Performing squats, overhead presses, bicep curls and dead lifts will not elevate core activity. The same exercises done on solid ground will show the same results. At best it can relieve the boredom of doing exercises on the ground and initiate some activity which could be better than being lazy and inactive.

There is no safety hazard with the stability ball

Exercises like lifting weights while on a stability ball are risky and dangerous. The ball can pop and cause injuries. One of the basketball players of a renowned team had to forego four months of the basketball season after his right wrist was broken with the exercise ball. He was exercising with the ball carrying 90 pound weights in each hand when the ball popped. This is highly risky for anyone doing exercises with weights on the exercise ball. The type of exercise to be performed with the stability ball must be chosen by experts in the field.

No exercise selection is needed for the stability ball

People who are learning lifting exercises must not attempt stability ball exercises as learning to do both at the same time may stress the muscles. Leg exercises must not be performed on a stability ball. Nor should you attempt exercises that require you to be firmly anchored, like pull downs. Stability ball exercises are ineffective for building muscles. The act of balancing reduces the activation of the muscles. Stability balls are not useless but have to be used in the way it is designed for, like balancing and coordination of muscles, and to achieve a greater range of movement in abdominal exercises.

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