The trusty Swiss ball.
First used as a Physiotherapy tool and then popularised in gym environments almost single handedly by Paul Chek through the 80’s and 90’s. It’s been the go to piece of equipment for many fitness enthusiasts, from elite athletes to bums and tums group exercise class instructors. When used correctly, it gets results.
So why has it stood the test of time for the last 30 years? Numerous factors contribute to this:
From lifting weights on the ball to stabilising techniques, you can take the ball anywhere very easily without having to lug expensive equipment around or buy it.
The very act of doing exercise on the Swiss ball creates an unstable environment. Now I know some meat head coaches will say this is not needed and sometimes they are right, but like anything sometimes it is. If you want to be the biggest guy in the gym you probably won’t need a Swiss ball unless you have range of motion problems or pain management issues but if you’re a surfer, skier, have vestibular problems or martial artist, you may need to get the pump!
- For beginners
Beginners these days want to jump straight into super man or super woman training without learning the basics. Every elite coach on planet earth wonders what the hell is going on with the fitness industry to let beginners do this. It can seriously destroy joints and create faulty biomechanics that last a lifetime. A swiss ball can help fast track more complex movement patterns safely through using the ball as support which in turn focuses the individual on the correct biomechanics.
High performance is something exciting but very hard to achieve. The swiss ball can provide an amazing tool to help achieve in various sports that need the extra edge. Used correctly, it can reduce injury, enhance length tension relationships in the body and enable the athlete to produce amazing results when under multiple streams of physical stress.
Here are 20 great exercises with the Swiss ball. Some easy (although effective) and some tough!:
- Kneeling Swiss ball trunk extension
Kneeling with your torso over a swiss ball with your arms at your side. Lift your torso up while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold lower and repeat. Keep your head in alignment.
- HORSESTANCE HORIZONTAL – SINGLE LEG WITH SWISS BALL SUPPORT
Why? To strengthen the multifidus (spinal strength)Movement Patterns: Horsestance
Muscle Groups: Gluteals, Hamstrings, Inner Unit, Low Back/Erector Spinae, Outer Unit
Kneeling on all fours over a Swiss ball with good spine alignment horizontal to floor dowel on back with elbows bent.
Drawing your belly button in towards your spine raise one leg straight back to hip height moving the rest of your body as little as possible.
Hold for the prescribed time perform on the opposite side then repeat.
- SINGLE DUMBBELL PREACHER CURL ON SWISS BALL
Why? Provide a greater concentration and ROM for bicep development
Movement Patterns: Pull
Muscle Groups: Biceps
Lying over a Swiss Ball holding a single dumbbell with your upper arm resting against the ball palm up.
Drawing your belly button inwards bend your elbow to curl the dumbbell to shoulder height.
Lower under control and repeat.
As you fatigue roll back over the ball to the kneeling position and continue.
- FRENCH PRESS ON SWISS BALL
Why? Helps to provide stability training to the core while doing your favourite tricep exercise
Movement Patterns: Seated Vertical Push
Muscle Groups: Triceps
Seated on a Swiss Ball holding a single dumbbell overhead with both palms against the inside of the weight plates.
Bend your elbows to lower the dumbbell behind your head.
Straighten your elbows to return the dumbbell to the start position and repeat.
- BARBELL BENCH PRESS ON SWISS BALL
Why? Helps retraction of the scapular and therefore prevents shoulder laxity.
Movement Patterns: Supine Press
Muscle Groups: Pec Major, Posterior Chain, Triceps
Lying on a swiss ball so that your head shoulders and upper back are supported by the ball holding a barbell at arms length above your chest.
Drawing your belly button in lower the bar to your chest then press the bar to arms length above you.
- Seated row on swiss ball
Why? Helps stabiliser muscles while doing a tradition row.
Movement Patterns: Seated Row
Muscle Groups: Biceps, Rhomboid/Mid Trap
Seated on a swiss ball.
Drawing your belly button inwards perform a row.
Slowly return to the start and repeat.
- DUMBBELL ARNOLD PRESS SEATED ON SWISS BALL
Why? Because of a small base of support, once you’ve pressed overhead, the inner unit and outer unit core work overtime. This helps transition to anything you ever lift above your head again!
Movement Patterns: Seated Vertical Push
Muscle Groups: Deltoid, Triceps
Seated on a Swiss Ball holding dumbbells at shoulder height with thumbs facing outwards.
Drawing your belly button inwards rotate the dumbells outwards whilst pushing the dumbells overhead so that your thumbs face each other at the top of the movement.
Lower the dumbbells under control reversing the rotation and repeat.
- KNEELING FORWARD BALL ROLL
Why? A very effective alternative to the standard crunch. This will stabilise as well as give you an amazing abdominal workout.
Muscle Groups: Hip Flexors, Lat Dorsi, Sagital
Kneeling on the ground with your forearms placed on a swiss ball.
Draw your belly button inwards move forward straightening your hips and arms to the point you can maintain the natural arch in your low back. Do not let your back sag and move your arms and legs the same distance.
Slowly return and repeat.
- SHOULDER PRESS WITH ARM AGAINST SWISS BALL
Why? There is a serious problem these days with ‘upper cross syndrome’. this exercise will help bring the shoulders out of pronation and into supination.
Standing with good posture and your arm at the bottom position of a shoulder press with a swiss ball between the back of your arm and the wall.
Draw your belly button inwards and push your am up overhead keeping pressure with the back of your arm on the ball.
Lower and repeat.
SWISS BALL DUMBBELL PRONE COBRA
Why? For the more advanced athlete that wants to correct postural muscles
Lying face down over a swiss ball holding dumbbells off the floor.
Drawing your belly button in and squeezing your glutes lift your chest and raise your arms to form a stop sign position.
Lower back to the start position then repeat.
SWISS BALL FLAT DUMBBELL PRESS
Why? Prevent shoulder laxity and stimulate the nervous system up far more than a standard bench press.
Lying on a swiss ball so that your head shoulders and upper back are supported by the ball.
With the hips up holding two dumbbells press the dumbbells to arms length above you.
Lower the weights and repeat.
SWISS BALL HORSESTANCE BALANCE ROLL
Why? For the athlete that likes sports that require a lot of balance!
Hands on a Swiss ball, knees touching the ball feet on floor
Roll forwards onto the ball to come to a balanced position
Roll on the ball forwards to backwards then side to side pushing your balance as far as possible before returning to the centre
Keep your spine in good neutral alignment as much as possible whilst maintaining balance on the ball
SWISS BALL KNEE FLEXION
Why? A far more functional and orthopedically sound exercise for the hamstrings than the usual hamstring curl disaster machine.
Lie face up with your ankles on the ball and arms out to your side.
Draw your belly button inwards lift your hips until they are in line with your ankles knees and shoulders. This is the start position.
Without letting your hips drop flex your knees bringing the ball in towards your butt.
Straighten your legs and repeat without lowering your hips.
PRONE LATERAL BALL ROLL FEET ON BALL
Why? Frontal core and lateral core worked simultaneously. Hard!
In a push up position with your feet on the ball.
Draw your belly button inwards move your feet laterally to one side as far as you can maintain balance.
Return to the center and move in the opposite direction.
SUPINE LATERAL BALL ROLL FIXED FEET
Why? All planes of motion worked as well as superior development of the nervous system.
Roll back on a swiss ball until your head shoulder and upper back are supported by the ball.
Lift your hips until they are level with your knees and shoulders. Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
Hold your body with perfect alignment (hips and arms should stay parallel to the floor). Keep your feet still as you roll across the ball to one side.
Pause and return to the center.
Move only as far to the side as you comfortably can with good alignment. You may only be able to move and inch or two which is fine.
SWISS BALL SIDE FLEXION FEET FREE ARMS OVERHEAD
Why? An alternative to the floor lateral crunch. Superior range of motion.
Lying side on over a Swiss ball with your feet on the floor and your arms overhead.
Drawing your belly button inwards side bend your trunk taking your ear towards your shoulder and shoulder towards your hip.
Pause then lower under control and repeat.
Perform on the opposite side.
PRONE LOW CRAWLER
Why? Highly effective method of introducing shoulder strength with TVA and abdominal wall work.
Lying with your forearms on two equally sized balls.
Draw your belly button inwards straighten one arm at a time pushing the ball out and bringing it back into the body.
Alternate arms as you perform the exercise.
SHOULDER FLEXION HIP EXTENSION KNEELING ON SWISS BALL
Why? For the more accomplished athlete. the entire core is worked and can help impact sports prevent damage to the spine.
Assume a kneeling position rolling onto the swiss ball with your hands on the ball.
Draw your belly button inwards lift one arm out on a 45° angle from your shoulder and lower.
Lift the other arm and lower
Then extend one leg straight back.
Lower and extend the other leg straight back.
Keep good alignment throughout.
BODYWEIGHT BULGARIAN SQUAT
Why? Alternative to using a bench. Ankle and Knee stabilisers are trained in a superior way.
Standing in a comfortable stance place one leg back onto a bench or swiss ball. Note: the swiss ball is a much more advanced version.
Inhale lower yourself as far as you comfortably can exhaling as you lower keeping the torso upright.
Inhale as you return to the top.
MILITARY ALTERNATE DUMBBELL PRESS KNEELING ON SWISS BALL
Why? Anyone involved in sports with advanced balance needs can gain significant progress here. A more advanced version is standing on the ball which can be dangerous and only reserved for the elites.
Kneeling upright on a Swiss Ball holding dumbbells at shoulder height.
Drawing your belly button in push one dumbbell overhead whilst maintaining your balance on the ball.
Lower under control perform a press on the opposite side then repeat.
Most importantly, enjoy your training!