A Gym Ball (a.k.a Swiss Ball) is a soft elastic ball inflated with air. They range in sizes from 35 - 90 cm, and are often used to develop strength and fitness, as well as being tools for physical therapy and pregnancy exercises. So what makes them so great for core workouts?
First developed in the 1960's, the gym ball was initially seen as a great alternative to doing workouts on the hard floor. The ball deforms to your body for support, and adds the element of having to carefully balance your body at the same time, which increases the difficulty and the demand on your core.
A cyclist's balance, stamina and strength stems from their core - then of course the legs and cardio follow - so it's pretty important. Almost the foundation of any rider, the core is not just your abdominal muscles, but it encompasses your hips and bum also. It's important to work these core muscles to aid with your agility on the bike, getting those movements fluid whilst keeping a strong frame, as well as decreasing the chances of injury.
Here are some of our favourite cycling specific core exercises you can do at home with a gym ball.
Body Balancing & Crunches
A simple and easy start to a workout is with crunches and basic body balancing. Being able to balance yourself on the ball, and doing crunches is a lot more difficult than it sounds, but it's one of the most effective core strengtheners you can do.
- Sit on the balance ball with your feet flat on the floor, roughly shoulder width apart
- Keep your back as straight as possible, and cross your arms over your chest
- Lean back on the ball, keeping your back as straight
- Feel your abdominals tighten up, and hold for 3-5 seconds
- Then return to starting position, and repeat.
This one is a little more demanding, but really effective for an all body workout.
- Lie down on the floor with the gym ball beneath you
- Walk outwards so the ball rolls down to your shins, and keep your hands underneath your shoulders
- Tighten up your abs and bend the knees, rolling with the ball until it's under your torso. Hold for 3 - 5 seconds
- Roll outward to the starting position, and repeat the exercise
Sessioning your core muscles in a variety of combinations ensures that they all get an even workout. Using a gym ball for bridge lifts is effective and easy. This particular exercise works your core, your backside, gluteal and hamstring muscles as they contract to hold your body in position.
- Lie flat on your back, with your legs resting on top of the gym ball
- Whilst tightening your abdominals, raise your hips and bum off the floor, trying to keep as straight as possible
- Hold this position for 3 - 5 seconds, then lower yourself back to the start position
- For an extra challenge, try lifting a leg whilst raising yourself off the floor
This movement requires a lot of balance and stability, which makes it quite difficult to achieve without rolling off the ball. However, with practice and progress, your core will strengthen and help stabilise you.
- Lie back with the ball resting at the top of your back
- Cross your left leg over your right knee
- Lower your hips to the floor, and hold for 3 - 5 seconds
- Push through your heels to roll back to the start position, and repeat
Gym balls are a great tool for an intense core workout to help with strength and stability. You can pick one up for a few pounds, in a variety of sizes and colours which make them accessible, and the perfect workout tool.
Research has also shown that there are multiple benefits of replacing your office chair, or home chair, with a gym ball. Sitting on a gym ball helps keep your body moving, whilst strengthening your core muscles and help relieve back pain.
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