Chek, HHP, NMT
Although relatively new to the fitness industry, Swiss Balls have been
used in rehabilitation for nearly 40 years. These large, inflatable balls
are now being used successfully in exercise and conditioning programs for
all levels, from the unconditioned novice to elite professional athletes.
This is not just another fitness fad that will fade in popularity in a few
months, but an excellent piece of equipment for any fitness center or
personal training facility.
Why Swiss Ball training works
Swiss Ball training is very multi-functional. Using a ball will:
- Improve balance, which in turn improves agility
- Require a constant recruitment of the core musculature, which does
not occur with machine training
- Strengthen postural muscles, which are generally weak from an
over-exposure to a seated environment and are not conditioned by most
(To get optimal postural reeducation and conditioning requires training
in proper form when exercising with a Swiss Ball. As a pioneer in the use
of Swiss Balls in athletic rehabilitation and performance conditioning, I
have used my extensive clinical experience to develop a number of videos
to guide you to optimal results, preventing the disappointment that can
come from months of using a Swiss Ball incorrectly! For more information,
see the resources section at the end of this article.)
Activate a myriad of motor recruitment patterns, as the ball is
unstable. It never moves the same way twice in a row!
Enhance both spinal and peripheral joint stability, which help to
Provide high levels of nervous system activation, challenge the
nervous system and, therefore, affording athletes greater neurological
capacity in the playing environment, reducing incidence of injury
(Athletes who predominately use machine training have a difficult time
transferring their strength and power to the playing environment.)
Improves general health by activating the body's pump systems.
Improved pumping means improved fluid transfer, improving the delivery
of nutrition and removal of waste from tissues (see Why
Getting Pumped Makes You Feel Good!)
Swiss Balls are also effective stretching aids and can be used to
develop strength in both open and closed chain environments. In my
to Eat, Move and Be Healthy!, I'll show you how to perform 20 key
stretch tests and the corresponding stretches to balance your body. As
you will see, many of them are best performed with a Swiss Ball
Important points to consider when buying a
There are many different brands of Swiss Balls to choose from, but be
sure to look for the following features:
Burst-resistant material: It is vital that a Swiss Ball will not burst
if punctured, but rather slowly deflate so the user can get off the ball
Some cheaper rubber and vinyl balls can pop like a balloon if they roll
over a sharp object or hit the corner of a piece of equipment or
furniture. This is particularly important for commercial settings, with
safety and liability concerns.
Burst-resistant rating: How much dynamic weight the ball can handle
before the burst-resistant properties fail? For general exercise, this
should be at least two to three times your body weight. For very dynamic
exercises, or those incorporating free weights, the burst-resistant rating
should be at least 400kg (850 lbs.).
Don't be fooled by commonly marketed anti-burst ratings because most of
these are determined by slowly pressing a flat steel plate down onto the
ball until it bursts. To show you how unreliable this test is, blow up a
typical party balloon, place it in a chair and slowly sit on it while
supporting yourself on the arm rests. Make sure you have no sharp objects
in your pockets.
may be surprised to find that even a party balloon can take your entire
party weight without popping, but would you work out on it? I doubt it!
Because of the many injuries I've seen happen on cheap Swiss Balls, I've
searched the world to find the best ball, the "Dura-ball," which
is available through the C.H.E.K.
Institute. In fact, our Dura-ball is so tough, some zoo keepers prefer
it as a toy for the elephants because it's the only one that can survive
their antics (see Figure 1)!
Texture of the material: Balls that are smooth and shiny can be
difficult to stay on when you are sweaty. Choose a ball that has a
textured finish, or one with a slightly "sticky" finish.
How to size your Swiss Ball
It is important to choose the correct size of ball and inflate it
properly, depending on what purpose you will be using the ball for.
you're using your Swiss Ball for exercise, it should be firmly inflated,
so that when pressed with one finger, a slight dent is created,
approximately 2 inches (5cm) across. When seated on the ball, your thigh
(femur) should be parallel or slightly above parallel to the ground (see
Figure 2). For those with back pain, a slightly larger ball is often
better, so the thigh is above parallel.
Listed below are some optimum ball sizes based on average heights:
|Sizing guidelines for exercise
|Under 5'2" (1.57m)
|5'3"- 5'8" (1.60m-1.72m)
|5'9" - 6'2" (1.75m-1.88m)
|Above 6'3" (1.90m)
When using the Swiss Ball as a chair, employ a larger ball than you use
for exercise, but only inflated to the correct size described above. This
will produce a softer, more comfortable chair. A general rule of thumb is
to use a ball one size larger than shown in the above chart.
Caring for your Swiss Ball
With careful attention, a Swiss Ball can last many years. Follow these
recommendations to keep your ball in tip-top shape:
Store your ball in a safe, clean place, preferably off the floor
and where it will not get knocked around. Many of the balls that have
popped during exercise were found in laboratory analysis to have been
previously damaged by hitting sharp edges. This happened so often on
one professional rugby team in Australia, the coach made it a
mandatory $30,000 fine for any athlete caught kicking or throwing a
Swiss Ball in the gym!
Check your ball for wear and foreign objects before use. Replace
any ball that has any splits, nicks or worn areas on the surface
Always use the ball on a clean, dry, non-slip surface. Check the
floor for stones, pins, staples etc. before putting your ball down.
Make sure hard floors are clean. When dusty, the ball slips out from
under you like a ball bearing! A dirty gym is an unsafe gym
Keep the ball away from animals and direct heat sources. Do not
leave it in direct sunlight or a closed car
Always make sure you have plenty of room when you are using the
ball. An exercise mat is recommended
A Swiss Ball is like any other piece of exercise equipment. It can be
used correctly to achieve positive results or it can be used incorrectly
and thus may cause injury. Anyone wishing to incorporate a Swiss Ball into
an exercise program would be well advised to seek instruction from a
professional who has been trained in Swiss Ball techniques.
The C.H.E.K. Institute offers the following instructional and workout
videos and courses for everyone from the novice exerciser up to the elite
athlete, exercise and health care professional. There is no substitution