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Stability Ball Training - Does It Have A Use?

My girlfriend and I were having a discussion the other day about the use of stability balls for exercise (specifically the use of balls with the average personal training client).

I took the stance that they are pretty much useless as an exercise tool for lifters (especially novices). Of course, this lead me to wondering if there is, in fact, a time and place where stability balls are of value. If memory serves correctly I remember a picture of John Davies squatting on a ball.

My question has two parts:

  1. Do you believe that stability balls offer any benefit to a trainee? If so, what are they?

  2. When (if ever) is the use of the ball warranted.

Fire away.

  1. Cant really think so. My focus would be on more of the development of primary muscle groups rather then in stabilizer development that early into training. But could the development of stabilizers in beginners lead to even better gains in the future?

  2. Change of scenery, little bit of a difference in ROM.

It’s great for ab training.

And it works well for those in rehab or needing to do special exercises to strengthen certain areas that have been injured or are weak.

I think they are overused. Except for a sport like surfing how often is the ground moving beneath you? Not during football, baseball or lacrosse. As far as using them for abs good range of motion on sit ups, maybe some DB presses and stuff, but just use it for a little flavor, not the main course. As far as squatting on them, it is just a way to make an exercise harder without increasing the weight. I will listen to someone who squats 800 on the ground before I listen to someone who squats 135 on a ball.

Just my humble opinion…

I feel that nothing beats getting under heavy iron on a stable surface. But I guess incorporating SB exercises into your program is alright. Although I don’t think it is necessary. Really, any excercise, as long as you don’t hurt yourself doing it, (i.e. maxing out on bench w/ a rotator tear) can probably be of some benefit to the trainee. One thing I will not do however, is put SB training as the core of my programs.

Later,

Danny

I tried pushups on the ball after sets of heavy presses. Very challenging and I felt a decent improvement in comfort under the bar while benching.

I also tried supersetting squats with bosu squats, that didn’t do much.

I feel that they can be good for building stabilizer muscles if you don’t have time to isolate them individually, but it won’t be as effective.

Almost anything can help you get a “different” angle on a movement. The ball will help. Don’t get me wrong they are overhyped and overused.

[quote]Scott613 wrote:
I think they are overused.

I will listen to someone who squats 800 on the ground before I listen to someone who squats 135 on a ball.

[/quote]

Scott613 is way off and I wouldn’t listen to anything he says.

Kidding. I agree. Luckily the stability ball craze is over and it’s now considered a supplemental tool and not an essential piece of equipment.

Yes it can be used occasionally for variety, rehab or control drills but I don’t think it’s the indespensable piece of equipment it was hyped up to be a few years ago.

Wow…no stability ball fans here LOL

  1. Yes, they can be good for a trainee.
    It all depends on the goal of the trainee and the level he or she is at. It should be used as anything else in periodization and proper program design.
    It’s not just some fad. Changing proprioception in a clients program can and will increase the nervous systems ability to recruit oodles of muscle fibers. Not to mention core stability and improved all around neuromuscular efficiency will be improved.
  2. Use the exercises wisely young skywalker. Somethings are pretty unecessary unless you’re training a figure skater or gymnast (stability ball squats). Tons of books to research from…pick one up and read away. My favorite is ab roller on the stability ball( for advance tyes only…guaranteed to make you cry like a wittle baby)

My thoughts on the stability ball are simply that is has little merit as an exercise tool for a beginner. If you’ve seen (or remember) the first time you did a dumbbell press it can be pretty darn ugly even while on a fixed surface. It can take weeks/months for a novice to get the lift down correctly. Of course, the more complex lifts take longer. And then there are variations of each lift. I can think of hundreds of exercises I can do on the floor or bench. So…is there really any benefit to the ball?

I’ve heard the “core stability” and “stabilizer” arguments too. The problem comes when you ask for a definition of the word “core” people say ab muscles. When you ask which ones the “expert” has little clue. I would also argue the my stabilizers get plenty of work when I squat/deadlift/clean. If you’ve gotten someone to the point where they know these lifts do they need a ball. I would say no.

Thoughts?

[quote]Jeff K wrote:
Yes it can be used occasionally for variety, rehab or control drills but I don’t think it’s the indespensable piece of equipment it was hyped up to be a few years ago.
[/quote]

That’s funny, I remember I couldn’t get you to stop using the ball when we worked out?!?! “No Scott, keep me away from the evils of the squat rack. I want to do all my squatting on the ball!”

LOL!

How are you man? Hope all is going well!

-Scott

[quote]Kinetix wrote:
My thoughts on the stability ball are simply that is has little merit as an exercise tool for a beginner. If you’ve seen (or remember) the first time you did a dumbbell press it can be pretty darn ugly even while on a fixed surface. It can take weeks/months for a novice to get the lift down correctly.

I’ve heard the “core stability” and “stabilizer” arguments too. The problem comes when you ask for a definition of the word “core” people say ab muscles. When you ask which ones the “expert” has little clue. I would also argue the my stabilizers get plenty of work when I squat/deadlift/clean.
[/quote]

Hmmm… actually there are plenty of exercises that novices can do to increase core stability and neuromuscular efficiency.
I know where you are coming from for the most part. Novices should start with basic proper movements first and progress up. But many muscular inefficiencies found in any trainee (from novice to advance) can be traced to weak core/ overstretched or contracted muscle groups. I have really good success with my clients using some stability ball training to address this.
As far as you not being sure of core strength being in existence or proven, you might want to brush up on your research. Training the core with deadlifts…is pretty advance to say the least. Lots of advance lifters don’t quite understand deadlifts as it is.
Core muscles mainly include transversus abdominis, erector spinae, psoas and obliques. The rectus abdominis (six pack) is not always considered in the “core”.

I think the stability ball can be a benefit to training depending on what type of phase you’re in and what the goals of the lifter are. Obviously for a strength/power athlete who is well developed with reguards to strength, cns, etc then having them train on a ball during times when they are trying to increas max strength would not be very productive. However, if someone is evaluated and lacks core strength, has deficiencies in their sling systems, or has a problem with stability in the transverse or frontal planes then it can be of use. For a phase where core strength is being addressed and max strength is not of concern DB bench presses or single arm DB bench presses on the s-ball can be used. This doesn’t mean that the person will do every movement on here or that they won’t squat or deadlift (if they are capable of doing that type of lifting). Have someone do sets of 10-12 reps with single arm DB bench press on the ball and most of the time you’ll see how poor their “core” (for lack of a better word) control is, you’ll see hips dropping, people using lumbar ext to compensate for not being able to use the glutes to extend the hips up to the proper position, etc. Used at the appropriate time and at the right time it can be an effective tool, but just like anything else, too much reliance on it isn’t good either.

gustojack,

What would you consider to be a good source of information for stability ball training? From what I’ve seen many trainers put their clients on a ball to do DB presses for no specific reason other than to do presses on a ball. I guess this goes hand in hand with most trainers’ inability to plan or periodize programs. If I was considering putting my client on a ball (for anything other than ab training) I’d like to be sure that it was necessary.

As an aside, I wouldn’t call a deadlift an advanced exercise. It is one of the foundations of lifting which, by definition, makes it a beginner exercise.


Boss14,

I’ve heard about sling systems before. Can you define these and/or provide reading resources?

Everything in the gym has it’s place. Not every client will use every toy in the gym, but nothing is useless.

As has been stated, I love using the stabilty to work the abs and other core musculature.

Outside of that, the time i most frequently use Stability balls is when a weak client can’t perform a squat. as a regression to a body weight squat, I frequently have my clients squat with their back against a SB which is resting against a wall. This helps with their balance, while they build up strength in the hips and legs. Of course, over time, I will do whatever it takes to ween them off the ball, but in my experience, this is a great starting point for people who think the unloaded smith Machine is too heavy to squat with.

This is a hotly debated topic, and I’m very opinionated on it. PM me if you want to break open Pandora’s box with a specific question.

This topic made for a good master’s thesis, but that’s about all I can say without getting into experimenter bias. You should all have some better concrete scientific data to validate or refute your beliefs by the end of the summer, though.