Most people looking to lose weight or stay fit totally ignore the fitness balls. But Moses Okoit, a personal trainer at Smart Gyms in Nairobi says if you develop a fondness for balls, you are likely to shape and tone all your body muscles.
There are different types of fitness balls that target various muscles and help burn fat.
“Slam balls target the shoulders, triceps, calves, back and the abdominals. Wall balls, on the other hand, target the shoulders, upper back, biceps, chest, core, quads, hamstrings, and glutes while medicine balls work out the core and upper body muscles,” Moses explains.
The yoga and half-yoga balls are usually designed for stability, improving the core and body balance.
For beginners at the gym, fitness balls are the perfect to start with. Moses calls them the “roots” of any workout as they are a good primer before weightlifting.
“The slam and medicinal balls are light weight. Thus are a good way to learn the correct form and body posture. This enables newbies to avoid injury once they graduate to using weights,” he says.
Before using the balls, there are several things to consider. First, the body position.
“As with every gym equipment, posture and form are paramount. The spine is sensitive. If you use the balls while in an incorrect body position, you will get hurt,” Moses explains. The second is what muscle you want to target.
“This will help you decide which type of ball to use.”
Thirdly, the weight of the ball and your body strength. “If you’re new to them, don’t start challenging yourself on the first day. Build your stamina and strength day by day.”
He adds that it is advisable to work with a trainer to teach you the basics of body posture, form and movements before you go off on your own.
The benefits of the fitness balls are numerous. These balls are an excellent tool to improve cardio, back and spine health, strengthen the core muscle, and better your body balance and posture, he says.
“Take the slam ball, for example. Just like the name, you slam it on the floor, pick it up and repeat. This is a very basic move but it engages your core muscles and works out your back and shoulder muscles. Additionally, the movements increase your heartbeat increasing calorie burn. Imagine all this just by throwing a ball down repeatedly. Adding different variations to the slam ball like squats and burpees tones your legs and abs,” he says.
“For pregnant women, yoga balls exercises strengthen the pelvic muscles by easing stiffness.”
Gym balls can be used by anyone, whether you’re a newbie or an experienced exerciser.
For older people, use of the balls is the best way to exercise, Moses advises. This is because they are light weight, easy to hold and give good body posture.
“Because old people's muscles are not as strong as in their ‘hey days’, balls can be used to build muscle strength progressively,” he says. For overweight people, the use of fitness balls is preferred over the use of weights.
“Ball exercises burn calories, flatten and tone the core and other body muscles simultaneously. This burns fat, stimulates blood flow lowering blood pressure and improves flexibility and reflex action as it stretches muscle and joints,” he says.
For those with back problems, gym or home ball exercises strengthen and relax the spine and back muscles reducing their rigidity and improving your back posture.
As with much in life, results will be seen after two months of commitment and consistency.
“Enjoying the challenge will shorten the days,” Moses says.