A Swiss ball is a type of exercise equipment in the form of large, inflatable balls, generally with a diameter of about 17.75 inches to about 29.5 inches (45 cm to 75 cm). These balls are also known by a number of other names, but the other types may differ from the “original” Swiss ball. These include exercise ball, Pilates ball, therapy ball, sports ball, fitness ball, and stability ball. Whichever exact type is used, there are Swiss ball exercises in which they can be employed in a variety of ways.
There are several overall ways in which the Swiss ball can be used for exercise. One way, which has proponents and detractors, is to substitute the ball for a desk chair. While some say that this will lead to constant adjustments that promote stability and provide benefits over sitting in a regular office chair, others question the ergonomic value of such a choice.
More often, a person uses the ball as part of a program of Swiss ball exercises in which he or she interacts with the ball in a variety of ways. For example, it can be used for upper body, lower body, and trunk exercises. More specifically, it can be used to target the pecs, shoulders, and triceps; lower, middle, or upper back; quadriceps, hamstrings, and buttocks; abs; or core in a variety of combinations. There are Swiss ball exercises suited for beginners as well as for more advanced users.
Another way to characterize the types of exercises that can be done with Swiss balls is by how the balls are used in the exercise. In some cases, the ball may be used as a seat or a bench. For example, in some Swiss ball exercises, the user may recline on the ball and do leg extensions, leg raises, back arches, or forward leans. Other exercises may call for the user to press against the ball, either with the ball against the wall or the floor. One may perform planks, balancing ones arms or feet on the ball, or hold the ball between one’s feet or thighs or hands while performing certain movements.
Swiss balls may also be used in combination with other types of exercise equipment. For example, there are exercises that combine a Swiss ball with a power weight ball or a toning bar. Exercises using a stability ball and dumbbells or other weights are also popular.