Exercise balls can be a fun and challenging way to add variation to your workout. The great thing about exercise balls is that they can easily be incorporated into any fitness routine.
One example of this is stretching, an often-overlooked part of a routine. Lucy Knight, author of “The Exercise Ball Bible,” explains the importance of stretching and the three main types of stretches you can perform.
I find stretching the most deliciously satisfying way to release tension from my body. Add a ball into the mix and you have something firm and yet comfortable to drape yourself over in any direction, giving you more ways to stretch than ever. You can use the rolling motion of the ball to gracefully roll in and out of each position as well as easily control the intensity of your stretch.
It constantly surprises me that so many people seem to neglect this important and enjoyable component of their sport or fitness training. Not only should it be used to increase your flexibility and maintain mobility in later life, it should also form part of your warm-up routine to minimize risk of injury as well as your cooldown routine at the end of each workout to reduce post-exercise muscle soreness.
There are three main types of stretches; you will need to choose the right type of stretch, depending on whether you are warming up, cooling down, or trying to increase your flexibility.
A static stretch is mostly used to maintain flexibility and is where you move into a stretch and hold for a predetermined amount of time—usually around 10–20 seconds. If you breathe deeply and relax into the stretch, you will find that after about 15 seconds your muscles relax as the body’s natural inhibitor switches off.
This is the same as a static stretch, except the intention is to increase flexibility. Each stretch is therefore held for longer—usually 30–60 seconds—allowing the muscles time to relax and then extend.
This type of stretching is usually seen as part of a warm-up routine. The purpose is not to increase flexibility but to prepare the muscles for the work to come as well as to mobilize the joints. Examples of this type of stretching include arm circles, leg swings, or lunges. Dynamic stretches are performed in a steady, rhythmical motion so that the heart rate stays elevated and your muscles stay warm.
The Exercise Ball Bible is the most up-to-date, authoritative and comprehensive guide to maximizing the use of this ever-popular exercise equipment. Whether your goal is to stay trim and toned or you need to correct your posture, professional dancer and fitness trainer Lucy Knight offers over 200 exercises to help you lose weight and improve your strength and flexibility. With more than 300 full-color photographs, this book demonstrates the many different ways you can make use of your ball and offers a workout option for every stage of life. Chapters include exercises for getting toned, tight, and strong; fun cardio routines for burning fat; ball-assisted pilates and yoga; ball stretches for a healthy back and posture; and ball exercises for easier pregnancy and birthing.
Lucy Knight is a fitness consultant and a professional dancer and trainer in the U.K. She has more than a decade of experience in the fitness industry, regularly contributes to fitness periodicals, and has produced 13 fitness programs on video and DVD.