The stability ball: a big, rubbery, bouncy bit of fitness equipment that seems to find a way to take up space in every gym these days. When I would see these balls in gyms, I typically thought of old ladies taking a balance class, using the ball as a seat more than anything. I wondered why the stability ball was so popular, since many gyms don't offer senior programming, but still had a bunch of balls. Then, I finally got one of my own. Now I get it: the stability ball is all about adding a dimension of INstability that can supercharge your workout.
Disclaimer: I received this product at no cost in exchange for my review. All opinions expressed herein are my own.
My Peak Win Athletics stability ball came deflated, but included a plastic pump and hose combo for quick inflation. It took me about six minutes to blow up the ball to about 64 inches around, which was full round but not full-to-bursting. Oddly, the instruction booklet included with the ball indicates that "full" is at 81 inches in circumference, but I can't imagine that this ball could get that much bigger even if I inflated it until the plastic stretched! As far as stability balls go, this one is on the smaller end of the spectrum right now, so I might eventually try to pump another inch or two into it, but for now I'm able to use it with no problems - and no fear of it bursting mid-exercise!
Once inflated, of course I had to play with my new toy! As I mentioned before, the stability ball is actually a great way to add instability to standard exercises, raising the challenge level and activating additional muscles by increasing the dynamic nature of a move. For example, the first thing I did on the ball was a plank: with my elbows propped on the ball, I had to use so much more of my core to hold myself stable while fighting the wobble under me! I also tried push ups, resting my feet on the ball instead of on the floor. Again, the instability under my anchor point seriously increased the amount of effort it took to complete the push ups. Additionally, using a stability ball can increase your range of motion on other exercises like sit ups, which also increases difficultly level and, of course, gains!
I also learned a couple of stability ball exercises that I'd never done before, but are incredible! Pikes are perhaps one of the most challenging moves I've ever done, and hamstring curls on the ball are simple but effective. Some people also take stability balls in to work as a substitute for their normal office chair, claiming sitting on the ball keeps their core active all day; however, mine is a little too small to try that at my big desk.
Overall, I'm very happy with the addition of a stability ball to my home gym. I'm a little disappointed that the ball doesn't actually inflate to the full large size (though I'll slowly put a little more air in every few days to gently stretch it, maybe we'll get there), but even the small ball has so much to offer in terms of tweaking an existing workout to maximize challenge and gains. The ball also gets big points for versatility, as that's always a key factor in whether I can afford the storage space for a new piece of equipment!