The swiss ball (also known as a gym ball, exercise ball or fit ball) is a great piece of equipment for all types of exercise. Because it provides an unstable surface, it is particularly useful for core strengthening and adds extra difficulty to many exercises. In some cases, a Swiss ball can make an exercise easier too, for example a Swiss ball squat exercise helps maintain form for those new to squatting.
Swiss ball exercises can be done on balls of different sizes. It is important to get a ball which is the right size for your height. They tend to come in 45 / 55 / 65 and 75cm diametre sizes. People under 5ft should use the 45cm ball, those 5ft - 5ft 6" should use a 55cm ball, those between 5ft6" and 6ft use a 65cm ball and those over 6ft use a 75cm ball. Using the right size helps to ensure you are in the correct position when performing exercises and you do not put undue stress on your back especially.
The back extension exercise works the muscles on either side of the spine. Performing the exercise on a swiss ball also works the core muscles as they need to stabilise the body.
The swiss ball crunch is a very popular exercise which works the abdominal muscles. Performing the exercise on an unstable surface such as the swiss ball helps to improve core stability too.
The swiss ball hamstring curl is an alternative to resistance machine and rehab band versions of this exercise. Performing this with both legs can be progressed to using a single leg.
The inner thigh exercise works the groin muscles. It is a low intensity exercise which can be used in the early stages of a rehab programme for groin strain, provided it is pain-free.
The jackknife is a swiss ball exercise which works the abdominal muscles. It is quite a difficult, advanced exercise, so make sure you build up your abdominal and core strength before attempting this one!
A swiss ball lunge exercise can be used to help those who do not have the strength or balance to perform an unsupported lunge. It will help to strengthen the thigh and buttock muscles.
The ball plank is a version of the plank exercise which works the core and abdominal muscles. Performing it on a ball rather than on the floor adds an extra dimension of difficulty.
Swiss ball push-ups work the chest and upper arm muscles. They can be made more difficult by moving the ball further down the shins to increase the weight on the upper body.
A reverse ball bridge exercise strengthens the hamstring and glute muscles which extend the hip.
The reverse ball plank is a slightly easier version of a plank on the swiss ball. The more of your legs which are supported on the ball, the easier it is.
The reverse ball push-up is a moderate difficulty exercise, harder than the wall push-up but easier than the full swiss ball push-up exercise.
The swiss ball roll away exercise works the abdominal muscles. It is a lot harder than it looks if done correctly so start off with just a few reps!
The swiss ball rotation is an abdominal exercise which focuses on the oblique muscles.
The side crunch exercise works the oblique abdominal muscles, which help twist and side-bend the trunk
A single leg swiss ball squat is a progression of the double leg squat. It is used freqently in knee rehabilitation programmes.
Tricep dips work the triceps muscle on the back of the upper arm. Doing the exercise on a swiss ball rather than a bench makes it more difficult.
Performing push-ups against a wall is an excellent activity for those who find traditional push-ups too challenging, as well as those in the early stages of shoulder rehabilitation.
The swiss ball woodchop is an abdominal exercise which focuses on the oblique muscles, which are used in twisting and side bending.