Exercises on balls or wobble boards. Do these things work any better than normal training?

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A. The use of balls and wobble boards has become very popular in the last few years. Training in an “unstable environment” is supposed to improve your balance and strengthen the “core” muscles.

There are some exercises which are made more effective when you do them on a ball. Studies show that abdominal crunches on a swiss ball, for example, work your abs harder than the same movement done on the floor.

But there are some exercises which are not suitable for doing on a ball. We’ve seen people doing movements like the dumbbell chest press and shoulder press on a ball. The problem is that you’ll need to use a far lighter weight than normal, as you have to work so hard to keep your balance.

Remember that your muscles grow bigger and stronger when you force them to do more work, either by lifting a heavier weight, or by doing more repetitions with the same weight.

The end result of doing these exercises on a ball is that your muscles miss out on the growth stimulation they need. Remember that you only have a limited amount of time and energy to spend in the gym. Don’t waste half of it trying to do squats on a wobble board.

Vera-Garcier, F.J., Grenier, S.G., & McGill, S.M. (2000). Abdominal muscle response during curl-ups on both stable and labile surfaces. Physical Therapy, 80, 564-569

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Tim Scott   |.
I recentlty done a four week core training corse with a P.T at my gym. I agree
that some exercises can be beneficial, such as fly's using the ball and cables.
However i do feel that many of the exercises were painfull and would never
achieve the growth results that i achieved through training using more
convensial methods.
I do believe that mixing different techniques can help for
a healther and stronger body, but i don't think that balancing on a ball with a
heavy weight over your head the greatest idea ever. My advise if you want better
balance, core strenght, and stamina try a martial art, there alot more fun an a
lot more practicle.
Dan smith   |.
Just to add my opinion to the pile, yes i agree on most things said here but
depending on what your goals are depends on if swiss balls, wobble boards etc
will really benefit you, if like many you would like to get the "beach"
body then its important to build muscle, well as we may or may not know muscles
are built by breaking down down muscle fibers that are torn by exercise, these
rebuild and grow stronger bigger muscles,,, well ,,, next time your in the gym
do some heavy cable chest presses using a swiss ball in the supine position
keeping you abs tense the go strait into press ups with your feet on the ball
then rest, this will promote MORE muscle break down thus more muscle mass
(eventually) also try doing a one arm cable bicep curl with a ball tucked tight
into your armpit! Done right as with allot of 'unstable surface' exercises can
prove a very effective addition to your routine even if your a hard gainer, ask
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