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Are you stable?

March 13, 2010

Funny how all it takes is one little nudge to get you going.

Today, all it took was a post by respected Coach Nick Tumminello on the use of stability balls (aka Swiss balls, physio balls or fitness balls) versus stable equipment (eg, flat, incline or straight-back benches). 

With my bodybuilding background, I admit–I am definitely prejuidiced. Give me a bench any time!

Not that I haven’t tried a Swiss ball. I try to be open-minded. But it didn’t take more than a set or two to realize you can’t go as heavy sitting atop a Swiss ball as you can on a bench.  

And when your goals are to build muscle and get stronger, it seems obvious that you’ll do that more easily on a bench. When your mind can be focused on moving the weight properly through space to get a nice contraction in the muscle.

So for classic weight-training exercises like chest presses, shoulder presses, biceps curls and French presses (or overhead extensions), nothing beats a bench. Why? Stability! The very thing that’s lacking in a “stability ball!”

So, what is the point of those stability balls?

The idea behind using the Swiss ball is, in large part,  that it provides an unstable base, therefore calling into use your “core muscles.”

Some trainers will even go so far as to tout Swiss ball exercises as a superior way to burn greater calories. How many more, I’d like to know? Fifteen more in a workout? Even 115 more don’t justify its use in my eyes.

Far better to put on more muscle, which burns calories around the clock. Far better to focus on getting stronger! 

Your goals after age 50

When you’re over 50, you are hormonally challenged. That’s, in part, why you don’t have the body of someone two or three decades younger than you.

Fact is, you just don’t have the optimal hormonal environment to build muscle. Your hormones have been dwindling steadily for at least 20 years. That goes for men AND women.

But for women, who lack the “testosterone advantage,” you are even more hormonally challenged than men.

So you need to give it everything you’ve got. Which means, use a stable bench so you can lift heavier, using good form!

That’s what’s going to help you put on muscle. Not wobbling all over the place while trying to raise the dumbbell over your head.

Holding your core “tight”–abs pulled into the spine–is fundamental to good exercise form.

You should be activating your abdominals during all strength-training exercises. If you don’t, you don’t get the most out of each exercise. Worse than that, you risk injury!

Does it take a ball to stabilize yourself? NO. It simply takes being mindful of what you’re doing in the gym. Of how you position yourself to perform each and every exercise.

Flickr photo by DF Millington

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2010 12:05 am

    Great post Kathleen!
    Thanks for the shout out!

    Coach N

    • kafe55 permalink
      March 15, 2010 7:38 pm

      Thanks, Coach Nick! I’ve learned so much from you. Thanks for sharing!

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