Today, I’m going to talk about popular Stability Ball (Swiss Ball) exercises I highly recommend against using. I hope you are ready to change the way you train! 🙂

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Stability Ball Exercises You SHOULDN’T Be Using!

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Personally, I do not use, nor do I recommend using any free weight (barbells, Dumbbells, etc:) loaded exercises while lying, sitting or standing on a Stability Ball. I recommend against performing any and ALL free weight loaded  exercises on a Swiss Ball for 3 reasons.

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Reason #1 NOT to Lift Weights while on a Stability Ball :

Stable based free weight training has been PROVEN to be the MOST effective way to improve strength & performance. Unstable base training has not!

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First, lifting weights on a swiss ball has NOT been shown to be more effective than stable base training for building strength and improving performance. Heres some science to back me up –

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To summarize this 2004 National Strength and Conditioning Association Research study titled:

The Effectiveness of Resistance Exercises Performed on Unstable Equipment

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“Research summary: The performance of resistance exercises on unstable equipment has increased in popularity, despite the lack of research supporting their effectiveness. Resistance exercise performed on unstable equipment may not be effective in developing the type of balance, proprioception, and core stability required for successful sports performance. Free weight exercises performed while standing on a stable surface have been proven most effective for enhancing sports related skills.”

(C) 2004 National Strength and Conditioning Association

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Reason #2 NOT to Lift Weights while on a Stability Ball :

You will NEVER become as strong as your potential allows lifting weights while on a swiss ball or any other unstable surface.

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In addition to the above scientific research. Keep in mind – the reason why we lift weights is to increase strength and muscle. Unstable base training can be considered “Stabilization Limited Strength Training” or SLST because the instability limits your ability to generate the high levels of force needed for optimal muscular development. Here’s more science to back me up –

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To summarize this 2004 National Strength and Conditioning Association study titled –

Maintenance of Emg Activity and Loss of Force Output With Instability

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“Swiss Balls used as a platform for training provide an unstable environment for force production. The objective of this study was to measure differences in force output and electromyographic (EMG) activity of the pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, triceps, latissimus dorsi, and rectus abdominus for isometric and dynamic contractions under stable and unstable conditions. Ten healthy male subjects performed a chest press while supported on a bench or a ball. Unstable isometric maximum force output was 59.6% less than under stable conditions. However, there were no significant differences in overall EMG activity between the stable and unstable protocols. Greater EMG activity was detected with concentric vs. eccentric or isometric contractions.  The diminished force output suggests that the overload stresses required for strength training necessitate the inclusion of resistance training on stable surfaces.”

(C) 2004 National Strength and Conditioning Association

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Now, think about the above research abstract you just read. If you want to get stronger, you must lift heavy loads. Duh! But, using the swiss ball, you cannot use loads heavy enough  to increase strength. So, what’s the point?

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Reason #3 NOT to Lift Weights while on a Stability Ball :

Holding free weights while on a Stability ball is downright dangerous!

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So far you’ve learned two scientifically based reasons why NOT to perform any externally loaded exercises on a swiss ball. If that’s not enough to convince you to rethink your usage of the Swiss Ball?  I’ve got one more VERY BIG reason for you!

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Lifting weights on a Swiss Ball is down right dangerous because the ball can pop and cause you or your client major injury! The Sacramento Kings (NBA Basketball team) found this out the hard way.

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Starting forward Francisco Garcia, who’s contract is worth $29.6 million over 5 years, will miss at least four months of the season after an exercise ball accident broke his right wrist. Garcia, who weighs 195 pounds, was laying on his back on an exercise ball, lifting 90 pound weights in each hand, when the ball burst.

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Take a lesson from the Sacramento Kings and stop performing ALL weighted exercise on swiss balls as stated in this article titled-

Sacramento Kings warn other NBA teams after exercise ball accident

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“The exercise balls have been removed from the Sacramento Kings’ weight room and stored in a dark storage space, with no word yet whether a sacrificial burning of the rubber menaces is yet to come.

Kings co-owner Joe Maloof ordered an e-mail sent to the NBA’s other 29 teams, hoping to spread the word about unforeseen dangers that can arise when performing even basic workouts with an inflatable exercise ball commonly found in many gyms and homes.”

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Why Would Anyone Still Be Lifting Weights on a Stability Ball?

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Well, there you have it! I’ve given you 3 solid scientific and common sense reasons why NOT to combine free weight lifting exercises with the Swiss Ball. How could anyone still being lifting weights while on a ball after now knowing its no more and actually LESS beneficial than using a stable base?

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Please understand I wrote this post not to bash anyone but rather because I’m looking out for my fellow Fitness Professionals best interest! As Fitness Professionals, we all must put aside our personal likes and training biases and place our clients safety above all!

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Even if you don’t agree with the science discussed above? Use your common sense and realize the risks involved every time you put yourself or your client on a Swiss ball while holding free weights far outweight any supposed benefits. A bench will never explode, but a swiss ball may burst at anytime! As Murphy’s Law states – “what can go wrong, will go wrong”.

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Think about it – If a case ever went to court because one of your clients was injured after falling off a Stability Ball during a workout session with you – You are responsible! Plus, a lawyer would tear you up on the stand because you would be unable to provide any scientific justification for why you put your client at risk and didn’t just use a safer and more stable bench. Keep in mind we live in a sue happy country!

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So, I will conclude  with a question I’d like you to answer on the comment forum, now having read today’s post –

In regards to lifting free weights while on a Stability Ball- Is the risk worth the reward?

You know my answer, I want to hear yours?

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