You may have read heaps of articles praising the benefits of stability balls and may have even been using them in your workouts. However, did you know that there are beginner mistakes to avoid when using exercise balls that can easily wreck your physical activities?
Stability balls are large, inflatable balls that can be used in different workouts. Use them to take your Pilates exercises for beginners to the next level, to rock your abs workouts, during your yoga sessions, or as a desk chair.
According to the American Council on Exercise, these balls help strengthen and tone the body, especially the core muscles of the pelvis, abdomen, and back.
Back and Spine Health
If you have back problems, the ball is a helpful tool to help you fix back strain and injuries. It supports your lower back as you exercise, sit, and stretch. You can lay your body on it and feel relieved — as if you wear on a cloud rising in the air!
You have heard about those “core muscles,” but what are they exactly?
Your core is your deep abdominal and back muscles. This midsection supports and stabilizes all your movements, protects your spine, and helps you with your everyday activities. If you can bend, lift, thrown, reach, and run, thank your core for that.
With so much time spent sitting nowadays, no wonder we’re always on the lookout for ways to improve our posture. A stability ball can help with that. It is a nice change from the flat surfaces our bodies are accustomed to. When you are on an unstable surface, your muscles retract and back gets back in a straight position to keep their balance.
However, you need to make sure you’re actually getting these results out of your exercise ball. Using a stability ball incorrectly for a long time only to discover that you have been hurting your body more than fixing it is highly anticlimactic. There are many beginner mistakes to avoid when using exercise balls, and it’s better to know them all beforehand.Read Exercise Ball Reviews
To make sure you are effectively using your stability balls, here are the mistakes to avoid at all costs.
5.) Choosing the Wrong Ball Size
Before going to the beginner mistakes to avoid when using exercise balls, let’s start with the beginner mistakes when choosing an exercise ball.
To use stability ball safely, you should choose the right size for your body. Stability balls come in different sizes, from those suitable for people shorter than 5′ to those taller than 6’8”. You will also notice that exercise balls are sized in centimeters and may even be color-coded. They generally come in 5 different sizes depending on the body compositions of users.
Here is a mini-chart to refer to:
- Individuals 5′ or shorter: 45-centimeter ball
- Individuals 5’1″ to 5’8″: 55-centimeter ball
- Individuals 5’9″ to 6’2″: 65-centimeter ball
- Individuals 6’3″ to 6’7″: 75-centimeter ball
- Individuals 6’8″ and taller: 85-centimeter ball
As you may guess, it is not enough to choose an exercise ball according to height alone. The measurements given are accurate when body height to weight proportions are average. If an individual is above that average, they should opt for the next larger stability ball in the size chart. This way, the ball will hold the weight and keep their knees at a 90-degree position when sitting.
If an individual doesn’t choose the right size for them, the exercise ball might become ineffective.
Stability balls are highly adjustable and offer resistance. If they are subjected to more than the recommended weight, they will start pushing air out in to minimize the pressure from the inside. On the long run, they will become more stable, thus not offering any balance challenge when you perform your physical activities.
4.) Not Doing the Moves Correctly
An exercise ball is an amazing tool you can incorporate in your workout. Many started adopting this gym gem in the last few years either to upgrade their routine or to remedy health problems.
In both cases, make sure you’re performing the right moves. Otherwise, you could be doing more harm than good to your body.
If you are using an exercise ball during your workout in a gym, follow the instructions of the trainer. Ask for guidance to identify the proper positions to adopt or in case you are feeling discomfort, no matter how slight it is.
Those using their stability balls on their own should follow professional trainers’ video tutorials to get the right information. Try to get in front of a mirror to check if your body moves correctly during the exercises.
Just like when doing Pilates exercises for warm-up, don’t go too hard on yourself. Here are some cases when using an exercise ball might not be advised:
- If you feel any pain in your body when using the exercise ball
- If you have specific unstable spine injuries or spinal disease
- If you are feeling an acute pain in your back
- If you are at risk of falling off the ball
- If you have had any back or bone surgeries in the past
Also, remember to consult your physical therapist if you are a male over 45 years old or a female above 50 years old, are unsure about your physical well-being, or have a medical condition.
3.) Feeling Too Unstable During Workouts
Anyone who has tried an exercise ball for the first time knows how unstable it can be. Pushing your body to adjust and balance itself is one of the goals of exercise ball workouts. However, this feeling of instability shouldn’t linger for too long.
One of the most common beginner mistakes to avoid when using exercise balls is starting too strong. Engaging many muscles at once will make you tired and unable to keep your balance on your ball. Instead, always do your exercises in slow and controlled motions. Start slowly and build confidence until you feel you are in the right position.
Start with shorter exercises until your body is used to this new tool and muscles adjust. You won’t run a marathon from day one. The same goes for all types of other exercises.
Here is how to perform a simple sit up:
- Sit on the ball with your feet flat and legs hip-wide.
- Cross your arms and bring your hands to your shoulders.
- Lean back, walk your feet forward one or two steps until your back rests on the ball. Stabilize yourself until your body should make a straight line, from your knees to the top of your head.
- Do a half sit up: lift your head and shoulders until you can see your knees and return to the reclining position. Try to engage your core and flex the space between your hips and rib cage along the way.
- Repeat 5 times the first time you perform the exercise. Work it up to 15 times as you get used to it.
2.) Not Inflating the Ball Correctly
Balls that aren’t inflated enough won’t support you well enough, and those that are inflated too much can collapse under your weight. This is the reason why you should pay close attention to the inflation level of your ball.
Here is how:
- Inspect the ball for any blemishes, cuts, scratches, holes, or punctures. Return it if you find any: you want your stability ball to be spotless.
- Check the temperature of the room. It needs to be warm enough, over 20 degrees Celsius.
- Find the product description and instructions and look for the maximum diameter label. You can’t inflate your ball past that distance. To make sure you respect it, grab a pencil and tape and mark this size on the wall starting from the ground.
- Lay the ball on a flat surface, look for any sharp object that may cut through or damage the ball.
- Take the plug out of the ball with your hands and put the pump tip into the plug hole. You can
- Use any air pump (an air mattress pump, a vacuum cleaner in reverse, an electronic air pump, or an air compressor). Check if the ball doesn’t go over the maximum size limit you marked on your wall. Stop when it is firm.
- Remove the pump tip from the plug hole and instantly put the plug back into place. The plug shouldn’t rise above the surface of the ball.
- Let the ball sit for 24 hours and test its inflation level. You should be able to push your finger for two inches.
Remember, don’t blow completely inflate the ball. You should still be able to create a little nest for your butt to sit on. In addition to that, you will need a small surface on the ball to perform all your exercises.
1.) Sitting On the Ball for Too Long
Many health specialists condemn long hours of sitting. Many even consider sitting the “new smoking.” Research papers and studies found terrifying links between prolonged hours of sitting, heart diseases, and back pains. In the wake of this news, many started looking for new ways to engage their body in physical activity and alleviate the harmful effects of sitting.
One of these solutions is switching to exercise balls when it comes to sitting. It is an excellent way to engage the core of the body, correct the back’s posture, and have some fun along the way. However, overdoing it might have the reverse effect.
Specialists advise not to ditch the office chairs completely. Instead, opt for a blend of the two: spend 20 to 30 minutes on a desk chair or exercise ball, then switch. Either you use an exercise ball on your desk or in your home to watch TV, here is what you should pay attention to:
- Sit in the center of the ball with your feet firmly planted on the ground about shoulder-width apart. You may find it hard to find the right sitting position at first. If that happens, spread your legs a bit wider.
- As stated before, the size of the ball is important. Choose a ball that allows you to have your knees at a 90-degree angle and in line over the ankles.
- While you shouldn’t be slouching on your chair, you shouldn’t be hunching forward on your ball either. Your pelvis, shoulders, and ears should make a vertical line. Slightly bounce up and down to produce this alignment (and have some fun!).
- Get up from time to time to do some stretches, especially when you feel your back muscles pulling.
While an exercise ball is an excellent way to work on your core body muscles, it should be considered as a complement to fitness exercises and daily stretches. Working out, even for a few minutes per day, is the most important activity to preserve your body’s strength.
If you haven’t already chosen which exercise ball you’ll be using, read our reviews on the best exercise balls to help you decide.