In recent years in Spain it has become fashionable to use "exercise balls" in Pilates classes as well as in other activities but ... What are they really useful for? Are they only used in Pilates and gyms? Are they really benefitial?
It could be described as a large ball, varying in size depending on the practitioner. It is a training element made of PVC vinyl, which provides elasticity and adaptability in order to perform its function properly.
This great ball brings unstability to our movements, which makes us try to seek balance and thus makes our postural muscles work, such as the abdominals, back extensors and gluteus muscles, trying to find a suitable and neutral position. If we take into account that one of the main causes of sick leave in Spain is backache, caused by the imbalance between strength and flexibility of the postural muscles, we will understand the importance of this item, which is going to help us compensate all this and will make the pain gradually disappear, creating a self-awareness of proper posture in order to use it in our daily lives.
When working with unstable materials, either a Fit-Ball, a Bosu Ball or any other, we are working on PROPRIOCEPTION, defined as the perception which we have of ourselves in space, that is to say, a system by which the person is aware of their posture and the movements performed by all their body segments. This proprioception is not always correct and these tools are going to make that change by training the deepest muscles, while we are barely conscious of the process.
With all this we can say that training with the "giant ball" is used for the prevention of back ache and to correct some postural imbalances. Supposing this was its only use, the following would be the only benefits:
- Strengthening postural or supportive muscles.
- Functional training through stretching, resilience and mobility.
- Improved balance and coordination.
- Self-control of the body.
- Increased body relaxation.
- Increased physical welfare.
- Raising awareness for the prevention of bad posture acquisition.
However, answering the questions we were trying to answer, we must say that the fit-ball is NOT only used in Pilates or other activities, it is also an essential element in sports high performance (improving sportspeople’s proprioception in order to prevent injury) and in rehabilitation clinics to heal injuries anywhere in the body, arms, legs, back ... because as well as postural muscles, we will work with the deeper muscles and coordination of the injured segment will increase, thus avoiding a repetition of the same injury and achieving a rapid return to normal, whereupon many more benefits will occur.