Get on the Ball! Fight Lower Back Pain, Part I

Regardless of your athletic ability, fitness level or
physical limitation, the swiss ball or resist-a-ball, is a tool that can help
you build strength, stability, flexibility and coordination.  At first glance, these colorful balls
may remind you of your 4th grade gym class, but performing even a
simple crunch on them can make you feel like your skills have been demoted to
the kindergarten play lot.


The ball has been an accepted and respected fitness tool
within health clubs and gyms for about 8 years, however, they have been used
since 1965 as a valuable physical therapy tool.  Within the rehabilitative environment, the ball has
successfully served as a tool to develop balance, maintain reflex response,
trunk strength (abs and lower back) and increase stability.  It is because of its proven success
within physical therapy facilities, fitness clubs and numerous professional
athletic centers (i.e. NFL, NHL, NBA, etc…), that it only seems natural that
martial athletics’ should benefit from ball training. 

Getting Started

Even the most skilled individual should warm up with
beginner exercises.  Before even
starting any of the following exercises, sit on the ball with good posture and
remain your stability while moving your arms and lifting one leg at a time.  Then roll onto your back and form a
bridge with your body and the ball. 
Tighten your gluts, inner thighs and abs.  Try a few sets of crunches and if you do not fall – then you
are good to go!


Basic Crunch

Beginner Ball Users

If it is the first time your have ever used a ball, you
will quickly notice that it does not take much to fall off.  Be patient as you begin these exercises
and move slowly so that you are in control of your body at all times.


Grounded Ball Bridge: This core strength exercise will help to strengthen the
lower back.  Although all the ball
exercises assist with improving stability, you will find that this particular
exercise will help to prevent injuries to the lower back when you are stuck in
the deepest of stances and trapped under someone with the strongest base. 


Make sure that when you lift your body off the ground into
the bridge that your gluts and inner thighs are tight.  If you are having trouble at first,
only roll the ball out as far as your knees and bridge from there.  The less of your leg that is on the
ball, the more challenging the exercise becomes.

Hamstring Curl: This strength exercise for the hamstrings will also
challenge your torso stability strength. 
Considering that most kicks require a re-coil, this hamstring curl will
replace many of the gym equipment that is hard to afford.  When you add a few sets of these ball
curls to your workout, you will find that roundhouses, front, hook and ax kicks
will become stronger.  Since the
hamstrings are so over-used in the kicking based martial arts, it is important
to include some basic strengthening that will ensure their health.



When balancing your body in the bridge position, you will
slowly pull your heels towards your rear end while bending our knees.  Your foot rolls on the ball and stays
in contact with the ball throughout the exercise.  The key to accomplishing this is keeping the hips lifted and
the gluts tight.  Control the
release of the ball or the negative and when you legs are back in the bridge,
make sure that you do not lock your knees.  When you have mastered this movement, try doing a single leg
curl Just lift one leg off the ball and curl.  Make sure you do not allow your hips to drop or tilt.

Lumbar Extensions


Have you ever complained of an achy back, then it is time
for you to do lumbar extensions. 
Like all sports, the martial arts requires the back to be strong in
awkward positions.  If you have
been trapped on your back while grappling or do a kip-up ground the ground in
your form, the back is subjected to constant ballistic movement.  The only way to prevent injuries from
occurring from this sport that we all love, is to incorporate exercises that
sport-specifically train the body. 
The lumbar extension can be performed on the many different benches
available, but the ball offers a more realistic training effect and


Lay your stomach first on the ball.  Straighten out your body and spread
your legs hip-width to anchor them into the ground.  With the arms extended or crossed over your chest, bend your
upper body over and lift it up slowly. 
This exercise can be intensified with the addition of weight, but it is
best to begin with your hands crossed over your chest.


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