Thera-Band® exercise balls are used by therapists and trainers around the world for therapy and fitness training. Despite its widespread use, the exercise ball has lacked in research to support its clinical application. Some studies have shown that abdominal exercises performed on exercise balls produce more muscle activation than the same exercise performed on a stable surface (Vera Garcia et al. 2000). In addition to traditional abdominal crunches, the exercise ball offers a variety of exercises aimed at activating the core muscles. With the variety of exercises being performed on exercise balls, more research is needed to prove or disprove the efficacy of specific exercises.
Physical therapy researchers quantified the electromyographic (EMG) activity of the abdominals, latissimus dorsi, lower back, and quadriceps muscles during eight “core” exercises on the exercise ball in 18 healthy subjects. They reported their findings in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy.
They found that the upper and lower rectus abdominus muscle were most activated during the roll-out (63% and 53% of maximum, respectively), and pike exercises (47% and 55%), while the internal and external obliques were most active during the pike (84% and 56% respectively) and skier exercises (73% and 47%). Not surprisingly, the lumbar paravertebral muscles, latissimus dorsi, and rectus femoris only produced low- to-moderate activity (less than 40% maximal activation) in all exercises.
The authors concluded that the roll-out and pike exercises on a Thera-Band exercise ball were the most effective exercises in activating the abdominals while minimizing low back and rectus femoris activation. In addition, these exercises produced more activation of the core muscles than a traditional crunch or sit-up.
REFERENCE: Escamilla R et al. Core muscle activation during swiss ball and traditional abdominal exercises. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2010 May;40(5):265-76.
Many patients come to see me feeling pain but without having a specific trauma or injury that they recall. This type of pain can be attributed to one thing: a lack of basic core muscle strength. Many people begrudge any time spent working out or they just don’t know what to do even if they did make the time. Yet about 10 minutes spent performing movement therapy or corrective exercise 5-6 times per week can be enough to help you prevent an injury and avoid low back pain.
So in healing injuries – I suggest all of my clients integrate into their daily routine a minimum of 10 minutes of foam rolling tight muscles (self myofascial release), stretching, and some floor exercises – these are the kind of exercises that you can do without equipment at home, on your own.
The key is being consistent and exercising daily – and progressively making the exercises harder. In my article on core training I give you full details how to get started.
The core is the center of the body, where all movement begins. When you lift a heavy grocery bag, reach for a suitcase, pick up one of your children, move a bookcase or throw a ball, the core muscles should activate even before your limbs are in motion. Healthy core muscles will provide your body with the structural integrity and support to your spine for everything from walking and running to lifting to standing to sitting.
During most activities, do you feel that the way you are using your body is efficient and coordinated or inefficient and uncoordinated? The core should work in an efficient and coordinated fashion to maintain correct alignment of the spine and pelvis while the limbs are moving. As you move your arms and legs, the core muscles create a solid base of support to hold the spine still. If you feel uncoordinated and have a weak core, you are susceptible to lower back pain, poor posture and a whole host of muscle injuries. Strong core muscles act as a “brace” or support to help prevent pain and injury. Strong core muscles increase the recruitment efficiency of the smaller, deeper “stabilizing” muscles around the abdominals, low back, hips and pelvis. They protect your back from potential injury. Strengthening weak core muscles can reduce existing back pain problems. Core training will help runners avoid hamstring and knee injuries; gymnasts, soccer, football and rugby players avoid groin injuries; dancers, golfers and weight-lifters avoid back injuries; and help you become stronger, fitter and healthier.
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