Fitball Exercises for Runners Part 1

By Dr. Donald A. Ozello DC

Las Vegas Informer

Incorporate fitball exercises into your fitness program to improve your running. Use the fitball for strengthening, stretching, balance and proprioception training. The fitball is a simple but highly effective exercise tool all runners should utilize.

This article is the first installment of a series of articles describing how runners can utilize the fitball to improve their health, fitness and running performance. The first article discusses the fundamentals of fitball training. The second piece covers fitball stretching and the third segment covers fitball strengthening exercises.

Names: The fitball is known by many different monikers. These include exercise ball, Swiss ball, physio ball, ab ball, abdominal ball, balance ball, gym ball, therapy ball, rehab ball, yoga ball, Pilates ball, fitness ball and stability ball. I prefer to call it either the exercise ball or the fitball. To eliminate confusion I will use the name fitball throughout this article and the other articles in this series.

Sizes: Fitballs come in a multitude of sizes. Using the correct size ball is imperative for several reasons. First and foremost: safety. Using a fitball that fits your body size lowers the risk of injury from loss of balance and falling. Secondly using the correct size fitball ensures that the user gets maximum benefit.

General recommendations for proper fitball sizing are:

Runners less than 5’0” should use a 45 cm fitball

Athletes between 5’0” and 5’5” should use a 55 cm fitball.

Trainees between 5’6’ and 6’1” should use a 65 cm fitball.

Individuals between 6’2” and 6’8” should use a 75 cm fitball.

Persons above the height of 6’8” should use an 85 cm fitball.

Runners with a pre-existing spinal condition and those with very long legs may require a slightly bigger ball for their height.

Anti-Burst Ball: As an extra safety precaution I recommend you use an anti-burst ball. These re-enforced balls are designed to deflate slowly if punctured. Anti-burst fitballs are developed not to rupture, they are supposed to hiss loudly when punctured to allow the user time to react. This lowers the possibility that the user will crash to the floor and/or drop the weights on themselves or a training partner.

Effectiveness: The unstable surface and spherical shape of the fitball are the keys to its effectiveness. In addition to performing the exercise the body has to work hard just to balance itself. This added bonus trains the deep muscles of the spine, the abdominal muscles, the gluteal muscles, the hips and the muscles of the pelvis. Collectively these muscles are known as the core. The uneven surface and spherical shape of the fitball forces contraction of the core muscles to stabilize the body while performing the exercise.

Strength Training: The fitball’s uneven surface adds a dimension to strength training not found elsewhere. Basic resistance exercises, such as dumbbell presses, become more difficult.  Strong muscles are important to running success.

Stretching: The fitball is a highly efficient tool for stretching, especially the spine, pelvis, chest, ribcage and obliques. Basic stretching principles apply to fitball stretching. Position the part of your body you want to stretch over the highest part of the ball and hold a slight stretch for twenty to sixty seconds. For example lower back stretches are executed by lying prone on the fitball with your abdomen over the highest point of the ball. Increased flexibility and decreased muscle tension help muscles and joints move easier.

Balance & Proprioception: The greatest benefit of fitball training is increased proprioception. The body’s awareness of where it’s at in nature is named proprioception. The unstable surface of the fitball increases the nerve signals sent between the brain and the proprioceptive receptors in the working joints, muscles and tendons. Improved proprioception decreases the possibility of injury because the body responses faster to positional changes.

Conclusion: The fitball is an outstanding fitness tool. Runners, do yourself a big favor and utilize a fitball in your cross training efforts. The increased strength, flexibility, proprioception and balance you gain from fitball training works wonders to improve your running.      

Dr_Donald_A_Ozello_thumb_medium150_Dr. Donald A. Ozello DC

Dr. Donald A. Ozello DC is the owner and treating doctor at Championship Chiropractic. 8871 W. Flamingo Rd, Suite #202, Las Vegas, NV 89147.  His web address iswww.ChampionshipChiropractic.com. He can be contacted at (702) 286-9040 and DrO@ChampionshipChiropractic.com.

Dr. Donald A. Ozello’s mission is to educate and inspire others to live healthier, fitter, more functional lives.

Dr. Donald A. Ozello DC is the author of the book “Running: Maximize Performance & Minimize Injuries: A Chiropractor’s Guide to Minimizing the Potential for Running Injuries.” He writes a weekly health, fitness and nutrition column for The Las Vegas Informer. He is published in OnFitness MagazineLiveStrong.ComSpineUniverse.com and EHow.com. He has educational health, fitness and nutritional videos on Informer TV, Livestrong.com and YouTube.

Dr. Donald A. Ozello DC proudly handles Standard Process Supplements and Foot Levelers Orthotics.

Dr. Donald A. Ozello DC is an award-winning public speaker. He has spoken to numerous groups on the importance of health, fitness, exercise, ergonomics, nutrition and injury prevention.

Dr. Donald A. Ozello DC is a fitness enthusiast. Functional kettlebell training, running and bike riding are his favorite types of exercise.

Before pursuing his career in Chiropractic, Dr. Donald A. Ozello DC served in the United States Navy aboard the USS Bremerton, SSN 698.

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