The Swiss Ball has been a tool synonymous with balance, stability and strength training for many years in the Australian fitness industry. An extensive background in rehabilitation especially within physiotherapy circles, the Swiss Ball has gained respect and value as a tool that no fitness trainer should be without. Its popularity has extended to the general population, such that the Swiss Ball is now found in offices and homes as well as every fitness club in the country. The diversity of exercises and uses on the ball has been truly remarkable. Who would have ever thought what could be achieved with a rubber ball full of air!!! Now with the addition of weights, the ball is used as an effective tool for sports conditioning and heightened proprioception training.
Enter the Gymstick
Gymstick was invented in Finland by a team of fitness and health professionals from the Finnish Institute of Sport with the aim of providing a comprehensive strength and conditioning tool for the whole body. Its versatility, effectiveness and ability to meet the exercise needs of everybody has seen it grow to now being used in over 30 countries around the world.
Benefits of using Gymstick with a Swiss Ball
Traditionally, to add resistance to exercises performed on the ball, dumbbells have been the preferred choice. Weighted resistance such as dumbbells is only effective when the muscle action is working against gravity; i.e. lifting the weight upwards from the ground. This has severe limitations when using the ball, as the body is restricted to specific positions. For example, to work pectorals using dumbbells, the body needs be in a supine position. When using the Gymstick, the body can be in any number of positions as the resistance is determined by the line of pull from the bands. For example, pectorals can be trained in a supine, prone, seated or inclined position on the ball. This has several advantages:
depending on ability and stability, a client can perform the exercise in a seated position rather than a supine position
greater range of modifications and progressions are available
core activation is heightened even in a seated position
safer to use a Gymstick, especially in the supine position in the unfortunate event of a Swiss Ball bursting
Using dumbbells restricts the load to be applied only through the upper body. The Gymstick enables resistance to be applied to both the upper and lower body, thus achieving overall strength gains whilst still using the benefits of working on an unstable base of support.
The Swiss ball is well known for being able to activate several muscle groups within the one exercise. One of the key advantages of using the Gymstick with the Swiss Ball, is that both global and local muscle groups are working against resistance, rather than just being used to stabilise the body. In fact, one of the key stabilising challenges with working with the Gymstick on the Swiss Ball is that often the line of pull of the bands will drag the body in one direction, against which, the client will be forced to activate opposing muscle groups to remain balanced.
The level of stability will also be determined by how the trainer is manipulating the resistance while the exercise is being performed. In this way, the trainer plays an active role in the degree of intensity of the workout. The advantage of this interaction is that the trainer is able to see how the exercise is being performed, and also feel how effectively the client is working.
Choosing Appropriate Gymstick Resistance
The Gymstick is available in 5 different resistance levels so it can be used for any age or fitness level. The resistance levels are colour coded for convenience:
= Light 1 – 10 kg
= Medium 1 – 15 kg
= Strong 1 – 20 kg
= Extra Strong 1 – 25 kg
= Super Strong 1 – 30 kg
Gymsticks are available in two models – the original Gymstick and the telescopic Gymstick. The original is the best option for fitness centres/studios or at home. The telescopic Gymstick is the ideal choice for ultimate portability and travelling as it folds down to just 72 cm and fits into a large suitcase or sports bag.
The recommended starting resistance level when working with a Gymstick on a Swiss Ball is blue. This is taking into account that the client is uninjured and has had previous experience working with the Swiss Ball. A key point to remember is that the resistance level can be manipulated quickly and effectively by winding the bands around the stick.
Adding the Gymstick to Swiss ball training adds another dimension by challenging the body to stabilise whilst working against resistance, capitalising on recruiting as many muscle groups as possible. This has applications for sporting activities as well as providing compound functional training for the exercise enthusiast. It is also beneficial for older adults who are requiring more resistance on the ball, but cannot position themselves in either the supine or prone positions confidently. The Gymstick has the advantage of being used as it is or with other fitness tools, limited only by the personal trainer’s imagination.
Exercise: Lat Pulldown (photos 1a, 3 &4) Muscles: latissimus dorsi, biceps brachii, brachalis, brachioradialis, erector spinae, gluteus maximus and hamstrings in raised leg, tibialis anterior and vastus group in the stabilising leg, hip & shoulder stabilisers and core muscles
Prone over ball with bar in hands
Starting with arms extended above head, pull bar towards chest.