Although physical therapists have used the fitness ball for over 40 years, fitness trainers around the world now understand that they are a great way for athletes to strengthen their entire bodies and increase balance, endurance and coordination.
This is particularly true for tennis, a sport which requires constant balance, stability and core strength.
Also known as a Swiss ball, physioball, or exercise ball, the fitness ball is a multi-purpose, functional exercise tool that is inexpensive, safe and targets several muscle groups at once.
Training with a fitness ball requires strength, balance and coordination of core muscles that are used to stabilize the spine and maintain good posture.
Because a fitness ball is unstable, it requires you to use your stabilizer muscles, which tend to be under-used and weak in many of us. A major benefit of training with a fitness ball versus directly on a hard flat surface is that our bodies must respond to the instability of the ball to stay balanced, engaging many more muscles.
These stabilizer muscles become stronger over time to keep balance and allow our entire body to function better athletically.
What Size Ball?
When you sit on the fitness ball your knees should be at a 90 degree angle or slightly above. Generally, the sizing scale goes like this:
- Under 5?0 45 cm ball
- Under 5?10 55 cm ball
- Under 6?2 65 cm ball
- Over 6?3 75 cm ball
Here are three great fitness ball exercises for tennis players. These should be done twice per week for optimal benefit.
- Develops functional core strength & flexibility
- Do 2 sets, 7-10 reps each side
- Lie face up with your lower back on the ball with your feet on the ground for support
- Your knees should be directly above your ankles
- Hold your arms out straight in front of your chest as if you're holding an imaginary ball
- Contract your core
- Rotate your torso slowly to one side, lifting the opposite shoulder off of the ball
- Pause when your arms are parallel to the floor
- Return slowly to the center, then repeat to the other side
- Develops lower core & lower body strength and stability
- Do 2 sets of 10-15 reps
- Lie on the floor with your arms straight at your side, palms down
- Spread your arms slightly to help support your lower body
- Place the heels of your feet on the front-center of the ball
- Your knees should be at a 90-degree angle
- Lift your rear off of the floor and raise your hips slowly by pushing your feet against the ball
- Reverse the movement and return to the start position
- Strengthens low back, glutes and hamstrings and improves balance
- Do 2 sets, 10-15 reps each side
- Stand with your back to ball, arms at your side
- Bend one leg back and place it on top of the ball behind you
- Your standing leg should be slightly bent
- Keep your arms straight with your hands in front of your thighs
- Keeping your shoulders back and your back flat, bend at the waist and bring your hands slowly down in front of your shins
- Contract your glutes and hamstrings to pull your torso back up
- Switch legs and repeat
Tomaz Menzinger is the tennis coach and mental training coach at the Tennis Academy of Asia. His video series on How to Play Tennis offers beginners a solid foundation in tennis fundamentals to start playing tennis correctly.