Building a healthy core isn’t child’s play

COMMENTARY /// Fitness today

HAVING A BALL—In exercise, different balls bring different results.

HAVING A BALL—In exercise, different balls bring different results.

Exercise is a dance. Think about it. Invariably performed to music, whether you’re stepping, stabilized or stationary, no matter what type of movement is involved, you match it to the rhythm of the beat. You don’t have to be in a dance class for this to be true.

As long as we’re looking at the core of it, let’s look at some exercise equipment that’s good for your core.

The stability ball was developed in 1963 by Italian manufacturer Aquilino Cosani. The ball comes in diameters ranging from 55 centimeters to 75 centimeters, the larger size intended for people who are over 6 feet tall.

The role stability ball training plays in building core strength is substantial. Whether you lie on it as you perform abdominal crunches, balance your feet atop it as you do hamstring curls or place it between the wall and your back as you squat, the ball enhances your awareness of your posture and balance, maximizing your efforts.

Our next must-have item is an air-filled therapy ball. Not just for dodgeball anymore, these balls range in size from an extra-big softball to a basketball.

The therapy ball’s light weight is a bonus for the novice exerciser and makes it ideal for enhancing finger flexibility and arthritis rehabilitation.

Want an extra boost stimulating sensory perception and hand strength? Try the porcupine ball. Covered with soft, globular “porcupine quills,” this ball is great for finger exercise, grip enhancement and various games of skill.

Integrate a therapy ball into your exercise regimen, and you’ll be skipping the hand brace and tossing greasy muscle ointments into the trash within the week.

Want to keep it medicinal but bump it up a notch? Pick up a medicine ball. Encased in flexible vinyl or rubber-coated, these gel-filled, weighted balls enhance explosive strength, also known as plyometric power.

A great tool for improving athletic pursuits such as tennis and golf, you can easily build arm strength bouncing it back and forth with a partner, tone core muscles by performing lateral twists in a seated position or increase the difficulty of a squat or lunge by gripping a challenging weight as you work those glutes.

Ranging from 1 to 150 pounds, with optional built-in handles, its versatility and low price makes adding this ball to your gym bag a no-brainer.

There you have it. A host of balls to choose from, and each one has its particular advantages.

But what’s a ball without a belle? A kettle bell, specifically, and while the kettle bell is no beauty, taking a turn on the floor with the ball-shaped, cast-iron weight renders your muscles beautiful.

Coded in kilograms, the single handled kettle bell can be as light or heavy as you want, strengthening biceps, triceps, deltoids and lats as well as your core and lumbar pelvic-hip complex.

The classic kettle bell swing— gripping the flat-based kettle from a hinged hipped position and swinging it through the legs to shoulder level as you stand erect—works all of these.

The dynamic windmill motion— holding a kettle with extended arm overhead and touching the floor with the opposite arm—and Turkish get-up focus on building strength along the sagittal plane of the body and are perfect activities for baseball players and football players alike.

The kettle isn’t a toy, though. Caution must be used when swinging this weight around, and controlled movement is key.

The bonus is, the more you practice, the better your muscle control will become, showing us yet another way in which exercise mimics the art of dance.

Karen Robiscoe is a certified fitness trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and a published author of short fiction, essays and poetry. Email Robiscoe at or visit

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