Video Fitness

Balance Ball Workout: Upper Body

Suzanne Deason

Another winner from the Balance Ball series! I didn't expect to like an upper body workout that doesn't use weights, but I was very pleasantly surprised. This is challenging if you make it that way! This video, like all of the Living Arts videos, is beautifully filmed. The setting for all of the Balance Ball videos is on a wooden platform/path, in the woods overlooking a stream. The music is soft piano and instrumental, and you can hear water sounds in the background. It's very relaxing. As the workout is demonstrated by Suzanne, I'd call the intensity level intermediate. But as with all workouts that use the ball, you can increase or decrease the difficulty level based on how close or how far from your center you place the ball.

All of the Balance Ball videos have the same 5-minute warm up/instructional section to start. I often skip it, since it's basically just doing pelvic tilts on the ball and rolling over the ball on your stomach a few times. I sometimes do a few rolls over the ball while I'm fast-forwarding to the body of the workout.

The main workout is about 25 minutes long. As you would expect from a yoga/Pilates instructor, this video doesn't use weights. Actually, this isn't a traditional upper body video at all. It's actually a core strength video with an emphasis on the upper body muscles of the upper abdomen, chest, shoulders and triceps. Some of the exercises are really challenging, because you are using all of your core muscles to stabilize the ball. Try doing decline pushups off the ball with it under your calves and call it easy! And doing triceps dips with your legs up on the ball is deceptively hard. There's some range-of-motion work for the shoulders as well. Suzanne makes up for the lack of back exercises on the ab tape with this video. You'll work the lower back by stabilizing your torso (or hips) over the ball and extending. You may recognize the upper back/rear delt exercises as similar to what Trish Muse does in Ab Attack (you lie face down and lift your arms out to the side like airplane wings), except it's even more effective with the ball since you can get a better range of motion. There's a short set of crunches on the ball for the upper abs, and you'll use your abs for all of the other exercises as well. You'll also use the ball for resistance by lying down with your knees bent and squeezing the ball between your arms with your elbows at 90 degree angles (works the shoulders, chest and triceps).

I actually think that this is my favorite of this series of Ball tapes. A winner!

Instructor comments: Every time Suzanne Deason comes out with a new video, I like her better and better. She is a certified Yoga and Pilates teacher, and it shows in the Balance Ball workouts. Her voice is relaxing, her cuing is precise, and her form is excellent. I'd love to see her do a Balance Ball video dedicated entirely to stretching.

Kristin Aziz

I am new (3 months) to the indoor fitness regime - all the mountain lion sightings in town and around the mountain that I used to hike on finally scared me into staying inside.

My previous attempts at indoor exercise had always failed (exercise bike and stairclimber), because I would get bored out of my gourd, and way overheated in the house.

I saw a big ball at the store, and it looked like so much fun, and it's proven to be fabulous! I never get bored trying to do push ups and keep from getting knocked off the ball. I also bring the ball to work to sit on for short periods of time--it develops a stronger back.

Anyway, this video is inspirational. I never really gave my upper back much thought, but in only 2 weeks it's already stronger. I love using my newly discovered abdominal muscles (I also bought a Pilates machine)to try and stay stabilized. I've always hated weights, another reason I like the video. I find my arms and shoulders trembling--who needs weights?

My only complaint is that the slow pacing, new ageness, babbling brook aura is cheesy. Maybe I just don't develope enough stress at work to appreciate these attempts at serenity.

Instructor comments: She is attractive, natural, and soothing; not overly sweet or perky, and best of all, she isn't wearing tight pink clothing!

Diana Hsieh

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