Video Fitness

Training Zone Balance Ball Workout

John Jay Wooldridge

This is a relaxing and gentle short (33min) balance ball workout where a soft-spoken instructor takes you through many stretches set to instrumental music.

The Balance Ball video is produced by Training Zone, a Dallas-based fitness organization that hosts exercise workshops and produces videos geared for fitness instructors as well as consumers. You can see their latest videos at

Like the other Training Zone videos, this workout is done on a wooden floor in a room with three TV sets stacked on an industrial shelf behind the exercisers and the shadow of an large slowly-moving fan appears on the back wall. It's not dark or gloomy, nor is the background overly distracting. The filming uses three different camera angles to give you close-ups and overhead views.

The music is melodious piano music that develops into whistling flute music with periods of silence interrupted by piano or harp music and in the end has throbbing haunting instrumental notes. It's funny because after the warm-up it becomes quiet and then some whistling sounds and piano tickles start-up, fade out, come back - and my dog came running into the living room with his ears up - he was hunting for the dying loon.

But you mostly hear John Jay's voice as he coaches you throughout. He's a soft-spoken coach who seems knowledgeable about stretching requirements. At one point he says something I thought was strange, when rolling back to an upright seated position he says "Stack the vertebrae one... on... top... of the other"... hhhmmm... I may be a cynic here, but how can you tell if they're stacked properly? Does your spine collapse if you do this wrong?

John Jay teaches with two female assistants behind him. He introduces the tape with some advice about using the balance ball, including instructions to keep your ball partially deflated if you're a beginner to better maintain your balance, or do fewer reps until you progress.

The total workout is 33 minutes long, which includes a 8min warm-up. Here's the breakdown:

8 min warm-up including standing stretches raising the ball overhead and twisting from the torso, seated stretch with rocking moves, arm & hamstring stretches, hamstring bridge. Seated step-touch and easy bouncing while seated, inner thigh stretch and lunge while straddling the ball. (I thought the straddle lunge stretch was pretty effective!)

4.5 min hamstring & glute stretches including bridge work, inclining back & forth, balancing while seated & with one leg out in front.

3.5min arm sweeps, lat stretches, leaning on ball while doing arm & leg lateral raises. These require a lot of balance and flexibility as well as some strength.

6min ball rolls crouched over the ball, shoulder rotations with arm extensions - this felt good! Full body roll-outs, rolling the ball inward over your forearms and then up to your armpits. Hamstring stretches with alternating leg lifts while forearms on floor, torso supported on the ball.

4min upper body work with push-ups (ball under thighs) to varying degrees of difficulty.

2min ab work, slow crunches while seated and inclined on the ball. Back hyperstretch.

2min seated hamstring stretches with arm sweeps.

2min standing balance work stretching the hamstring, shins and calves. Final quad and hip stretch rolling the ball back under your knee while standing. I liked these stretches - a little different from your garden variety-stretches.

There is no cool-down, since the workout is not a strenous strength or aerobic workout.

All in all, a nice relaxing somber stretching video with gentle piano/instrumental music that makes good use of the ball and offers some effective stretches. I just didn't find it as challenging as the Living Arts series or the video Going Ballistic. It offers no strengthening moves as these videos did - no squats supported on the ball, for example, and no ab oblique work or lower ab lifts holding the ball between the legs. I guess I'm always hoping that someone will put out a balance ball video that improves upon Going Ballistic and Gin Miller's Trim Tone & Tighten video - you know, one with strenuous core strength building routines and lunges using the ball where the sweat pours off of you.

If you're looking for a beginner to low-intermediate stretching tape to make use of your balance ball, this may be the tape for you. On a side note, I have to say I couldn't stand the music on this tape! For some reason I found it very cloying - although others may find it gentle and relaxing. I do like the instrumental music that's in the Living Arts Balance Ball series, for example, and it works well with the voice-over instructions. But the music in this balance ball tape put me off so bad I actually dragged my feet for over 6 weeks before I finally reviewed the tape and found it is acttually a nice soothing stretch tape. Goes to show you how music can affect your workouts...

COMMENTS ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR: John Jay is soft-spoken and pleasant in this video, and he coaches throughout the video like someone who is experienced in stretching.

I'd be interested to see him in his "Athletic Step and Power" video just to see if he is more aggressive and outspoken in that tape!

Dawn P. Jan 10, 2002

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