The Bender Method for a Strong Healthy Back

Leslee Bender
Year Released: 2007

Categories: Balance/Medicine/Mini/Stability Ball, Special Health Conditions

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I've always been curious about the Bender Ball workouts, when I saw this DVD at a used book sale, I picked it up. Instructor Leslee Bender leads two background exercisers, Lucy, who displays easier modifications, and Kitty, who slightly harder variations for some of the exercises. Although Leslee performs a few of the moves herself, she mostly walks around Mari Winsor style.

The Main Menu offers options for Play All with Introduction, Play All without Introduction, as well as lists all of the available chapters. I have briefly described each chapter below, adding in approximate times.

Starting with the ball between the knees, Leslee performs a few pelvic tucks to find neutral spine. This segment also includes stretches to warm-up the lower back and arm swings to loosen the arms/shoulders.

Coming to hands and knees, Leslee cues a cat/cow series, performing a more modified version of cow pose (stomach drawing in while the back stays flat). She also adds what she calls a "wagging tail" to this move.

The spine stabilization work is basically back strengthening work performed on the stomach. Here Leslee has you use a small towel placed under the forehead as she leads you through a series of back extensions/superman-type moves.

In this section, Leslee does just a few seated crunches, using the ball placed behind the low back for support.

This work is performed with either the legs stretch or the knees bent, lifting the hips up and down.

Here Leslee lies supine with the ball under the tailbone for a hip hiker move (raise one hip, then the other) and typewriter (moving the hips side-to-side). This is followed by a series of hip flexors stretches.

This segment actually consists of side-lying hip/glutes work. Lying on your side with the ball under one ankle, you'll lift your top leg up and down, toes pointed down.

Stretch (2.5m)
To stretch, Leslee begins lying on the back for a Figure 4 stretch. She then places the ball under the upper back, stretching this area by lying back over it. The final stretches include mermaid and thread the need.

Note that all the DVD case says that the running time for this workout is "about 30 minutes," the actual time for this workout was closer to 17 minutes.

Overall, I agree with cardiomama in that I found this workout somewhat disappointing. I too was looking for a good therapeutic video for my back, which has been getting tight at times since I recently started kettlebell work, but these moves were way too basic, especially at the slow pace that Leslee sets. In my opinion, this would be best suited to someone who is more limited in mobility or perhaps is in more active pain and this needs a very gentle program.

Instructor Comments:
I found Leslee to be a bit over-the-top (i.e., she said things like "doesn't that feel GOOD?" over and over), although she was tolerable. However, I thought she spent WAY too much time on setup of the moves.

Beth C (aka toaster)


“The Bender Method for a Strong & Healthy Back” is led by Leslee Bender that consists of dynamic stretches, static stretches & exercises for muscular endurance (strengthen the lower back, hips, glutes, abs). This workout is included w/ the Bender Ball set that is sold in stores (packaged w/ a ball & two other videos: Core Training and Selective Core Training). All of the segments incorporate a squishy med ball (Leslee’s version is named the Bender ball), although there are some bodyweight exercises that don’t use the ball. There are two background exercisers, one does demo modifications for lower intensity for most exercises. The menu allows one to play workout with or without the introduction, and can play all segments or just select one at a time. Leslee does perform some of the exercises (warm-up, cool-down stretches), but mostly instructs & points out form (correct & common errors) on the background exercisers (she does physically touch their bodies to point out form, not just using verbal cues).

Leslee recommends in this video for users to repeat the exercise, again for the side of their body that is tight or weaker, and she gives time for users to do that on most exercies. I felt that this video had too little reps performed for most exercises to be of much benefit. Even if one did the more intensive versions, Leslee just does not allow for much rep completion (only the lying glute exercises has 8+ reps). I think it’s because she spends so much time on instruction, and had a set duration of time to stick with. I understand the video is designed to be super challenging, but I was disappointed in it, felt like it was not time well-spent (perhaps the more advanced versions or newer versions on the Bender Ball back-focused workouts are better). I tried this video because I wanted to incorporate more videos into my regimen that focus on rehab-type back exercises and I like using the squishy med ball, but this video is likely not one that I will use regularly. But I did like some of the exercises, and will use those w/ other routines.

Equipment: squishy med ball (6-9 inches in diameter), small (hand) towel

Music: instrumental

Set: similar as the Gliding Discs workouts, has beige carpet w/ grey walls (false windows) w/ green & purple lighting

Intro: Leslee discusses purpose of video.

Standing Warm-up
Pelvic tuck: start in standing position w/ ball held between knees, hands on hips> perform pelvic tuck & reverse motion.

Squeeze the ball w/ thighs & reverse motion.

Hinge at hips w/ overhead reach w/ arms, ball is held in hands, slight bend in knees, reverse motion> isomeric hold w/ hinge & overhead arms.

Ball swings: alternate swinging the ball (w/ both arms) to each side> lift heels w/ arm movement.

Lower back Stretch
Cat/Cow: modifier places the folded towel under knees

Tail Wag: start in quadruped position, lift the lower leg off floor(pivot on knee and rotate the leg behind the other, gaze follows the (heel of) foot, then rotate leg to opposite direction.

Child’s pose

Spine Stabilization
Person starts lying prone w/ forehead resting on rolled up towel, bent arms to sides> engage/draw in abs to lift off floor> lift forehead off of towel & hold (head in neutral position)> add elbow lift off floor & hold> open arms to “T” and hold> reach arms forward into “V” and hold> reach arms to back (side of body) & hold> child’s pose.

Correct Spine Curl
Start in seated position, ball is placed next to small of back, arms extended to front, modification: hands placed under thighs> roll/lean back onto ball (c-curve spine) & reverse motion> more intensity: add overhead arm sweep to lowered position, then sweep arms forward & reverse motion.

Side Plank
Start lying on side w/ stacked legs, bottom is bent, top is straight, the ball is placed under waist, while bottom elbow is on floor> perform overhead side reach w/ arm & reverse motion> more intensity: place ball between bent knees, lift hips & reverse motion> isometric hold in lifted position of either variation> repeat on other side.

Lying Back Exercises
Hip heist: Start lying supine (face-up) on floor w/ bent knees, feet flat on floor, ball placed under lower back & bottom, arms to side of body> alternate lifting hip up & shifting to one side, & reversing motion (return to center).

Typewriter: start in same position as previous> alternate shifting hips from side, center to other side on ball.

Start in same position as previous (supine) but w/ bent knees lifted in air> alternate single (bent) leg lowering to floor/toe tap to floor, then reverse motion> more intensity: extend reach of toe for longer lever (still w/ bent leg) or lower straight leg to floor> Dead Bug (opposition): alternate adding an opposite side, arm reach to leg lowering> stretch: place one leg on floor, other leg has bent knee brought into body or more intensive: straight leg extended (in air), repeat on other side> bring both bent knees towards body.

Side Lying Glutes
Start in lying on side w/ head resting on arm (modification: place rolled/folded towel under head/between arm & head), bottom leg (ankle & shin) rests on ball, top leg held in air w/ flexed foot turned at angle (heel up)> tap lower leg toes to floor & lift up, modification: perform same exercise w/out ball> stretch: bend top leg and place knee on floor> repeat on other side.

Lying Glute stretch; lie supine on floor w/ bent knees, one rotates open to side & the ankle crosses over thigh/knee of other leg> repeat on other side.

Chest release: Lie on ball w/ upper back> roll back on ball, lift chest & lower (back of) head onto floor, arms reach out to sides, modification: head does not lower to floor, held chin to chest (lower back is held off floor w/ either variation)> rock side to side in position> bring one knee to chest, then take 5 counts to roll up to seated position.

Mermaid (Side reach): sit with bent legs (one in front, one in back)> reach with one arm to side (same side as leg in back), other arm rests on floor (bent elbow)> then reach to opposite side w/ other arm, same side arm as back leg, rests on thigh> repeat on other side.

Child’s pose: roll ball to extend arms> Thread the needle: then place one arm under the other (extended arm on ball), palm up & gaze follows arm> repeat on other side.