My exercise ball and other routines

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Enuja
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My exercise ball and other routines

Postby Enuja » Sat May 01, 2010 4:37 pm UTC

Here's my personal thread, because I've been having a little bit of trouble with self motivation.

First, my goals, in order of importance
1) prevent injury
2) make backpacking possible & long distance walking easier
3) promote long-term health
4) improve posture
5) look reasonably strong (not like a wimp)
6) get better at tennis

My number one goal is by far the most important. I love to walk. I don't walk as a form of exercise as much as I walk as a form of leisure and happiness-creation. I've gotten my SO into walking, and together we walk a lot farther than I ever would have done myself. I've injured myself while backpacking (stupidly running up and down hills with a backpack without training beforehand), and the last time I tried to backpack it simply didn't work. I've ever really hurt myself with just city and nearby walking, although I have walked as far as 40 miles, and being in good shape is an absolute prerequisite in order to do that in first place.

My SO likes tennis (I don't, really), and I've been learning to play tennis with him in order to make him happy. So if my exercise routines make me better at tennis, I guess that's great, but it's certainly not my top priority (and it is handy to be able to say "I'm exhausted: we have to stop playing tennis now).

I'm nearly 30, and have changed my goals and identity for life: I recently decided to not be a biologist or an Academic (both of which I was planning on doing), and I've decided that I don't want a profession that is an important part of my identity. That means I want other parts of myself to be an important part of my identity, and I happen to want being physically robust and able to be a fairly important part of my identity. So that means I want to look at least slightly buff, and I'm certainly not worried about looking "too strong." However, I'm not planning on trying to get a super-low fat content to give my muscles visual definition.

I don't like gyms very much, and I am low on funds, so I am not planning on doing anything in a gym.

I have purchased an exercise ball (which came in a kit with an exercise bands and two work out DVDs), two three pound weights, a small ball, and I've checked out Strength Training on the Ball by Colleen Craig from the library. I'm planning on picking up heavier dumbbells at Spring Garage sales.

I've really enjoyed one of the DVDs (Total Body Challenge BalanceBall with Tanja Djelevic), and I've noticed some serious improvement in my physical strength an steadiness (which should help prevent injury). However, I need to do more challenging exercise as well. I was doing some of the Colleen Craig exercises, a few arm exercises that I'd recorded instructions for and played back. I've found that I do much better listening to a routine than just trying to remember it, so I'd like to continue that.

I was on a routine of the Djelevic DVD legs section one day, Djelevic abs the next, and Djelevic upper arms plus my recording of Craig upper arms the third day. I decided, about a month ago, to do the full Djelevic DVD one day, a full routine from the Craig book the next day, and then rest or go right back to the Djelevic. But I haven't gotten around to recording the full routine from the Craig book, so I'm just doing the Djelevic DVD. It still feels good, and I don't think I'm losing any muscle yet, but I don't think I'm getting stronger right now. So I need to record the Craig routine and start doing it! (Or find and buy other strength training on the ball routines on DVD or on the internet.)

I'm thinking that the Djelevic DVD, being primarily pilates based and fairly aerobic, will not count as strength training when I do the Craig strength training, and that there won't be any problems with doing full body exercises two days in a row (no problems with the lack of time to recover).

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby Nath » Sun May 02, 2010 12:17 am UTC

Exercise balls have their uses, but they are not a primary strength training tool. Of course, any exercise program will yield benefits for a completely untrained person, but I don't know of any serious (or even recreational) athletes who rely on exercise ball stuff as their primary method of training. If you actually want to gain a significant amount of strength, you're going to have to do actual strength training -- which mostly means picking up heavy things. Three pound weights do not count. Going to a gym isn't the only way to do this (though it's the easiest and most efficient); you can buy some weights, or do bodyweight stuff.

Good luck!

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby Enuja » Sun May 02, 2010 2:24 am UTC

As I said, I am planning on buying heavier weights and I've got a book, Strength Training on the Ball by Colleen Craig, which is strength training and uses the ball as a bench (both sitting on the ball and putting your head/neck on it and making a table with your torso, and then doing normal strength training lifting from there).

I am completely disinterested in being any kind of athlete, professional or recreational. No-where on my list of goals is to get stronger for its own sake (get injured less, look better, yes, but I have no interest in strength for its own good). I enjoy doing exercises on the ball, and I figure that ball exercises should be really good at refining my balance, and refining balance should be really helpful in preventing injury. I know that strength training is really important for preventing injury for two reasons: to protect joints and to retain fast-twitch fibers in my muscles, so that I can react quickly to right myself and prevent falls and subsequent injuries (this becomes even more important in aging people, but I figure starting now would be good).

Nath, are you a skeptic on pilates-based strength training? What I've read about it seems very convincing to me, and it seems to fit my goals a lot better than traditional strength training.

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby Nath » Sun May 02, 2010 5:26 am UTC

Yes, it's safe to say I'm skeptical. Pilates in general might be useful for certain things, but using it for strength training is using the wrong hammer on this particular nail. Strength is a relatively simple physical attribute, easy to quantify and measure. Whether you want to increase your strength for athletic performance, injury prevention, appearance, posture, "strength for strength's sake", whatever, the same kind of training is required to create the desired adaptation (except at a pretty advanced level, when you'll need to customize it more to suit your particular goals). Your body doesn't know your goals; all it knows is that it received some stimulus, and it needs to adapt by getting stronger. Exercise balls and single-digit dumbbells are not the most efficient way to achieve this.

I'm not sure why you think pilates-based strength training will suit your goals better than conventional strength work. They seek to optimize the same objective (strength; thus the name), and one does so much more efficiently than the other. I haven't looked at Colleen Craig's book, but I fail to see what you could possibly do with an exercise ball that could duplicate the effects of, say, a heavy set of squats.

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby Enuja » Sun May 02, 2010 12:21 pm UTC

From the chapter "Stability Before Strength" in Colleen Craig's Strength Training on the Ball
In contrast to traditional body-conditioning methods, which isolate the outer and more visible superficial muscles of the arms, chest, back and legs, Pilates-based strength training focuses on the deep inner layer--the stabilizers. This is what makes Strength Training on the Ball different from other approaches. Generally, stabilizers (sometimes called postural muscles) are designed to contract for sustained periods of time to provide support for mobility. Usually they are deep muscles (though in the shoulder they are not as deep or as small as in the spine and pelvis) and are associated with acts of endurance. They contract more slowly than mobilizers but keep you erect and moving for a long period of time. Think of a spaceship: it is the big engines that function during blast off, yet it is the control engines that operate with precision to dock the ship in space. When working properly these small, deep muscles known as stabilizers fix the spinal joints safely in place and support the bone in the socket or joint.

...

If a deep stabilizer is not toned and functioning properly, a mobilizer may take over the stabilizer's job. For example, whenever the deep stabilizing rhomboid muscles around Dawn's shoulder blades and the serratus anterior, under her armpit, did not work correctly, the upper trapezius and neck muscles went into spasm as did some spinal mobilizers.

According to Stuart McGill, Ph.D., a leading expert on spine function and injury preventing, all of the trunk muscles contribute to stabilization and it may be a mistake to target one single type of muscle as being more important than another.

...

By now you understand that in a Pilates aproach to strength training we are greatly concerned that the stabilizers are toned and programmed properly to provide support for mobility. But is there is a neurological inability to fire the correct muscle, ordinary strengthening exercises will not help. To correct nervous-system error you need to being from scratch, possibly with the help of an expert in spinal stabilization, to reprogram the body so you will have better control control of the deepest layer of your body.

...
Working on a mobile surface continuously throws the body off balance and forces your brain to confront the unfamiliar and ever-changing. Sensory nerves become better trained and can more rapidly send messages to your brain. The brain in turn processes information quicker and sends messages to the muscles faster, improving reaction time. When this happens the body can organize itself better for function and power. This is helpful not only in sports but in daily life--think about the times that you've not hurt yourself by catching a railing as you felt your feet doing out from under you.

I think it's clear that, due to my goals, I need to avoid targeting just the big, obvious surface muscles and neglecting the stabilizers. I do need to train my mobilizers in addition to my stabilizers: I need the mobilizers to catch me to prevent a fall and to walk. But what I want out of my upper body is good posture and to avoid chronic back pain in my future. I've tried to backpack, and had my back cause pain and give up on me. I couldn't carry more than 10 lbs in my backpack! When I took the backpack off, I was A-OK, but that wasn't good enough. I need to be able to stand up straight, and walk with good posture, even with 25 - 30 pounds in my backpack, and I'm not going to get that by being able to lift 30 - 40 pounds with my biceps. I can already easily lift a 40 lb backpack (I do need both hands), but that's not what I want to be able to do: I want to be able to walk with the backpack with the same grace and good posture as I can walk unburdened.

I think you are suggesting deep squats; this book has three different squats and warns the reader to "Avoid deep bends; work in your pain-free range". Because I've felt my problem right knee click when I try to do a deep squat, body building sources say the quadriceps is worked high up in the squat, and I need to strengthen my quadriceps to keep my knee cap in place as I walk, to prevent further injuring my right knee, I'm pretty sure that I shouldn't be doing squats down to thighs parallel with the floor, despite the fact that's exactly what body building sources recommend.

I'm completely convinced that starting with 3lb weights was the right way to go. I now need to move to heavier weights: I'm planning on buying 8 and 15, or maybe 10 and 15, pound weights next. (For some exercises, I already have a 6 lb weight because I can hold both 3 lb weights in one hand.) Craig's book suggests starting with two pairs of dumbbells: a pair of one or two pound weights and a pair of 3 or 5 pound weights.

I guess this boils down to one question: Nath, what evidence do you have that traditional strength training is a better approach to prevent injury (in walking, backpacking, and daily activities) than pilates-based ball exercises?

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby Nath » Sun May 02, 2010 1:03 pm UTC

First of all, thanks for typing that up (or copy-pasting :)).

I'm not recommending bodybuilding-style training such as bicep curls. Bodybuilding is not strength training, though there is some overlap in training methods. I'm suggesting big, compound free-weight movements, precisely because they hit all the stabilizing muscles as well as the big ones that maximize force production, and train your body to work as a unit. You think you won't be able to walk around with a 30lb backpack when you're deadlifting twice your body weight? There's no faster way to bring the stabilizers of your lower back up to spec. And you certainly won't have wobbly rhomboids when you can do 15 chin-ups with good form.

Parallel squats are within your pain-free range, unless you have some sort of knee deformity or you're using bad form. Most likely the latter, because few people have serious knee deformities, and few people in the west know how to squat properly. Strong quads are important, but so are strong glutes and hamstrings, and a strong lower back. Squatting to parallel works the entire posterior chain as a unit.

Here are a couple of articles by a strength coach named Mark Rippetoe:
Free weights for stability training
How and why to squats
He has a somewhat abrupt tone, but he's gotten a lot of untrained people a lot stronger, so his stuff is worth reading. If you're interested, he also has an excellent book teaching correct form on some fundamental compound lifts.

Craig's emphasis on stabilizers is not misplaced, but bear in mind the whole 'mobile surface' thing is rather short on evidence. And some of her word choice makes me suspicious of her qualifications; for instance, she doesn't seem to know what 'toned' means. Strength is one of the easiest things in the world to get measurable results in. Why rely on methods supported by anecdotes and fuzzy reasoning, when there are tried-and-true methods that have produced objectively verifiable strength improvements for so many people? Can you name one person who's gotten strong using Craig's methods? ('Strong' here doesn't mean 'marginally less weak' :).)

EDIT: oh, I typed all that up and didn't actually answer your question. There's plenty of evidence that traditional strength training measurably increases strength, both of so-called 'superficial' muscles and 'deep' muscles (incidentally, kind of an arbitrary distinction, since most muscles play a role in both stabilization and movement). In other words, traditional strength training provably makes you stronger, whatever your current level of fitness. I've seen no evidence of this for pilates on exercise balls, except in previously very unfit populations.

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby psyck0 » Sun May 02, 2010 5:53 pm UTC

There is absolutely no need to specifically target stabilizing muscles. Conventional compound lifts- all olympic lifts eg clean and jerk, plus squats, deadlifts, military press and bench press- all rely on the stabilizing muscles to keep you from falling over and work them sufficiently.

You certainly don't have to do barbell training if you don't want to, but be wary of believing a book about exercise just because it sounds logical. There are many, many fitness-related ideas that sound logical but are full of horseshit, and most exercise books are written by idiots and are at the very best a waste of money, and at worst actually detrimental. I doubt you'll hurt yourself with this, and it is likely you'll improve your endurance slightly and maybe lose a couple of pounds assuming your diet doesn't change (losing weight is almost entirely diet-controlled) but it doesn't seem very likely that you'll see much benefit.

Finally, you very certainly are not strength-training with that program. You won't be moving enough weight or exerting enough force to put on noticeable amounts of muscle or to get very much stronger. If you're going from inactive to that, you will see some benefit, but it will be minimal and inefficient. Barbell training is unquestionably the best way to gain strength.

By the way, for some anecdotal evidence, everyone I know with back pain who has started deadlifting and strengthened their back has eliminated their back pain.

Any dumbbells weighing less than 30 lbs are a total waste of time except for things like rotator cuff exercises, which you don't need unless you are rehabbing an injury.

Edit: Oh damn, I just realised, are you female? The fitness industry does nothing but lie to females. FIrst of all, lifting heavy weights will not make you bigger. You don't have sufficient testosterone levels to put on large amounts of muscle- you have 1/10th the testosterone as a male, and that hormone is very important in muscle growth. What lifting weights will do is make you stronger and able to lift heavier things without hurting yourself, as well as firming your body up to give you a nice ass and legs. I dislike the words "firming" or "toning", but in this case, firming is the most accurate- when you are weak and your muscles are soft, your skin sags around them because there is nothing to support it. When you get stronger, your muscles fill out your skin, giving you a smoother and more rounded figure without all the floppiness.

You should give these a read- they are specifically about the benefits of strength-training for women.

http://sportsmedicine.about.com/cs/women/a/aa051601a.htm
http://www.thenewrulesoflifting.com/
and a podcast at http://www.stumptuous.com/new-rules-of-lifting-for-women

The best way to get stronger is to lift heavy things. Ironically, lifting lighter things for more reps causes hypertrophy- it makes you get bigger without getting much stronger. Lifting 15 lb dumbbells 30 times won't actually make you much stronger, but if it does accomplish anything it'll make you bigger, the exact opposite of your goal. That is an example of exactly how the fitness industry lies to women.

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby Enuja » Mon May 03, 2010 1:55 am UTC

Yes, I'm a female. But I was graduate student in comparative physiology: I have taken med school physiology, had lab mates working on both human and animal exercise and muscle physiology (ran and swam alligators on treadmills and in swim flumes myself and did some research for those papers), taught physiology labs, and TA'd for physiology classes, for both majors and non-majors. I've got a pretty good bullshit detector for physiological nonsense.

I'm also deeply skeptical about gendered divisions: I don't choose exercises because they are the type "women do". I choose them because they seem fun and tuned to my personal goals. When I was in grad school, I did go to the gym, and the exercise ball exercises were the most fun exercises there for me.

I looked at other threads in this forum, and found a very narrow, single approach from many commentators, that currently-seen-to-be-masculine types of strength training must be a part of everyone's routine (deadlifts and squats for all!). I tried to head that off by very clearly describing my goals, and I tried (but failed) to head off the "you don't need to worry about bulking up, because you're a girl, so you don't have enough testosterone to look strong" comment by saying that I wouldn't mind bulking up. I don't have much room in my apartment for a 200 lb barbell and I don't enjoy lifting extremely heavy weights, so I'd need some seriously good evidence (published scientific papers) that they were the only way to avoid injuring myself before I went that route.

Nath, I read the "'Core' Stability 'Training'" .pdf by Mark Rippetoe you linked, and it along with a cursory look at the squats .pdf quite convinced me ... that exercise ball exercises are good for me. Rippetoe says that no athlete works on an unstable surface. Guess what? I'm not an athlete. And I walked 18.5 miles today, just for fun. A few miles of that were on muddy trails that went up and down a bit. I pointed out to my SO the tracks that clearly showed where the deer had slipped. It was an unstable surface, but I move slowly, don't use a lot of force, and am very good at balancing on unstable surfaces. However, I'm not going to walk 18.5 miles every day, so it makes sense to me to have exercises I can do in my apartment that work on the muscles and skills I need for my real life. I don't know what Rippetoe is going on about core stability training exercises being exercises that target single muscles: they aren't, although they do target torso muscles as a group. I think the term "core" is used to have a simple term to use with "legs" and "arms" (or upper body), to provide combinations of exercises to make it easier to get into a daily exercise routine while giving your muscles more than the completely insufficient 24 hours to recover from specific exercises. Most of the exercises involve the whole body, with many many muscles working together. I'm not interested in being the best or the strongest that I can be in a sport, which Rippetoe appears to assume is the goal. I actually kinda hate sports. I'm interested in being able to make long, pleasant walks without hurting myself. That's the whole point.

psych0, your first link doesn't address what type of strength training it's talking about: machines that isolate muscles, barbell training, training with small to moderately sized dumbbels, or something else entirely? Without links to sources, or at least more specifics, it doesn't address or support your argument. The second link is simply an advertisement for a book, and it is, again, lacking in evidence. I didn't listen to the pod cast, but with the track record of links you had going I don't think it's likely to be convincing.
psych0 wrote:The best way to get stronger is to lift heavy things. Ironically, lifting lighter things for more reps causes hypertrophy- it makes you get bigger without getting much stronger.
Just FYI, hypertrophy means that the cells get bigger, and is usually contrasted with hyperplasia, which means you get more cells (and doesn't happen in adult human skeletal muscles). You're probably thinking of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy versus myofibrillar hypertrophy.

I don't really care about getting strong (or losing or gaining weight, or toning my muscles, or getting a "nice body"). Lifting heavy things doesn't sound fun. Moving on a ball is fun. The most important characteristic of a good exercise training program is something that you enjoy and can keep doing. I know that strength training is important to keep from losing fast twitch fibers in old age, and I know it's important for preventing injury. I just don't have any evidence at all (nor have you two provided any) that your particular favorite type of intense barbell training is the only type of strength training that prevents the loss of fast twitch muscle fibers and prevents injury. I don't see how the advice in this thread is at all helpful for me, so I request that everyone stop trying to tell me how to get really strong really quickly unless they have really good evidence that being strong is the only reasonable method to prevent injury in walking and backpacking.

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby TGM » Mon May 03, 2010 3:35 am UTC

I do realise that you don't want to get strong like a powerlifter is strong, and that barbell training may seem like a chore to you but if these are your goals:

1) prevent injury
2) make backpacking possible & long distance walking easier
3) promote long-term health
4) improve posture
5) look reasonably strong (not like a wimp)
6) get better at tennis


Then, with the exception of #6 and possibly #2 barbell training is the most efficient way to get there. You should realise that you won't need to train like a powerlifter for the rest of your life to accomplish your goals. If you favourite physical activity is distance walking and hiking then you could probably accomplish your strength-related goals within two months.

If you continue training with the exercise ball as your main strength training tool then soon your body will adapt and you'll no longer benefit from that kind of training.

And if you really want to stay away from barbells then the next best thing will be bodyweight training. Many people find the skills they learn to be both challenging and fun, and it will get you stronger and more fit in general. You can do it at home, and you can do it for free. I don't know enough about it to advise you but plenty of others on this forum do. You could also have a look at http://www.bodyweightculture.com

EDIT: Should probably also add the bodyweight training will help with balance.

For some fun skills to have a go at go to the tutorials section of www.beastskills.com

I just don't have any evidence at all (nor have you two provided any) that your particular favorite type of intense barbell training is the only type of strength training that prevents the loss of fast twitch muscle fibers and prevents injury.


It's not the only way to do it but it is the most efficient. If you really want to avoid gyms and barbells then bodyweight training would be the next best thing, and both of these would certainly be more effective than a program that is based on training with a ball.

If you want actual studies and research papers backing this up maybe Victoria Maddison will post in this thread, she always seems to have a handful up her sleeve.
- TGM

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby Nath » Mon May 03, 2010 5:33 am UTC

If you're not at all interested in getting stronger, why are you reading a book called 'Strength Training on the Ball'? It doesn't matter whether you are an athlete or not; the kind of strength you need to prevent injury in day-to-day physical activity is precisely the same kind of strength you need to prevent injury in judo or powerlifting or football. The only difference is degree.

It's possible that you just wanted this thread to be a public log, rather than a place for feedback. If so, I'm sorry for intruding. But since you asked, here is some less anecdotal evidence:
  • Lehman et al. found no statistically significant difference in muscle activity from using an unstable surface. In their words, "Biomechanically justified ground based exercises have been researched and should form the basis for spinal stability training as preventative and therapeutic exercise training regimes." (Ground-based as opposed to Swiss ball-based.)
  • Anderson & Behm found a 60% decrease in maximal force production when you use a Swiss ball. "The diminished force output suggests that the overload stresses required for strength training necessitate the inclusion of resistance training on stable surfaces."
  • Cressey et al compared the effects of stable and unstable lower body training on athletic performance. The stable group saw much greater improvement.
  • Cowley et al compared the chest press on a stability ball to a flat bench on untrained women. Oddly enough, the women who trained on a flat bench saw a greater improvement in abdominal strength, though the chest press is not an ab exercise.
  • Verhagen et al. found balance board stuff useful for preventing ankle sprain recurrences, but at the cost of increasing the risk of knee injury recurrences.
  • This one is not from a journal; it's an informal article from a private research institute. Goes over a lot of the same evidence that I just covered, and concludes that unstable surfaces may have their uses (e.g. for treating injuries), but the risks generally outweigh the rewards.

You get the idea. Of course, you raise a valid point about picking an exercise program that you'll actually stick to, and if rolling around on an exercise ball is the most you see yourself doing, it's certainly better than nothing. But light exercise ball strength training and heavy free weight training have the same objective, and one gets much better results than the other.

And TGM is right that barbells are not the only option here. The important thing is to use a challenging amount of resistance. This can be from your bodyweight, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, rocks, children, whatever's handy. But it needs to be a challenging load, and you need some way to increase the intensity to stimulate continued adaptation. There's no reason for a healthy 30 year old to own a 3 lb weight, because the only thing you can use that for is small, high-rep isolation movements with little practical value.

(I'll shut up now. :))

EDIT: I know I promised to shut up, but I figured you'd want to see this one as well, since you seem to care about recruiting fast-twitch fibres:
First, resistance training characterised by high loads (>80% of maximum) and low repetitions is considered fundamental as only those loads can guarantee the recruitment of fast twitch motor units...

I can assure you, trying to lift 80% of your maximum on an exercise ball is a pretty reliable way to hurt yourself. And you're pretty much guaranteed to fail, since your force production has dropped by 60%.
Last edited by Nath on Mon May 03, 2010 5:44 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby psyck0 » Mon May 03, 2010 5:37 am UTC

It sounds like for your goals you really have zero interest in strength training of any form, and would be better served by just practicing what you want to do. Go on more long hikes to get better at hiking. Carry heavy backpacks to get used to the weight. Those 3 lb weights you have or the 15 lb weights you are considering getting won't do a thing to help you with either of those goals, though.

It doesn't really sound like you want advice, either- you are "completely convinced" that starting with 3 lb weights is correct despite our assertions and expert testimony to the contrary. I'd just suggest you skip all that bullshit unless you are doing it for fun and just hike more. You get faster by practicing running and for runners, weightlifting is a supplemental activity. It's the same for you.

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby jtw » Mon May 03, 2010 12:42 pm UTC

If ball exercises are what you like, then go ahead and do them. Just don't do it under the guise of strength training, or anything else remotely challenging.

Exercise balls with 3 lb weights is like digging a hole with a melon baller - why not just use a shovel?

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby uncivlengr » Mon May 03, 2010 6:52 pm UTC

psyck0 wrote:Any dumbbells weighing less than 30 lbs are a total waste of time
I've made some recommendations via PM, but I'm just going to point out publicly that it's ridiculous and irresponsible that you would say this to anyone just beginning a fitness regime, man or woman. You should keep your "advice" to yourself before someone seriously hurts themselves, thinking they need to push themselves well beyond their abilities to meet what you seem to claim are minimum standards.
I don't know what to do for you

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby Enuja » Mon May 03, 2010 7:32 pm UTC

Yes, as I tried to make clear, this was supposed to be a motivation thread, but I was open to suggestions of fun exercises I could do in my apartment that would help further my goals.

At this point, I'm trying to convince you all that what you're trying to do in this thread (and other people's personal threads) is not constructive, helpful, or supportive. You're using something that works for you, in your current condition, and telling me that I should be doing it unless I'm absolutely completely sedentary or seriously injured. You happen to be wrong. I'm looking at the evidence you're giving me, listening to your description of your personal experience, and I'm figuring out that you're not experts, or even knowledgeable, about the kind of training I need. I'm not ignoring your expert testimony: I'm ignoring your inexpert testimony.

On the melon-baller analogy: I feel like I'm saying: "I'd like to make mud pies, and I'm using a melon baller, and it seems to be working great so far, but I want to make slightly larger mud pies so I'm planning on buying a larger melon baller; also, I wouldn't mind moving dirt out of there and making a hole, so I'm getting my for my mud pies from other there." You all are responding with "You need a shovel to dig a hole!" to which I'm responding "Why do I need the hole in order to make mud pies? Also, I'm pretty sure I'd hurt myself with the shovel."

I'm worried about injury for a good reason. My twin sister has been diagnosed with hypermobility syndrome, has serious sacroiliac joint pain, has had physical therapists paid for by worker's compensation and reduced physical load at work. And what does she do for a living? Walk very slowly around the woods and spray and pull wildland weeds. I have a Beighton Hypermobility Score of 5/9, which is fairly hypermobile. I need to strengthen my muscles to make up for my loose ligaments and keep from hurting my joints. When I was 21 years old, I injured my knee by running while backpacking. I couldn't bend my right knee while going down stairs for the next 3 months or so. Eight years later, my right knee still hurts if I overdo it. Clearly, I need to start with gentle strength training.

Nath, I'm reading a book called "strength training on the ball" because I know that strength training prevents injury, and I want to prevent injury. Thanks for all of those sources, but I don't get out of them what you get out of them.

From the Lehman et al 2005 abstract, I interpret that they had too much variation to say anything at all, so it's not a paper that adds to the knowledge about exercise balls.
The abstract of Anderson and Behm 2004 includes the sentence "The decreased balance associated with resistance training on an unstable surface may force limb musculature to play a greater role in joint stability." Since my goal is strength training of the muscles that support joint stability, in order to promote joint stability in real life activities, this abstract actually sounds like a good reason for me to specifically do exercise ball training. The "suggests" line you quoted follows a set of assumptions that I'm not convinced about at all. I suspect that it's just as possible that the equal EMG result and the lower external work means that internal work is being done, and that this internal work will both improve neurological training for good joint support and give the same stresses to the actual contractile proteins to result in the same amount of training. (This happens a lot when reading both abstracts and full papers, that the evidence presented doesn't support the conclusion claimed; you can pretty much count on there being an equally plausible alternative hypothesis whenever the word "suggests" is used.)
About Cressey et al 2007 you said that "The stable group saw much greater improvement", but the abstract says "Both groups improved significantly (US = 2.9%, ST = -4.4%) on T-test performance; no statistically significant changes were apparent between the groups." You can't say that one group saw much greater improvement if you can't statistically tell whether there was a difference in improvement!
I just read the abstract of Cowley et al 2007, and it doesn't mention the abdominal strength, but both the reported numbers and the conclusion support strength training on the exercise ball "Thus, the stability ball is an effective platform for barbell chest-press training in untrained women over a short duration."
I agree with your description of the conclusion of the Verhagen et al 2004 article, but I wasn't planning on using a balance board anyway.
Because of my hypermobility and need of a type of strength training that teaches my muscles to protect my joints, I suspect that even the authors of your last source would think that my routines suit my goals.


It counts as strength training if you're signaling your muscles to get stronger by the load you put on them. I get the type of muscle pain one gets from micro-tears (an extremely important signal for building new contractile machinery in muscle fibers) when I do my strength training. I get stronger. Therefore it is strength training. You all giving me advice to toss out the 3 lb weights is actively counterproductive, because I need to start with small weights before I can move to large weights, or I will hurt myself. And, yes, rotator cuff exercises with the 3 lb dumbbells is part of the Colleen Craig strength training on the ball. Strength training does not equal "challenging"; strength training is doing exercises that make your muscles stronger. When I started, almost all of the exercises were a challenge with the 3 lb weights. As I said when I started this thread, I've gotten stronger (by both neurological training--which always happens in any strength training routine--and muscle fiber training, because some of my muscles are visibly different), and I need to increase the weights I'm using.

I can't carry a heavy backpack for training right now, because when I put on a heavy backpack, I lean forward and adopt poor posture instead of standing up straight, because my muscles aren't up to carrying the heavy backpack. I can't seem to find a happy medium that's light enough that I have good walking form and heavy enough that it actually trains my muscles. I can find exercises with weights that train these same muscles, and hopefully soon I'll be able to train by carrying an heavy backpack increasing distances. I'm not there yet, and for you all to encourage me to do so when I'm not strong enough is encouraging me to injure myself.

Also, I'm doing fun routines that I can do in my apartment when I don't take walks. Taking walks takes an enormous amount of time to result in much training, because it is a low intensity exercise. I have absolutely no muscle soreness from my 18.5 mile walk yesterday, but the last time I walked more than 15 miles was over a month ago. If I was just walking to get places regularly (I have been doing some brisk walking on days I'm not doing exercise ball stuff) and then occasionally walking long distances, I'd simply keep injuring myself, because I wouldn't be exercising often enough to have any training effect, and I'd be exercising too much when I did go on my walks.

I think you all are misinterpreting what I mean by exercise ball exercises, though. In addition to things like rotator cuff and wrist exercises with the 3 lb weights, these routines include body weight exercises, leg exercises standing on the floor, and using the ball to check posture and keep my whole body involved. Since the studies seem to say that an exercise bench and a ball as a bench are pretty simliar, that seems to support my routine. I don't have a bench of any type (my wooden chair broke, so I've just got an office chair, a soft upholstered chair, and a bed), but since I have the ball I can do horizontal ab and shoulder/back work with the ball while also using it as a perfectly serviceable substitute for an exercise bench.

You all have been giving me some good information: I shouldn't purchase a balance board or a half ball to stand on. I wasn't planning on it, and the evidence you've given me supports my disinterest in standing on an unstable surface. Your evidence, although not your claims, also supports the rest of my exercise plans. So now I need to actually do it.

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby TGM » Tue May 04, 2010 6:32 am UTC

I can't carry a heavy backpack for training right now, because when I put on a heavy backpack, I lean forward and adopt poor posture instead of standing up straight, because my muscles aren't up to carrying the heavy backpack. I can't seem to find a happy medium that's light enough that I have good walking form and heavy enough that it actually trains my muscles.


Maybe you should apply the principle of progressive overload:

Start with a backpack with an amount of weight that's light enough to ensure good form. Next time you go for a walk add a kilo. (or whatever you feel comfortable adding) Keep on doing that and eventually you'll work up to a weight that was previously too heavy.

The weight will feel light at first and it may feel like you're not doing anything but progressive overload is the basis of any decent strength training for a novice.
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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby Enuja » Tue May 04, 2010 1:39 pm UTC

Why don't you believe me, TGM? I tell you that I've tried something and it doesn't work, so you tell me to try it again, but this time it will work. That's extremely unlikely, and quite disrespectful of my experience and understanding of my body.

At this point I have bad backpacking form. Using a literally empty backpack is the only way for me to currently walk in good backpacking form with my backpacking backpack. I happen to have lost the internal divider in my backpacking backpack that is supposed to allow me to carry small loads, by putting the heavy items in the correct place in the backpack. If I just put a few heavy items in the the very bottom of the backpack, the result is a poorly balanced backpack which guarantees poor form. If I fully load my backpack, and I can stuff the lower sections of the backpack with low density items and put a few high density items up higher (which is how I actually use my backpack for backpacking, which is why I lost the divider). However, at my current training level, the backpack is too heavy if pack it properly. I can carry somewhat heavy loads in my just-shoulder-strap backpack, but, without the waist strap to distribute the load, I am not practicing how to walk properly with a backpacking backpack.

I am a person who pays a lot of attention to my body, and I obviously know more about what's practical and possible in my situation than you do, because I can't possibly share everything I know about my situation here in this thread. I'm interested in advice, but not in advice that I've already told you isn't going to work in my case.





On Friday, I did the Djelevic DVD, and played tennis for about three hours. On Saturday, I played tennis for about four hours. On Sunday, I walked 18.5 miles. On Monday I was running errands and doing other things (including carrying about 20 lbs in my regular backpack, which is too much for the regular backpack to distribute well, and therefore something that is probably counterproductive to learning good form, but still makes sense as a way to get groceries home), and it looked like I wasn't going to do specific exercise routines. My muscles felt pretty lazy and unexercised. So I finally did the Djelevic DVD, and I feel better. But right now the Djelevic DVD just feels like a little bit of cardio and like I'm getting blood to muscles I don't normally use. It doesn't feel like training, because there is only so much I can do to make it more challenging (I did try adding my 3lb weights to some of the exercises, and it worked really well for one exercise - made it more challenging and felt good, but it didn't work at all for another exercise - it hurt, so I stopped). As I said when I started this thread, I need to find something that I can increase the challenge on by upping the weights, and I still think that buying dumbbell bars with weights I can change and doing the Colleen Craig Strength Training on the Ball fits my needs really well. I just need to record the instructions and actually do it!

I didn't post this paragraph last night because talking about my actual exercise training seemed off topic. But it's not, so there's the paragraph.

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby shocklocks » Tue May 04, 2010 5:39 pm UTC

Enuja, you seem to have some massive misconceptions about the advice you're being offered and indeed strength training in general. First and most importantly you aren't increasing your risk of injuring yourself by using bigger weights. No one is telling you that you should be adding more weight onto an exercise you already find challenging or that you should be dealing with weights you fear might lead to you hurting yourself. What they are trying to say is that if you're finding 3pounds to be a handful then what ever exercise you're doing is obviously extremely isolated and probably a waste of your time. Now perhaps I'm wrong, maybe if you shared some of the exercises you were doing I could get a better idea of where you're coming from?

What it sounds like however is that you're getting suckered into the idea that you need to isolate different muscle groups in order to produce efficient / good results. This isn't true, in fact it's completely the opposite. The most blatant example I can think of is the bicep curl. Sure isolating the biceps will indeed make it stronger but whats the point? I'm gathering by your post you want functional strength that carries over into real life. As you know in real life that muscles work as a system not individually. There is nothing you will ever do(besides bicep curls) that will require the biceps to be disproportionally stronger then they need to be. Because of this you would instead do chin ups a compound exercise which mimics a range of motion that might occur in real life. In doing so you hit the: Latissimus Dorsi (Lats), Brachialis (Lower Biceps), Brachioradialis (Forearm), Biceps Brachii (Biceps), Teres Major (Outer Back), Deltoid, Posterior (Rear Delts), Infraspinatus (Rotary Cuff), Teres Minor (Rotary Cuff), Rhomboids (Middle Back), Levator Scapulae (Rear Neck), Trapezius, Middle (Upper Traps), Trapezius, Lower (Lower Traps), Pectoralis Minor (Chest) and Triceps, Long Head (Triceps). ALL proportionally with each muscle only contributing as much as it ever would for a task you would do in the real world.

If you were doing these sorts of exercises you wouldn't find 3pounds to be very much at all. In fact you'd be able to increase the weight of your lifts by at least 3pounds every single time you went to do to them for weeks after beginning the routine. You say you feel like you're stronger then you've started, how long have you been doing the routine? Consider that every week you've done now could of been at the very very least 5pounds of progress to every lift had you been doing a better program.

Now I'm not trying to discourage you or add to to the barrage of disagreement you're getting I'm just trying to point out the reality in a more straightforward way. The goals you've listed would all be accomplished faster, more easily and better with a program that focuses on compound lifts. Barbells being the best approach but if you're dead set against them then use dumbells. The important thing is paying less attention to exercises that require isolating random body parts and focusing more on exercises that give you more bang for your buck and actually mimic real life. Granted if you're completely dead set against any of this sorta advice and think you're doing swell then perhaps you should use the argument as a different sort of motivator. Set about proving us wrong :).

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby Wolf » Tue May 04, 2010 9:58 pm UTC

Enuja wrote:At this point I have bad backpacking form. Using a literally empty backpack is the only way for me to currently walk in good backpacking form with my backpacking backpack. I happen to have lost the internal divider in my backpacking backpack that is supposed to allow me to carry small loads, by putting the heavy items in the correct place in the backpack. If I just put a few heavy items in the the very bottom of the backpack, the result is a poorly balanced backpack which guarantees poor form. If I fully load my backpack, and I can stuff the lower sections of the backpack with low density items and put a few high density items up higher (which is how I actually use my backpack for backpacking, which is why I lost the divider). However, at my current training level, the backpack is too heavy if pack it properly. I can carry somewhat heavy loads in my just-shoulder-strap backpack, but, without the waist strap to distribute the load, I am not practicing how to walk properly with a backpacking backpack.

Is there any chance you could fill the bottom with an extremely low-weight but high volume material like packing peanuts or a pillow and then put the heavier weights on top of that to balance out the load? Or would that add too much weight to the total to work for you?
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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby uncivlengr » Tue May 04, 2010 11:27 pm UTC

You need a strong core to backpack, but I'm not sure that you'll get a strong core from backpacking - it's things like pilates that will actually improve your strength. Now that I think of it, I don't think I've ever seen someone use one of those balls for anything other than a set of crunches, so I don't know if that kind of routine is effectively the same thing. All I know is that when I did pilates with my climbing coach, I felt like I was going to puke by the end - it should feel like a workout.

I don't think pilates does a whole lot for back strength, though, so you could supplement that with some back exercises - just put a little bit of weight in your backpack (like a single textbook to start, then add more as you get comfortable), and practice bending over and lifting it, keeping your knees slightly bent and your back arched. This one you need to be careful with, so definitely start very low weight and get used to the motion.
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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby TGM » Wed May 05, 2010 1:54 am UTC

Enuja wrote:Why don't you believe me, TGM? I tell you that I've tried something and it doesn't work, so you tell me to try it again, but this time it will work. That's extremely unlikely, and quite disrespectful of my experience and understanding of my body.

At this point I have bad backpacking form. Using a literally empty backpack is the only way for me to currently walk in good backpacking form with my backpacking backpack. I happen to have lost the internal divider in my backpacking backpack that is supposed to allow me to carry small loads, by putting the heavy items in the correct place in the backpack. If I just put a few heavy items in the the very bottom of the backpack, the result is a poorly balanced backpack which guarantees poor form. If I fully load my backpack, and I can stuff the lower sections of the backpack with low density items and put a few high density items up higher (which is how I actually use my backpack for backpacking, which is why I lost the divider). However, at my current training level, the backpack is too heavy if pack it properly. I can carry somewhat heavy loads in my just-shoulder-strap backpack, but, without the waist strap to distribute the load, I am not practicing how to walk properly with a backpacking backpack.

I am a person who pays a lot of attention to my body, and I obviously know more about what's practical and possible in my situation than you do, because I can't possibly share everything I know about my situation here in this thread. I'm interested in advice, but not in advice that I've already told you isn't going to work in my case.


I think you misunderstood what I'm telling you:

Add a weight that does not impact on your form. If it's 1kg or 500gm or 250gm it doesn't matter, there will be a weight you can use and progressively increase. It need not feel heavy for the first few sessions. If positioning is a problem tape it into the correct position.

I find it hard to believe that you can have good from with an empty backpack but bad form once adding a kilo or less.

You also don't have to specifically go for walks, you can try to mirror other movements that replicate what you will be doing whilst backpacking.

Or you could apply this principle to the ball training you are doing. If you keep on doing the same exercise you won't get stronger, you will not be promoting an adaptation to stress. Every time you do the exercise add 1lb, or whatever increment you feel comfortable with. I don't know how your program progresses; you mentioned getting heavier dumbbells, how does your program incorporate the gradual increase?
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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby Enuja » Wed May 05, 2010 2:15 am UTC

shocklocks wrote:Enuja, you seem to have some massive misconceptions about ... strength training in general.
This isn't the most constructive way to start a post if you're trying to convince anyone of anything, and it's a particularly poor choice given what I've posted so far. But I'll try to see past it and address your substantive points as if you just didn't include the first sentence of your post.

The primary reason I am opposed to barbell exercises and chin ups is because I don't have and don't plan to purchase a gym membership. I live in a studio apartment: I can't install a chin up bar. I am aware that barbell exercises are the most time-efficient way to get stronger. I don't know if barbell exercises are the most time-efficient and low risk strategy for people with my physical characteristics to do exercises to prevent injury and avoid being sedentary: I seriously doubt if the research has been done to the extent that there is a clear-cut best practices answer.

shocklocks wrote:No one is telling you that you should be adding more weight onto an exercise you already find challenging or that you should be dealing with weights you fear might lead to you hurting yourself.
If that's true, I'm glad it's true, but it's not what the advice that it's useless to use any weighs below 30 lbs sounded like to me. Because the effect of people's words is more due to what people actually succeed at communicating than to what they were trying to say, I stand by my criticism, and hope you are correct about what other people were trying to communicate.

shocklocks wrote:Now perhaps I'm wrong, maybe if you shared some of the exercises you were doing I could get a better idea of where you're coming from?
I'll share them here just as soon as I type out the directions to read and record them so that I actually start doing the full routine. Suffice it to say for now that I've never in my life succeeded at a doing a single chin up, and I have no reason to expect that I could do a single chin up right now (I'm not doing a strength training routine right now, and hadn't gotten up to very heavy weights when I was doing some arm exercises).

shocklocls wrote:Granted if you're completely dead set against any of this sorta advice and think you're doing swell then perhaps you should use the argument as a different sort of motivator. Set about proving us wrong :).
Except that because I'm not trying to get stronger, I don't have a measurable end result that I'll be able to convince you with. I want to avoid injury, but injuries also have strong random and conditional variables, so my lack of injuries won't be convincing evidence.


Wolf, heavy items would go right through packing peanuts to the bottom of the bag, and would probably work their way between a pillow and the bag and therefore to the bottom of the bag. Playing with my backpack to find something that works is a good idea, but I'm not going to be actually backpacking until next Spring at the earliest (SO has alternative summer plans), so actually training with the backpack is something I'll pay more attention to in future. Hopefully I'll be strong enough by this winter to be able to do a straight-forward packing job and actually train with a reasonably heavy backpack.

I don't want to have walking (with or without a backpack) to be my only exercise. That's why I've never been able to do chin-ups. I've always walked, occasionally swam (not enough to do much for my arms), and never played sports until my spouse forced me into tennis about a year ago. I'm trying to change my focus a little bit, to pay more attention to my whole body instead of being proud of my lower body and completely indifferent about my torso and upper body. Previously I didn't worry about my poor posture because I knew it was just because my back muscles were so damn weak that they couldn't hold my torso up correctly for long, and I wasn't interesting in going to the trouble to fix it.

unciviengr, I don't want to do exercises that make me want to puke by the end; if that's the only way I can avoid injury, I'm simply not that interested in avoiding injury. I'm not actually doing pilates: I'm doing (or rather, talking about doing) pilates-based strength training.

TGM, the tape is a good suggestion, except I'm not going to make the inside of my backpack sticky by taping anything to it. And of course I'll be upping the weights in my strength training on the ball, as soon as I start doing the full routine, and as soon as I own heavier weights. I said that in my very first post. I plan to incorporate gradual increases by gradually increasing the amount of weight I use. I'm not sure how to be more specific than that.

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby Nath » Wed May 05, 2010 2:21 am UTC

Since Enuja gave me the go-ahead via PM to address the points she raised, here we go:

  • Lehman et al: yes, this was a negative result, but that doesn't mean it adds nothing to our knowledge. They looked for evidence that Swiss balls are helpful, and failed to find any. Yes, it's a small-scale study, but it's one of many studies that failed to find evidence that unstable surfaces are useful for strength training. Of course, these negative results do not conclusively prove that exercise balls are useless. All it means is that there's no reason to believe that exercise balls are useful for strength training. Given that there are other, safer, proven methods of strength training, this suggests (heh, I used that word) that exercise balls should not be the basis of a strength training program.
  • Not going to argue about Anderson and Behm; there is some room for interpretation there.
  • Cressey et al.: T-test performance was one of several things they measured; it's an agility test. The stable group did significantly better on everything else they measured: power output on various jumping tests, as well as 10 and 40 yard sprint times. I know you don't care about power and sprint performance, but my point is that the same exercises got objectively better results when done on a stable surface.
  • Cowley et al. measured performance on the front abdominal power test. The stability ball group improved by 5%, and the flat bench group improved by 27%. They conclude that the exercise ball is an effective platform, but the results show that it's less effective than a stable surface such as a bench. In other words, the exercise ball is effective in the sense that it only partially negates the usefulness of the exercise. (That said, if you don't have a bench and the exercise can't be performed on the ground, then the exercise ball version is better than nothing.)
  • I don't want to put words into the mouth of the author of the Cybex article, but your hypermobility makes exercise ball training more risky, not less. If you read the text of the article, he advocates using unstable surfaces to practice stabilization (remaining motionless). He says that performing moving exercises on an unstable surface yields negligible results, and possibly impedes progress on injury rehabilitation. If I were to guess what his conclusion would be for your case, I very much doubt that he'd think your routines suit your (or anyone's) goals.
  • Reid & Schneiker: oh, wait, you didn't address this one. :)

The other point I wanted to bring up was the weight used. schocklocks captured my concern perfectly: 3lb is a very small percentage of your 1 rep maximum on most compound exercises. For reference, here are some ballpark strength standards for various populations on various compound lifts. Assuming you are a completely untrained 97lb woman, your 1RM on the press (the smallest movement there) is probably in the 30lb region. Most of the literature on strength training calls it 'high intensity' if you're working in the 80% 1RM region or higher, and the 'low intensity' end of the spectrum tends to be 40% or so. You rarely see papers using less weight than that, because if you're working with such a small percentage of your max, you're basically doing bodyweight training. 3lb is within the range of variation caused by your choice of clothing on a particular day, your level of hydration, and the elapsed time since your last poop. You're moving a significant fraction of your body on most compound movements, so another couple of pounds makes no difference. Of course, small amounts of weight do matter for small isolation movements, but hopefully Craig isn't recommending something quite so silly.

Of course, use a weight with which you feel safe, and increase it gradually, but don't underestimate yourself too drastically. Low rep compound movements are safer in many ways than high rep isolation work, and involve more stabilization. The dumbbell bars with weights are a great idea, because they let you scale up gradually.

Again, sorry if all this is discouraging. You've already decided on strength training with free weights, with progression. These are steps in the right direction.

Post-Ninja edit:
Enuja wrote:Except that because I'm not trying to get stronger, I don't have a measurable end result that I'll be able to convince you with. I want to avoid injury, but injuries also have strong random and conditional variables, so my lack of injuries won't be convincing evidence.

I know you aren't trying to get stronger in the sense of lifting as much weight as possible, but the reason strength training prevents injury is that it makes you stronger. If you aren't getting stronger, it isn't strength training. Also, if you don't expect measurable results, how will you know whether the program is working?

And on the chin-up issue: yeah, you probably won't want to try and dive right in. But there are compound dumbbell exercises you could do to hit many of the same muscles (e.g. rows).

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby Enuja » Wed May 05, 2010 3:53 am UTC

  • Lehman et al: You said "They looked for evidence that Swiss balls are helpful, and failed to find any." but, instead, they looked for evidence that Swiss balls are more helpful than exercises benches, and failed to find any. They didn't compare Swiss ball strength training to no training, so they weren't looking for how helpful Swiss balls training is, but how helpful it is compared to using a bench. What this study means is that there is no reason to believe that exercise ball are more useful for strength training than exercise benches are, not that there is no reason to believe that strength training on a ball has any effect at all.
  • Cressey et al.: You're right that I missed one bit: it appears that the stable group improved significantly more than the unstable group on the 40 yard sprint. That's the only statistically significant difference between groups I see in the abstract (they don't say anything about the statistical difference between groups on bounce drop jump and countermovement jump heights, despite the fact that stable group significantly improved and the unstable group did not change from before the experimental training regime: this may just be due to variability and may not reflect actual differences in groups). Anyway, this is standing on an unstable surface, which I'm not planning on doing, and it's using already trained athletes, a group I'm not particularly interested in.
  • Cowley et al. measured more than one thing, and even in the front abdominal power test where the stability ball group improved by 5% and the flat bench group improved by 27%, those changes were not significantly different! It doesn't matter how different the numbers sound: the variability was so large and/or the sample size so small that, statistically, this experiment did not show which group had better improvement, even in the front abdominal power test.
  • Cybex position paper
    It has been fairly well documented, for instance, that spine extensor exercises, while face down on a ball,
    activate the spine erector muscles more than the same exercises done on the ground (Cosio-Lima et al, 2003; Marshall and Murphy, 2005). The same can be said for abdominal crunches and bridging exercises. Some authors have even noted enhanced core activity during push-ups and bench presses on a ball, as opposed to a stable bench (Cowley, et al, 2007; Lehman, et al, 2006; Marshall and Murphy, 2006). All of these studies lead to the conclusion that core musculature can be better stimulated on unstable platforms when the subject is positioned horizontally on top of the moving surface, most likely by inducing higher levels of co-contraction around the spine.
    This phenomenon, while being useful for remaining motionless, is fundamentally and functionally incompatible with skillful motion, which requires smooth, fluid, and forceful movement around the joints.

    When one is required to both stabilize and move on an unstable surface, one is given a task, the elements of which, are essentially incongruous. In other words, it’s difficult to move and stabilize at the same time. It can be done, but the outcome is disjointed and choppy motion, with negligible results.
    The truth is, that under highly controlled conditions, unstable surfaces have their place in the treatment of ankle and lumbar spine dysfunction. They are even useful in many forms of core strengthening, given proper posture and technique. In this respect, unstable exercises deserve a rightful place in health and fitness centers.
    The Cybex position paper contradicts itself; it both says that exercise balls are helpful in core training (which involves moving) and that stablizing and moving at the same time (a part of all exercise ball activeties) is fundamentally counterproductive. Since I'm not at all interested in forceful movement around the joints in the real world, and the Cybex position paper seems to have invented this objection from their opinions and not from the evidence they are citing, I ignored that particular tidbit. When ball exercises are done properly, my experience is the outcome is not "disjointed and choppy motion," and I see no evidence for Cybex's claim that this is true. I'm trying to teach my muscles to do joint stabilization whenever I do anything, so training them on joint stabilization seems like I'm training them on exactly the functional purpose I want them to serve! Stabilization does not equal motionless: stabilization is restricting the motion to the correct angles and ranges of motion. I only get one well-supported caution from this paper: standing on, jumping to, or leaping on unstable surfaces is risky. I don't have any problem with that conclusion.
  • Reid & Schneiker: I didn't address this one because it was just the abstract of a review about tennis training, and there wasn't any actual information for me to respond to in the abstract.

What evidence do you have that exercises sitting on, laying on, and doing bridges to the ball are at all risky for me with my hypermobility? I'm not leaping onto the ball, I promise. I get repetitive motion injuries, where my kneecap is sliding slightly out of place thousands of times in a row, with my hypermobility. I don't understand how the ball is at all risky for this.

From your link to ballpark strength standards, I'd be expected to have a 38lb overhead press, which means 19 pounds on each arm. 80% of 1RM would be 15.2 lbs. And, yes, I was doing, and plan on doing again, dumbbell overhead presses (making sure I don't lock my elbows!), and I was planning on trying 15 pounds for that exercise, as soon as I bought heavier dumbbells.

When looking at online instructions for compound lifts, I see directions that you extend to fully locked position. Since my arms don't lock until they are hyperextended (more than 180 deg; I don't think 10 degrees past flat, which is the measure for that being one point for each arm on the Beighton Hypermobility Score), locking sounds like a really bad idea. Maybe doing barbell exercises would prevent my arms from hyperextending (because they are holding onto the same bar) but the concept of joint locking sounds counterproductive for my goals.

Yes, I expect to get stronger with strength training (because, as you say, otherwise it wouldn't be strength training, now, would it), but I don't expect those gains to be impressive and certainly not impressive enough to convince anyone online that my way was the best way. But my real goal is to have pain and injury free walking and activity. And I'll be able to tell how well it is working with how my joints feel during and after exercise, and when I do things I didn't used to be able to without pain and injury.

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Nath
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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby Nath » Wed May 05, 2010 5:07 am UTC

Well, yeah, I don't doubt that strength training on a ball is better than not strength training at all. I said so in my previous post. I'm saying it's less effective than training on a stable surface.

I'm not at work right now, so I don't have access to the journal with the Cressey and Cowley papers, and can't check the statistical significance. But even if all these studies have small samples, don't you think it's odd that they all show the same trends (i.e. that unstable surfaces make exercises less effective)? If they were all so small as to be meaningless, you'd expect a uniform random distribution.

Core exercises on a ball may be better than core exercises on the ground, but it's not clear whether this is because of the instability or the range of motion added by the ball. You can add range of motion with a bench or Roman chair, as well.

The people in the balance board study were not leaping onto it, either. They were just balancing on an unstable surface, and this was enough to cause injuries. Yes, a balance board and an exercise ball are different things, but they serve a similar purpose in training, which is why there are all these papers talking about unstable training surfaces as a single class of things. Now, I don't have a citable paper showing that Enuja will hurt herself doing bridges on an exercise ball, with p-value < 0.05. But it seems plausible that whatever mechanism caused injuries on the balance board may apply to other exercises on similar surfaces. And given that we still have no evidence of any benefit from these training methods besides Craig's word, I'm not seeing what the appeal of unstable surfaces is.

I agree about not hyperextending joints under load, and I'm glad you're planning to go heavier on compound exercises. This makes the adjustable dumbbell thing more important, because working at high intensity, you'll see measurable workout-to-workout strength increases in the beginning, and it'll be nice if you can add small increments to the weight rather than having to order a 20lb dumbbell in two weeks.

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby TGM » Wed May 05, 2010 6:31 am UTC

Enuja wrote:Yes, I expect to get stronger with strength training (because, as you say, otherwise it wouldn't be strength training, now, would it), but I don't expect those gains to be impressive and certainly not impressive enough to convince anyone online that my way was the best way. But my real goal is to have pain and injury free walking and activity. And I'll be able to tell how well it is working with how my joints feel during and after exercise, and when I do things I didn't used to be able to without pain and injury.


So long as you're progressing and you stick to a routine and attain your goals that's enough to impress - many people don't get that far. No one's expecting you to become as strong as a powerlifter and that would be counter-productive to your goals anyway.

You should try tracking your progress, it can be a great motivational tool. You can track things like weight lifted, reps done, or speed with which you complete the workout. Having measurable progress is invaluable, you could even just record how difficult the workout was in relative terms e.g. "exercise A on 5/5/2010 was easier than exercise A on 1/5/2010 with xlbs both times." Another obvious thing to track is distance walked. If you have an Android phone there's an app that records distance, elevation, etc.

If you can track your progress on a graph it can be even better as it shows you how much you've improved at a glance, but logs and diary's are good too.
- TGM

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby jtw » Wed May 05, 2010 12:26 pm UTC

We're either being trolled, or Enuja simply wants to ignore our advice and do her own exercises. What's the point of the original post, anyway: motivate you? argue with you? indulge you in your exercise ball plan?

My last bit of serious advice is that deadlifts are the exercise for you. It will strengthen your lower back and legs which will improve posture and allow your back to support more weight. But good luck with your own program if that's what you choose.

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby Enuja » Wed May 05, 2010 3:28 pm UTC

You're calling me a troll because I don't have the money to go to a gym and use barbells? That's a bit much. And, yes, as I said in the very first line of my very first post, I'm looking for motivation.

When I posted looking for motivation, I got argument. So I participated in the argument, especially because, looking around this forum, I don't think that this forum is very welcoming or helpful for people trying to add strength training to their exercise that is simply trying to make them healthy, robust, and non-sedentary. I have a background as a biology teacher (primarily as a TA), and I have a tendency to correct misreadings of statistics. That doesn't make me a troll: it makes me skeptical and argumentative.

Two reliable sources, a brochure from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) about free weights, the ACSM and American Heart Association Physical Activity & Public Health Guide (counting together as one source: the ACSM), and the Mayo clinic website answering a question about sets with some information about reps say that most people should do strength training exercises at a difficulty at which they can just do 8-12 reps. Here is the basic strength training page on the Mayo exercise website.

I got interested in the ball about a year ago, when I looked at the Mayo Clinic's exercise section, and looked through their core exercises slideshow and the slideshow with core exercises on the ball, and I both enjoyed the ball exercises more and found them more challenging. (The Mayo website changed the core exercise on the ball slideshow since then.) No sources any of you have given are more convincing or reliable than the things I've already read.



Back to my discussions with Nath, which are done in good humor on both of our parts, and don't constitute trolling on either side.

I'm not sure why you're still talking about the balance board study: I agreed completely with your original description of it. They were doing ankle exercises, not knee exercises, and doing ankle exercises on the balance board is risky for knees. Got it. No problems with it. Don't think it has anything to do with what I'm doing, because my knee exercises are body weight exercises (with the ball in my arms or at my back to promote good posture) and squeezing the ball between my knees. I just tried some modified push-ups on the ground, and confirmed that that doesn't feel terribly good for my knees. I'm pretty sure my current exercises are not risky for my knees at all.

In order to add up lots of different small studies, you need to do a statistical meta-analysis, and you need to include all of the studies that you can find, not just a few selected studies. I know that human minds are so good at finding trends that we see trends in random data, so I'm very skeptical about letting my brain, instead of statistics, tell me what is due to chance and what is due to a real effect. That's my major criticism of your analysis of papers: you're not skeptical enough of your brain's pattern-finding over-ability, and you were making statements in direct contradiction of the statistical results.

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Re: My exercise ball and other routines

Postby Nath » Fri May 07, 2010 10:03 am UTC

Whoops, forgot to get back to this.

I've already explained my reasoning about why it's plausible that exercise balls add to the risk for exercises where you put weight on them. Obviously, this doesn't apply to exercises where you're holding the ball in your hands. In any case, I suppose you'll discover this if/when you try to do 5RM overheaded presses on an exercise ball.

I never claimed that my post was a rigorous meta-analysis. Exercise science papers tend to have tiny number of samples, but this is all the data we have (and you asked for something other than anecdotal evidence). Sadly, that's the nature of the field. Any conclusions drawn from small studies have to be treated cautiously, but it beats the word of some self-proclaimed strength expert who's produced no measurable results that I'm aware of. Given a choice between inconclusive studies and an expert who's produced good results, I'd trust the latter more, but Craig does not qualify.

You probably agree that the statistical evidence in favor of exercise on unstable surfaces just as sparse as the evidence against it. Given that exercise on stable surfaces is much better studied and understood, I'm just not seeing the argument in favor of unstable surfaces.


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