Massage and Bodywork Magazine for the Visually Impaired - Be on the Ball

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September/October 2013 Issue

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Be on the Ball

Building Strength and Flexibility

By Peggy Lamb
[Savvy Self-Care]

Let’s face it—even with the best body mechanics, doing massage is tough on our bodies, especially the low back. Both strength and flexibility are needed to maintain our range of movement while helping our clients recover and maintain theirs. The exercise ball is a fabulous tool you can use to build your core and low-back strength and flexibility.

Strength

A unique benefit of an exercise ball is its ability to position the body with proper alignment and simultaneously challenge a muscle or group of muscles. Maintaining proper alignment on the ball stimulates the body’s natural motor reflexes and encourages the body to react as an integrated unit. In other words, the ball challenges the whole body to participate in order to maintain correct posture and balance while performing a dynamic movement. 


Supine Bridge

The Supine Bridge is a great exercise for strengthening your low back and core. Your arms should be on the floor by your side in a comfortable position.


Lie supine on the floor with heels, ankles, and lower legs hip-width apart on the ball. 


Curl your pelvis under, then slowly lift your pelvis off the floor (Image 1). Keep the gluteus maximus relaxed; let the core do the work. Hold for 15–30 seconds. 


To come out, curl your pelvis under and lower the spine—vertebra by vertebra. 

One of the great things about an exercise ball is that a simple change of arm position totally changes the difficulty of an exercise. After gaining mastery of the supine bridge, challenge your balance and coordination by changing your arm position (Images 2 and 3). Once you’ve mastered those variations, try the ultimate version of this exercise by lifting one leg off the ball (Image 4).

Flexibility 

Stretching with an exercise ball offers many unique advantages:

•Provides a full range of motion.

•Enables easy position transitions.

•Supports body weight through the stretch.

•Stabilizes the core while isolating a particular body part for the stretch. 


Iliopsoas/Thigh Flexor Stretch

The iliopsoas is a prime-time player in low-back and core health. Because we spend too much time with our thighs in flexion, they and the secondary thigh flexors tend to be locked short. Good flexibility in these muscles is crucial for a healthy low back and core. 

1. Place the ball in front of your right hip, with your left foot on the floor in front of the ball and the right knee on the floor behind the ball. 

2. Lift the back knee off the floor as you lean your weight into the ball. Maintain neutral spine (Image 5). 

3. Hold for 15–30 seconds, then release. Repeat with the opposite leg. 

Quadratus Lumborum Stretch 

The quadratus lumborum is another prime-time player in low-back and core health. Keeping it supple is vital to moving through life with fluidity and ease.

1.
Kneel on the floor next to the ball. Lean the side being stretched on the ball. 

2. Cross the top leg over the bottom leg. 

3.
Press into the top foot and lift the hips off the floor
(Image 6). Hold for 15–30 seconds, then repeat on the
other side. 


Spinal Twist Stretch

This nurturing spinal twist stretch is simple to do. It’s excellent for the paraspinals and rotatores. 

1.
Start with the body in neutral position with the knees bent, feet on the floor, and hands holding an exercise ball. 

2.
Let the knees comfortably fall to the right as you let the ball fall to the left (Image 7). 

3.
Hold for 15–30 seconds. Repeat on the other side. 

Peggy Lamb is the author of Releasing the Rotator Cuff, Stretch Your Clients!, and The Core of the Matter: Releasing the Iliopsoas and Quadratus Lumborum. An educator and bodyworker for more than 25 years, she brings her eclectic and extensive background into her teaching for an interesting and enlightening learning experience. Visit her website at www.massagepublications.com or email her at info@massagepublications.com. 

To read this article in our digital issue, click here.



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