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Now That's A Fancy Looking Swiss Ball Exercise

If you walk around the gym you will sometimes notice that some people utilise the swiss ball almost like a bench when doing their presses. Have you ever wondered whether this actually does anything or it is just to look fancy?

Well, you are not alone. 

Marshall and Murphy (2006) decided to assess the muscle activity that is elicited when you trade in a stable bench for a fancy and unstable exercise ball, and see whether there are any differences between the two exercises. They found some interesting results....

What Did The Study Show?

The authors of the study found that when you perform a swiss ball dumbbell bench press, instead of using a bench, you have significantly greater:

  • Rectus Abdominis
  • Internal Obliques
  • Transversus Abdominis
  • Anterior Deltoid

Rectus Abdominis | The 6-Pack!

Furthermore, whilst not increased, the swiss ball did not inhibit or reduce the activation of the prime movers of the exercise - pectoralis major and triceps brachii. 

Why Is This The Case? 

The authors suggest that the instability of the exercise ball leads to an increased activation of 'secondary stabilisers'. The need to stabilise the movement in all 3 anatomical planes meant there was a greater activation of the core and shoulder musculature (Marshall & Murphy, 2006). 

What's the take home message?

Well, if you are looking to get the most out of your workouts in the shortest time period (and let's be honest who isn't?) combining the bench press with the instability of the ball can increase activation of your abdominal muscles for core strengthening and toning. 

Swiss Ball Bench Press Technique


Marshall PWM, Murphy BA. Increased deltoid and abdominal muscle activity during swiss ball bench press. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2006;20(4):745-750

Written by Matthew Asimus — November 14, 2012


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