Roll Out Your Swiss Ball

All eyes are on the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and it’s hard not to take notice of the athletes’ physiques. Most of us are not professional athletes—but that doesn’t mean we can’t steal some moves from their workouts. So pump some life back into your Swiss ball and try some moves that Olympic swimmers and gymnasts are doing.

Florida Panthers’ strength and conditioning coach Andy O’Brien, who started working with 40-year-old Dara Torres in November 2007, includes Swiss balls, medicine balls, bands and resistance cables in the swimmer’s training regimen. The goal of her 90-minute strength sessions, which she performs four times a week, is to strengthen her core muscles using compound exercises.

Leading up to the Olympics, meanwhile, gymnast Alicia Sacramone performed an hour of strength training for gymnastics every day—and included the pike up with the Swiss ball in her routine.

To perform this exercise, place your lower legs on the ball and get in a pushup position. Pull the ball toward your face as you raise your butt high to form a pike. Hold for a second and roll back out until your body is straight. That’s one rep.

Why does this matter to you? The core is more than just your abs. So while you can use your Swiss ball for crunches, you can also use it to perform planks, back extensions, prone jackknives, hamstring curls and back wall slides to exercise your lower backs, hips, pelvis and upper thighs.