Accelerate Physical Therapy

Swiss Ball Squats for Beginners or Early Stages of Rehabilitation

If you are looking to strengthen your legs, in particular your quads, hamstrings, and gluts, squats are always a great option to consider. They are often thought of as the king of exercises when it comes to the leg. It’s a great way to build the leg muscles, as well as the lower back and abdomen.

However, several people cannot start off doing a traditional squat, or have to start over after an injury with something less stressful on the body. Rather than not doing one of the best forms of exercise for strengthening the leg at all, physical therapists and doctors are finding that utilizing a Swiss ball with squats is a great alternative.

What is a Swiss Ball?

A Swiss ball is a large inflatable ball that is heavy duty, and typically 18-30 inches in diameter. You might have heard it referenced as a Pilate’s, stability, fitness, exercise, balance, or yoga ball, or some other various terms used. But, it’s pretty obvious when you see one in person or in photos.

This ball allows for a highly-effective, safe, and at times even a fun way to exercise. They are also inexpensive compared to most other pieces of exercise equipment, as well as very durable. Using one with squats can help you enjoy the benefits of a tough exercise, all while reducing the risk of injury…or further injury if you are rehabilitating.

So, if you are in the beginning stages of strengthening your hamstrings and gluts, or rehabilitating your hips or knees, consider using a Swiss ball, at least for the first few sessions until you become more stable and strong.

How to Utilize the Swiss Ball with Squats

Using a ball with squats will require the ball, a wall, and a little space. So, you should first find a bare wall that will provide ample room to work with you and the ball. And then, do the following:

  • Placing the Ball – The ball should be against the wall and resting on your lower back (directly above your waist) while in a standing position. If it’s placed too high or too low, it will likely roll right out of position and could lead to injury.
  • Positioning the Feet – To avoid falling forward, make sure to place your feet in front of you when you are in the starting position. It might take a couple times of trying to get the feet in your best position. However, starting out with your feet anywhere from 1 to 2 feet out in front of you is about average for most people. The taller you are, the more out front you might need to have your feet.
  • Squatting Down – For the downward motion, slowly start to squat, as the ball naturally rolls down with you as a way to guide and support you in the movement. The ball should naturally roll along your back as you squat, and be at or near your upper back when you are as low as you should go, which is when your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Standing Back Up – While allowing the ball to guide your movement again, start to stand back up, slowly. If you are doing it right, the ball should be in your lower back again when you are back to your starting position.

These steps should be repeated about 10 times, or however many times your physical therapist or trainer suggests you do. If you feel it’s too much, talk to your therapist to see if you are doing it accurately. There are a couple variations to consider if you find it’s too difficult, or too easy.

Variations for Swiss Ball Squats

If this is too difficult or painful at first, start the same process above, but don’t go down as far. Swiss ball squats can be as shallow as necessary, especially in the beginning. You can always go deeper next time, if your body allows.

Once you are ready to advance to a bigger challenge, but still want to use the ball, you can make it more challenging by placing weights in each hand and holding on to them during the entire process. Start with a lighter set of weights, and add more weight gradually if you still need more of a challenge.

As with all exercising and rehabilitation, it’s best to consult a physician or physical therapist, before you start.