Exercise Analysis #2: Ball Squats vs. Traditional Squats
We at the Cybex Research Institute (CRI) see many variations of the squat exercise. One popular variation is when someone leans up against a physio-ball placed between their back and a wall. The ball allows you to easily ‘roll’ up and down the wall as you complete the squat range of motion. One might assume that leaning against the wall is a safer alternative to the traditional squat because the ball provides you with some support… but is this true?
Episode 2 of our exercise analysis series examines the biomechanics of the legs during both the traditional squat and ball squat. We found that performing the exercise with the physio-ball results in reduced glute and hamstring involvement and an increase in quadriceps involvement compared to the standard body weight squat. Thus, the exercise becomes much more knee-focused with the use of the ball. If one objective of the exercise is to protect the knees from increased stress, then leaning against the ball may not be advisable. However, if an exerciser is unable to complete a standard squat because of glute weakness, then the ball squat might be an acceptable alternative – just be aware of its limited ability to increase the strength of the glutes and hamstrings.
We should be careful not to simply follow popular trends when prescribing or performing exercises. It is always important to prioritize the desired training outcome, while considering potential stresses that we may be imposing on ourselves or our clients.
Cory L. Hofmann, M.S.
Research Project Manager, Cybex Research Institute
Cybex is a provider and manufacturer of premium commercial fitness equipment. Content featured in the Cybex Fitness Blog is meant to inspire healthy living and wellness and should not be taken as medical advice. For medical advice please consult a doctor.