// The Gymstick Swiss ball sensation

By adding the Gymstick to Swiss ball training, the entire body can achieve strength gains while facing the added challenge of working on an unstable base of support. Marietta Mehanni and Sophie Russell show you how.

The Swiss ball

The Swiss ball has been a tool synonymous with balance, stability and strength training for many years. Used widely for rehabilitation purposes, especially within physiotherapy circles, the Swiss ball has gained respect and value as a piece of equipment that no trainer should be without. Its popularity has even extended to the general population, such that it isn’t unusual to see Swiss balls in offices and homes around the country.

The diversity of exercises and uses for what is, essentially, a large rubber ball, is truly remarkable. Now, with the addition of weights, the ball can be used as an effective tool for sports conditioning and heightened proprioception training.

Enter the Gymstick

Gymstick was invented by a team of fitness and health professionals from the Finnish Institute of Sport whose aim was to provide a comprehensive strength and conditioning tool for the whole body. Its versatility, effectiveness and ability to meet the exercise needs of diverse populations has seen its use spread to more than 30 countries worldwide. The Gymstick comes in two models, with the original being the best option for fitness facilities and studios, and the telescopic version being ideal for portability as it compacts to 72cm, fitting into a sports bag or suitcase.

Benefits of combining Gymstick with Swiss ball

Traditionally, dumbbells have been the preferred choice for adding resistance to exercises performed on the ball. Weighted resistance such as that provided by dumbbells, is only effective when the muscle action is working against gravity; i.e. lifting the weight upwards from the ground. This has several limitations when using the ball, as the body is restricted to specific positions. For example, to work pectorals using dumbbells, the body needs be in a supine position. When using the Gymstick, the body can be in any number of positions as the resistance is determined by the line of pull from the bands. For example, pectorals can be trained in a supine, prone, seated or inclined position on the ball. This has several advantages:
  • Variety
  • Greater range of modifications and progressions
  • Core activation is heightened, even in a seated position
  • Safer to use, especially in the supine position, in the unfortunate event of a Swiss ball bursting.
Using dumbbells with the Swiss ball also restricts you to applying load only through the upper body. The Gymstick enables resistance to be applied to both the upper and lower body, thus achieving overall strength gains while still reaping the benefits of working on an unstable base of support.

The Swiss ball is renowned for its ability to get clients activating several muscle groups within one exercise. One of the key advantages of using the Gymstick with the Swiss ball is that global and local muscle groups work against resistance, rather than just being used to stabilise the body. In fact, a major stabilising challenge when working with the Gymstick on the Swiss ball is the fact that the line of pull of the bands will often drag the body in one direction, against which the client will need to activate opposing muscle groups in order to remain balanced.

The level of stability will also be determined by how the trainer manipulates the resistance while the exercise is being performed. In this way, the trainer plays an active role in the degree of workout intensity. The advantage of this interaction is that the trainer is able to see how the exercise is being performed, and also feel how effectively the client is working.

Choosing appropriate Gymstick resistance

Gymstick has five options for resistance levels, making it  adaptable for use by people of almost any age or fitness level. The resistance levels are colour coded as below:
GREEN  Light: 1 to 10kg
BLUE  Medium: 1 to 15kg
BLACK  Strong: 1 to 20kg
SILVER  Extra strong: 1 to 25kg
GOLD  Super strong: 1 to 30kg

The recommended starting resistance level when working with a Gymstick on a Swiss ball is blue, providing the client is injury-free and has had previous experience exercising with a Swiss ball. If more challenge is required then the resistance level can be manipulated quickly and effectively by simply winding the bands around the stick.

Another dimension

Adding the Gymstick to Swiss ball training adds another dimension by challenging the body to stabilise while working against resistance, recruiting as many muscle groups as possible. This has applications for sporting activities as well as providing compound functional training for clients. It is also beneficial for older adults who require more resistance on the ball, but cannot confidently position themselves in either the supine or prone positions. The benefit of adding the Gymstick to your training sessions is that you can use it on its own or with other fitness tools. Its uses are limited only by your imagination.

The exercises

Lat pulldown (photos 1, 2 & 3)

Muscles used: Latissimus dorsi, biceps brachii, brachalis, brachioradialis, erector spinae, gluteus maximus and hamstrings in raised leg, tibialis anterior and vastus group in the stabilising leg, hip and shoulder stabilisers and core muscles
Client position: Prone over ball with bar in hands.
Action: Starting with arms extended above head, pull bar towards chest. Return to start position.
Progressions: 1. Bring feet together; 2. Lift one foot off floor.

Supine bench press (photos 4, 5 & 6)

Muscles used: Pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, triceps, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, erector spinae, core muscles and hip and shoulder stabilisers.
Client position: Supine on ball with head supported and hips lifted, feet shoulder-width apart and bar in hands.
Action: Starting with elbows extended, lower Gymstick to chest and return to start position.
Progressions: 1. Same position with feet together; 2. Same position with one foot off floor.

Abdominal curl (photos 7, 8 & 9)

Muscles used: Rectus abdominus, internal and external obliques, core muscles, hip stabilisers, quadriceps in raised leg, hamstrings in supporting leg
Client position: Inclined on the ball with bar held across chest and arms crossed over.
Action: Begin with torso in a reclined position. Flex spine, curling body off ball. Return to start position.
Progressions: 1. Same position with feet together; 2. Same position with one foot off floor.

Seated one arm rows (photos 10, 11 & 12)

Muscles used: Rhomboids, posterior deltoid, biceps brachii, brachalis, brachioradialis, erector spinae, hip and shoulder stabilisers, quadriceps and core muscles.
Client position: Seated on ball with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold bar in a vertical position with one hand.
Action: Starting with elbow fully extended, pull bar towards torso. Return to start position.
Progressions: 1. Bring feet together; 2. Lift one foot off floor.

Hip extension with shoulder press (photos 13 & 14)

Muscles used: Deltoids, pectoralis major, triceps, gluteus maximus, vastus group, erector spinae, core muscles, hip and shoulder stabilisers.
Client position: Standing upright in front of the ball with bands around feet and bar in front of shoulders.
Action: Start with one foot placed on ball, roll ball back and extend hip behind body. At the same time press bar forward. Return to start position.

Prone plank roll away (photos 15 & 16)

Muscles used: Gluteus maximus, vastus group, erector spinae, hip and shoulder stabilisers, anterior deltoid, triceps and core muscles.

Client position: Prone with feet on ball. Bands around feet and hands on floor.
Action: Begin with feet on ball and hands placed on floor under shoulders. Extend knees and hips, rolling ball back. Return to start position.
Progressions: Begin with one leg on the ball and hands placed on floor under shoulders. Other leg hanging under hips with knee flexed. Extend knee and hips of leg on the ball, rolling ball back.


Marietta Mehanni
Marietta is an award winning Australian presenter (Author of the Year 2007, Aqua Exercise Leader of the Year 2003) and Australian Fitness Network Ambassador with over 20 years of teaching experience in both land and water-based group exercise. Certified with AFAA, ACE, AEA, SCW and Certificate IV in training and assessment, Marietta presents conventions worldwide. She is the World Master Trainer for Gymstick International with an expertise in Gymstick Aqua and Original Indoor concepts.

Sophie Russell, BA
Sophie is an award-winning instructor, personal trainer, presenter and author. Originally hailing from the UK, she has been based in Melbourne for the past 15 years. A lively and popular instructor of a wide variety of fitness classes, she is also a master trainer for Gymstick Australia. For more information on the Gymstick, visit