Stability Ball Workout Design: Working out with the big ball

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Swiss ball or stability workouts are fun and effective and provide variety as part of a general exercise program. The ball workout format is the same as other workouts for personal training or group exercise. 


The workout can have a traditional resistance training format with 1-3 sets of 6-10 repetitions of each exercise, from 6-16 exercises depending on difficulty and intensity. And a 1-2 minute rest-pause between exercises. Or:

The workout can be performed as circuit training with 8-12 exercises and 30-60 seconds of each exercise (or 6-12 repetitions of each exercise) for 1-3 rounds.
All exercises should be adapted for the purpose and the person(s) working out.

Exercise suggestions

  • Squats and lunges with the ball as a prop
  • Chest and triceps via push ups
  • Lat work via roll outs
  • Back extension
  • Ab curl and oblique curl
  • Bridges and alternating superman
  • Planks and side planks

The structure may vary according to needs and preference, but here is an example of a group exercise swiss ball or stability ball class:


Part of class | Duration | Music tempo

  • Introduction | 1-2 minutes | No music
  • Warm-up | 5-15 minutes| 120-130 BPM (or no music)
  • Cardio (optional) | 20 minutes+ | 120-135 BPM (or no music)
  • Resistance exercise / balance | 20-60 minutes | 90-130 BPM (or no music)
  • Cool down / stretching | 5-15 minutes + | < 110 BPM (or no music)
  • Outro / closure | 1-2 minutes | No music

A typical swiss ball / stability ball class has no cardio section as this is not the primary focus, but it is possible to have som fun and/or challenge drills for light cardio work.

For more exercises:

Stability ball exercises (500 exercises for cardio, strength, stability and flexibility)

Your exercise and health: MED – exactly what it takes!

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Long ago one of my mentors, Yvonne Lin, World Champion of Wushu karate and a tai chi and sports aerobic expert, opened my semi-shot fitness eyes; in dedicated sports training it is all about getting optimal results with minimal time investment in order to have more time for fun; more sports, more party, more travelling …

Since then I have worked to promote time-efficient workouts. And recently I read a text with a thought, which PR-wise nails it … anyway in my head, which is produced by to pharmacists:

Program and train according to the MED principle.

“MED of exercise is the crucial skill set that you need to develop (…)”.
Dr. Phil Cobb, in ‘7 Costly mistakes trainers make and how to avoid them’).

Marina dips oppe USMED, Minimal Effective Dose, is an expression from pharmacology and it is used by doctors and pharmacists about the amount necessary for the medicine to work:

Too little: Does not work.

Right: Works well and you will get better.

Too much: Harmful; you may get ill (injured), sick or die.

Think about exercise as medicine, a medication. Your exercise should – like medicine – be administered in the right dosage, otherwise you will not receive all the expected benefits. On the contrary …

Think about establishing MED, the minimal dose, needed for your workout to be exactly right and work in the intended way.

At present most exercisers are ‘over-medicated’ and work out too much and too hard with too little to show for it. There is room for improvement: Train smarter, not harder …
(harder here meaning the wrong, long, enduring, grinding way).

Fitness training is of course so wonderful, that many of us want to train a lot! However, you could say, that if you train faster (for a shorter time period) and more efficiently, you will have time for extra and maybe more exciting, diverse exercise.

Happy workout!

Read more:

Phil Cobb: 7 Costly Mistakes Trainers Make and How to Avoid Them.

Express Fitness # 3: Superset Training for Travel or Home

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Keeping fit at home or when travelling may be easier than you think. You can maximize your workout results, including weight loss, while minimizing workout time.

For variation and speedy workouts one of the methods I use, is the body building method super set, which can be employed by exercisers of all levels. Two variations:
You can do compound super sets, which includes two exercises for one muscle group, but if you want to increase strength and burn fat, while keeping the workout short, the agonist-antagonist super set method is the better option.

Strength training on your travel Riga Gym lat pulldown super set photo Henrik ElstrupSuper set training (lat pull down, then shoulder press) at Elefant hotel, Riga, Latvia.

Agonist-antagonist superset
You work opposite muscle groups back to back without pausing, e.g. 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions: First one set for the chest, then one for the upper back, with no rest-pause between the sets, and then the next set for the chest, the next set for the upper back, without a rest-pause. Then the third set for the chest and so on.

After one muscle pair (opposite muscles; agonist and antagonist) you proceed without a rest-pause to the next muscle pair and so forth.
Because you eliminate all rest-pauses – the muscle have a small rest period, when you work the opposite muscle – you turn up the intensity and save time. Excellent.

An example of a basic resistance training program according to the super set principle: After a warm-up work opposite muscle groups alternatingly, 3 x 8-12 of each, e.g.:

  • Leg press (squat) and leg curl
  • Horisontal rowing (wide grip) and chest press
  • Lat pulldown and shoulder press
  • Back extension and abdominal curl

Try this for intensity, fat burning and fast fitness.

Express Fitness # 2: Circuit Training For Travel or Home

Marina Aagaard, MFE

Get fit and healthy in no time; work out smarter, not harder. Whether you are staying at home or travelling, you can get a super workout with bodyweight, beams, bars or furniture or fitness equipment. The most timeefficient way of getting an all-round resistance and cardio workout is:

  • Circuit training (complex or simple, but always fast and fun).

IMG_5656Circuit training (back exercise) at Elefant hotel, Riga, Latvia.

Circuit training can be either 1) pure cardio, 2) pure resistance or 3) a mix. The latter is the preferred method in fitness; after each cardio exercise, there is a resistance exercise.

Station/exercise time: Norm: 30 seconds or 1 minute (or 10-16 repetitions).
Total number of exercises: Typically 8-12 (range e.g. 4-20).
Total number of rounds: 1-5. After one round; repeat circuit 1-4 times. 

In circuit training, as opposed to interval training, you do not pause: Keep moving; this provides additional cardiovascular work. When you finish one exercise, you hurry to the next station/exercise. Perform 1-4 rounds. Do not plan to have 10-15 seconds for changing stations, change as fast as possible.

7 minute HICT bodyweight circuit 

Perform each exercise for 30 seconds and high intensity with good form (HICT article with exercise photos):

1. Jumping Jack
2. Wall sit (wall squat)
3. Push-up
4. Abdominal crunch
5. Step-up, e.g. onto chair
6. Squat
7. Triceps dips on chair
8. Plank
9. High kneelifts,
10. Lunge
11. Push-up with torso rotation
12. Side plank

5 minute basic strength machine circuit (ex warm-up)

Perform 10-12 repetitions of each exercise and immediately proceed to the next station/exercise. Perform 1-3 rounds. (fitness circuit clip)

  • Leg press or squat
  • Chest press or bench press
  • Rowing, horizontal
  • Shoulder press
  • Lat pulldown, vertical
  • Back extension
  • Ab curl

Have a go. It is nice for variation and intensity, isn’t it?

Express Fitness # 1: Interval Training For Travel or Home

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Stay fit and healthy without wasting time. Even if you are travelling, on holiday or have a busy life with little time for exercising, you need to take care of your health, the foundation of fitness, wellness and performance. The good news is, that you can have great results with minimal time investment. The number one option is:

  • Interval training (yes, it’s for you, no, it’s not just for athletes)

Interval running for travel fitness or home fitness

Interval running on the Zaton Holiday Resort, Croatia, (soft) running track. Nice .

Interval training
As the saying goes: With interval training you will double your results in half the time!
Or something to that effect …
The definition: A series of repetitions of a work period (higher intensity) followed by a rest period (low intensity).

The (active) rest periods are crucial to succes; you need to recover in order to put just as much energy into the next work period: So no push-ups etc. during rest periods, that is not interval training. 

More and more recent research points to interval training for just 3-4 minutes per time/week as enough for becoming healthy and fit and even loose weight.
In reality, though, this is too little, as you need 1) a warm-up and cool-down and 2) to train at higher intensities, than most will be able to, to get the mentioned results.

Interval training is, however, the number one way to get fit fast for everybody. Interval training is not just very high intensity training. It is interval work at intensities higher than during continuus exercise. This means, that exercising just a little harder than you normally do will work!
Of course, if you are in shape, you should work at high intensity to get even better results.

There are numerous ways to do interval training and it can be tailor-made to meet specific needs. You can have short intervals or long intervals or fartlek, various speeds and intensities. All intervals, though, will improve your cardiovascular fitness and body composition.

If you are new to interval training try these super-easy sample programs:

  • 5 repetitions: 1 : 1 min., e.g. jog for 1 minute, walk for 1 min.: 10 min. ex. warm-up.
  • 10 repetitions: 30 : 30 sec., e.g. jog for 30 sec., walk 30 sec.: 10 min. ex. warm-up.


  • From lamppost/tree to lamppost/tree: Run/jog/powerwalk as fast as you can.
    Then walk, focus on breathing, to the next lamppost/tree. Repeat 5-20 times.

Try it. What do you think?

Cruise Ship Fitness: 10 Expert Tips for Fitness and Health

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

So you want to cruise? Enjoy a relaxing holiday at sea with sunbathing by the pool and all-inclusive dining … but worried about putting on weight and losing fitness? No need to worry, you can have your cake and eat it, too …


Depending on your general activity level and food intake, ashore and on board, you can maintain weight and fitness by following one or more of these excellent and proven strategies (most work at home, too).

Cruise ship pasta dish

Too much of this?

Cruise ship dance lesson

You need much more of this!

10 Cruise Ship Fitness Tips

1. Enjoy! Get the most out of your cruise. Think happy thoughts (stress and worrying is very bad for health and weight maintenance) and relax; breathing deeply and slowly (inhale through the nose) helps.

2. Eat with mindfulness. Do not feel ‘guilty’, rather savour every mouthful. Eat with all of your senses, eat slowly and with maximal enjoyment.
It is better for your digestion and you will be satisfied sooner.

3. Stand and move about more. If you plan to do a lot of sitting by the (ice cream) bar or lying around in deck chairs, get up and walk about at least once every hour. Grab every chance to ‘run an errand’. It all adds up to more calories expended.

4. Walk (or run) more. Go to shore and do some sightseeing. Walk every where you can and see more (it will shape up your cells, grey and others, too). On board; walk around the ship to see all of it, the passageways (corridors) go on for miles: Not only exercise, an adventure.

5. Dance. Most cruise ships offer many different styles of dance lessons every day, from fitness ‘dance’ aerobics and ZumbaFitness over disco, latin and salsa to ballroom dancing. Dancing is an optimal way of exercising; it does not feel like exercise, but fun.

6. Take the stairs. Large cruise ships have endless flights of stairs. Use them at every opportunity. Do not take the elevators. Stair walking is excellent for cardiovascular fitness, tones your legs and will help maintain weight.

7. Participate in sports games. Large cruise ships have tennis and basket ball courts, table tennis and more. Find something you enjoy at home or try something completely different. Playing a game is great for mental and physical (and social) fitness and health.

8. Do some fitness exercise. It is holiday, so make it fun! Usually there is a dance exercise floor, where you can do bodyweight or free weight exercises. Or use the cardiovascular and resistance training machines; if you are not used to exercising, it is a good chance of trying something new, if your are a fitness buff, work out in a new way with different exercises for variety.

9. Do high intensity training. If you really want to keep fit, while on your cruise, interval training and circuit training gives you maximal results in minimal time … so you can spend more time holidaying.
Perform total body exercises and lift heavier weights for functional fitness.
Video below show a couple of exercises as basic preparation for this.

10. Get quality rest. Recovery is all-important after workouts, but also after long periods of working hard. Using the wellness facilities, the jacuzzi, sauna or steam bath or even having a massage, will increase fitness, health and wellness.
Recovery tip # 1: A good nights sleep is paramount for fitness and performance and weight loss or weight maintenance.

A short video with a couple of workout suggestions for beginners:


Cruise Fitness: Mission Impossible?

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

On board a ship for most of the day for many days on end. On board a ship with a 100 yard buffet and restaurants with 4-5 course meals, morning, midday and evening. On board a ship with more than seven bars and two ice cream bars.
Is it imposible to keep fit, when on a cruise?

Cruise drink x

Cruise ship bar and pina coladas (great, if you need to gain weight).

No, it is not impossible to keep fit. It has been tested by yours truly. Without cutting down on food and drink, it is possible to stay in shape and fairly fit, if you are willing to do a little (or a lot of) extra movement during the day.

Depending on how much you want to lash out, you may be able to keep fit just by being slightly more active, than during your every day life. Stand and walk more than you normally do and always take the stairs, not the elevators.

Cruise disco

Cruise ship disco. Put on your boogie shoes stylish stilettos.

If you insist on enjoying ‘unusually large amounts’ of food and drink, I know I would, then there is nothing doing: You gotta:

1) Participate in as many of the on board sports activities as possible.
2) Dance at the lounges or disco all night.
3) Work out at the ships fitness centre for ½-1 hour (or more) every day.

cruise fitness cntr 5

Cruise ship fitness centre. Very well equipped, thank you very much.

Of course you can choose to say: 1) I am on holiday, I can’t be bothered. Or: 2) I will take a chance, maybe I will maintain weight and keep fit.
O.k., but don’t come back and say, that I did not warn/inform you …

Happy cruisin’ …