Fitness balls or stability balls are a common fitness accessory found in virtually all gyms. They are also widely used in the home and have become a key component of many fitness workouts including circuit training and gentler Pilates and yoga classes.
Available in three sizes, 55cm, 65cm and 75cm, they can be used for a wide variety of core strengthening exercises. This article looks at the basic abdominal exercises that can be performed on a fitness ball plus other ways to get the most out of this low-cost piece of fitness equipment.
Workout on a Swiss Exercise Ball
Before using a stability ball for the first time, make sure the size is correct. Sit on a ball with the knees at a right angle; if the feet don’t touch the floor the ball is too big. If unsure of what size gym ball to buy, visit a fitness equipment retailer or pop into a local gym first.
The fitness ball itself is unstable so the body’s muscles have to work hard to maintain balance; for that reason, it is advisable to wear training shoes when using the ball, unless an experienced user.
Exercise Ball Core Strength Training for Firm Abs
Exercise balls are great for toning abs. The exercises should be performed slowly with deep breaths, holding each move for three to five breaths if possible for maximum benefit.
- Basic stomach crunch – Sit on the ball with legs flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Place the arms either side of the head with elbows out. Lean gently backwards until the abdominal muscles feel taught and hold for three breaths.
- Advanced stomach crunch – Lay on the ball with the lower back well supported. Lift the torso up to tighten the abs taking care not to lose balance if the ball becomes unstable. Raise one leg off the ground and hold it straight ahead to make the exercise even harder.
- Side twist crunch – From the advanced starting position above, twist to one side with each abdominal lift. If this becomes easy, try to raise the opposite leg off the ground and touch the knee to the elbow.
Advanced Abdominal Exercises on a Fitness Ball
Try these advanced abdominal exercises once well practiced on the more basic stomach crunches:
- Raised ball crunch – Lay down on the floor and grip the ball between the calves. Raise the ball into the air with straight legs then perform the basic and advanced stomach crunches above (see picture below). If this is too hard, practice simply lifting the ball with straight legs first, keeping the back on the floor.
- Plank – The plank position demands incredible abdominal strength to hold the body flat without sagging using just the legs and arms. Lay front down on the fitness ball with the hips and stomach on the ball for support, lift the legs straight and hold the torso straight using the arms.
- Advanced plank – Make the basic plank exercise harder by walking the hands forward until only the ankles are supported by the ball.
- Angled press-ups – Tighten abs using the ball as a foot support. Lay front down on the floor and lift the feet until they rest on the ball behind. Push up with the hands until the body is straight, hold for a few breaths then release. This exercise can also be performed using the ball to support the hands and the feet on the floor but the ball must be perfectly stable during the push-up stage.
Tighten Abs with an Exercise Ball
Used regularly, exercise balls help to tighten abs and strengthen core stability just by forcing muscles to work harder to stop the ball moving around. Just ensure the right size of stability ball is used for maximum benefit.
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