Using an exercise ball is one of the most effective ways to work your abs. It incorporates the rest of your entire core. Otherwise known as a Swiss Ball, these gym staples will bring on the washboard abs, better posture, and overall core strength faster than many other core exercises.
The second you sit down on the ball you’ll notice that your abs, glutes, lower back and hamstrings have to engage to keep you from rolling off onto your behind. Using the ball keeps your body constantly working, even during rest. As you crunch on the ball, you’ll work your abs about 30% more than you would by doing a simple crunch on the floor; your abs can stretch further back and stay engaged to keep you stable.
Check to be sure that the ball is inflated fully. The more inflated the ball, the more of a stretch your abs get when you lay back. If your body weight can flatten the ball, then it is under-inflated, and the exercise loses effectiveness.
Crunches For Upper Abs
First things first–master the crunch on the ball. This relatively simple exercise is the same as a regular crunch, incorporating stability, as you avoid using momentum to sit up. Concentrate on keeping your head and neck in line as you curl each vertebra up at a time. Place fingertips behind your ears or on your temples to avoid pulling on your head and neck.
In the bottom position, be sure that your back arches over the ball to get as much stretch in the abdominal muscles as possible. This will force your abs to work harder to crunch up, and make them stronger in less time.
As you do get stronger, grab a 5-10 lb weight plate and complete your crunches, hugging the plate to your chest. The extra weight will help you complete your crunches in less time.
Ring Out Your Obliques
Maintain your position on the ball as you were in the crunch position. This time, open your right palm up to the ceiling. Crunch your obliques, touching your right pinky to your right knee. Then, bring that arm straight up and twist as you lift, as though you were trying to touch the left corner of the ceiling. As you lift, twist your midsection and engage the side of your abs and the obliques like you are wringing out a washcloth.
Reverse Crunch for Lower Abs
Crunches will work almost your entire ab wall, but why not focus on the lower, harder-to-work, abs? Get in a plank (push-up) position and carefully place your feet on the ball, shoelaces laying flat on top. Hold this position for 30- 60 seconds. Then, pull the ball in toward your chest by crunching the abs up and bringing your knees in to your chest. Work slowly to maintain stability and keep the focus on your abs. Slowly straighten legs and repeat, keeping shoulders and hips in line when your legs are extended. Concentrate on working slowly. Don’t use momentum!