Ball Crunches | Exercise Ball Crunch
A common goal among most women is to have super tight, defined abs. But of course, that is no small feat. Who wouldn’t enjoy having flatter, more defined abs? Well, they’re not always easy to get. Getting really tight abs takes great detail to nutrition, a lot of hard work and great form with some of the best ab exercises for women. One of those exercises that I find to be the most effective is a traditional ball crunch. When done on a large stability ball or exercise ball, the abdominal crunch can be an important part of your weekly ab workout!
Understanding Abdominal Anatomy
First it is important to understand the muscles that make up your abdominal section. There are 3 main groups that comprise what is commonly referred to as the abs:
1. Rectus Abdomens run down the center of the torso from the pubic bone up to the sternum which gives you that chiseled, six pack look when they are well developed and helps with pelvic tilt and spinal support.
2. Transverse Abdominus which are the deepest layer of muscles in the core and provide stability to your core while they stabilize or hold in your internal organs. The transverse abdominus is often referred to as the corset in pilates and helps pull our stomach up and in.
3. Internal and External Oblique are located on the sides of the core and help rotate the trunk. These muscles are usually targeted with ab exercises that involve twisting like Russian Twists and Bicycle Crunches
How to do Ball Crunches or the Exercise Ball Crunch
- Choose and exercise ball (stability ball) that is approximately the same height as your knees and that is very firm.
- Sit down on the ball with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle.
- Walk your feet out as you roll back, allowing your lower back to come to rest on the ball.
- For a ball crunch, the arms can be crossed over your chest or for a more advanced exercise all crunch, you can extend your arms straight out over head.
- Begin the movement by first engaging your core and tightening your transverse abdominus muscles. It takes conscious effort to draw those muscles in and to tighten them.
- Then, using the rectus adbominus activate your abs bringing your shoulders and chest upward toward the ceiling. I like to choose a point in the ceiling to focus on directly over head to be sure that the neck stays in a neutral position.
- With control, lower the shoulders and chest back down to touch the ball. Abs should remain tight throughout this abdominal exercise
But Why Use An Exercise Ball for Crunches
Sure, a crunch can effectively be preformed on the floor so why I do love adding in a stability ball (exercise ball) for this ab exercise for women? Well, the first reason is that a stability ball supports the lower back and maintains proper form throughout the movement while discouraging over extension of the lower back. With the ball there to support these crunches, you can avoid ‘throwing your back into it’ and arching to create momentum which puts your spine in a compromising position.
Second, stability and balance are important. By adding in the ball, you force the stabilizing muscles of the core to engage. If you move a traditional ab crunch up to an exercise ball crunch, that uneven surface engages those internal and external oblique muscles to help you stay a top the ball. This in turn gives you a more complete ab workout. Not just that though… with the unstable surface you begin recruiting muscles throughout your whole body including your legs, glutes, and spine.
But does this really help you recruit more muscles fibers and improve activation? One study found that doing this exercise on a stability ball boosted activation of the abdominal muscles by between 24 to 38% based on EMG readings. EMG is a method that uses electrodes placed on the muscle to record muscle activation. All of the major ab muscles were activated, including the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and the obliques. But, crunching on a stability ball also brings smaller muscles that stabilize the spine into action.
Other Ab Exercises & Articles You Might Like
The Bottom Line
By adding the stability ball to your crunches, you will be able to engage your transverse abdominis and external obliques better than if you do this ab exercise on the floor or with a mat. It also allows for more stabilizing muscles to take part in the movement. You can still do regular or traditional crunches and ab sit ups but with the option of adding in the exercise ball, you can hit your abs in a slightly different and safer way. And while you are there, use that exercise ball for some other awesome ab exercises that really engage your body and help you build lean, tight, defined abs!
- “Transversus Abdominis Muscle.” NeuroImage, Academic Press, www.sciencedirect.com/topics/veterinary-science-and-veterinary-medicine/transversus-abdominis-muscle.
- “Functional Anatomy of the Core: the Abdomen.” Human Kinetics, us.humankinetics.com/blogs/excerpt/functional-anatomy-of-the-core-the-abdomen.
- Exercise and Resting BP, www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article folder/abdominal.html.