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A washboard stomach is the hallmark of a fit individual. Many people make it their goal to get this sculpted look. First, there is the bad news. You can’t do dozens of sit-ups in the hope you’ll target abdominal fat. It doesn’t work that way. Your body is a closed system. When you work out, the calorie burn covers everything, not just your abs.
Second, you’ll likely lose fat around your belly first. But, it’s also the first place you’ll pack on the extra pounds, depending upon your genetics. However, there are still compelling reasons to include core exercises in your routine. And using a stability ball is surprisingly effective. Besides that, it’s just plain fun. Let’s go over what makes it a great addition to your workout.
Why You Should Use a Stability Ball
If you’ve never used a stability ball, you’re in for a surprise. It’s not as easy as it looks—especially if you start exercising with it. It lacks the rigidity of a chair. Instead, your body provides the support. You’ll have to maintain your balance while engaging your abdominal muscles to keep you off the floor.
That applies to sitting and the exercises you do with it. That adds another level of complexity to your workouts which can increase your calorie burn. Focusing on your core muscles makes good sense too. Strong abdominal muscles will support your back and help prevent strain and other issues. And the play factor is important too to encourage you to work out regularly.
Many of these moves will seem familiar to you. You can use a stability ball to replace an exercise bench. It’s a more comfortable surface that will increase your range. You’ll notice this fact immediately with sit-ups and other core exercises.
The best ones will target your ab muscles which include:
- Rectus abdominis
- External obliques
- Internal obliques
- Transverse abdominis
The best exercises will include a series of moves which focus on one or more of them for a complete workout.
Crunch, Arms Crossed
The crunch will zero in on the rectus abdominis. It is the so-called six-pack muscle. It flexes your spine and torso. Doing this exercise on a stability ball differs slightly from what you know already. Begin by sitting on the stability ball. Move your hips around to find your center. Then, walk out to position the ball at your upper back.
Cross your arms over your chest. Inhale as you tilt your torso forward. Hold this pose for a moment or two. Then, exhale as you return to the starting position. You can deepen the pose by moving your body over the ball once you’ve mastered the basic exercise. The combination of the crossed arms and stability ball engages your entire core to maintain balance.
The jackknife looks harder than it really is, but that’s not to say that you can’t make it more difficult if you choose. You’ll begin by laying on your ball on your belly. Then, walk out with your hands until the ball is resting on your lower legs. The farther you place it, the tougher is the move.
Inhale as you pull the ball toward your chest as you bend your knees. Pause briefly and return to the starting position. The rectus abdominis is the main abdominal muscle involved with this move. You’ll also engage your arms, thighs, and chest. All will help keep you stable and balanced which will improve your posture.
The reverse crunch is the first exercise in this group that uses the stability ball as a prop. That is another excellent use for this tool because it adds that unpredictability element which engages your entire abdominal region. This one will also bring your inner thighs muscles into play for a more complete workout.
Begin by laying on your back with your legs bent. Place the ball between them. Then, pull your legs together to grasp the ball as you exhale and bring it toward your chest. Make sure your pelvis stays on the mat to avoid back strain. Pause briefly and return to the starting position.
These moves are harder with larger sized stability ball because of the burden it places on your legs. The benefit is that it will add a flexibility component to your workout.
The pendulum is a challenging exercise, especially if you’re new to using a stability ball. Getting your legs involved in the act will work these muscles too for additional health benefits. This move will target your abdominals including your external and internal obliques. That makes it a more complete workout than other types.
You’ll begin just like the reverse crunch on your back with the stability ball between your legs. For this move, you’ll lift the ball straight up perpendicular to your body with your arms extended at your sides. Then, you’ll swing the ball gently to your left and right, pausing briefly at the end of each side. It’s essential to keep your lower back stable on the mat.
The clamshell crunch is the final exercise with your stability ball standing in as a prop. It is similar to the previous two with an important difference. You’ll begin the same with the ball between your legs. Squeeze it tightly as you get ready to do the move. This act will get your thigh muscles involved.
Then, you’ll go through the motion of a basic crunch bending forward as you bring the stability ball toward you. This move involves your entire abdominal region with the exception of your obliques. Like other moves of this ilk, it feels harder than it looks. But don’t let that discourage you. The rewards are worth the extra effort.
Stability ball exercises that target your abdominal muscles sometimes appear deceptively easy. They add a greater challenge that promises quick results that you’ll be sure to notice if just for the muscle soreness that you may experience the next day. But these moves are worth the effort. They’ll give you the sculpted look you want while supporting your back.