Muscles Targeted: Exercise ball abdominal crunches primarily target the rectus abdominis. This muscle group is responsible for flexing the lumbar spine. Also targeted are the transverse abdominis, which are used to compress the rib cage and are important for stabilization of your core. If you twist when performing the crunch then you are also engaging the oblique muscles. These muscles are located on the side of your core.
Exercise Instructions: Using a large exercise ball, lay your back on the ball with your feet placed firmly on the floor. Your lower back should be centered on top of the ball. Place your hands on either side of your head. Crunch your upper body forward and roll your shoulders towards your hips. Be sure to contract your abs at the top of the movement for a one-count. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat. For added muscle building resistance, hold a medicine ball or weight plate in your hands as you perform the exercise.
Why This Exercise is Important: Doing your crunches on an abdominal ball is important for three reasons. First off, it is easy to perform these crunches for people who are out of shape and have a hard time doing a crunch on the ground. Secondly, strengthening your abdominal muscles is critical for balance and posture. Lastly, the ball puts your body in an unstable environment which leads to the strengthening of your stabilizer muscles, which over time improve the coordination of your muscle groups.
Things To Avoid: There are some things that you need to watch out for when you are performing this exercise. Some of these lead to poor performance and results, others put you at risk for injury. Make sure that the ball stays still while you are crunching. You want to put all the emphasis on your muscles contracting. Don’t come all the way up, as this takes off emphasis from the abdominal muscles. Make sure that your legs don’t move either, as this can be a form of cheating just like moving the ball. Don’t put your hands behind your neck as this can lead to neck strain. As always make sure you use proper form in everything you do and if something feels uncomfortable then switch it up and try to find a way to make it work for you.
Reps and Sets: Most fitness experts agree that the abdominals benefit most from higher repetition sets mixed with some lower repetition sets every now and then. Most of the time you will want to stay in the 3-5 set range and the 15-25 rep range for the abdominals. The abs are a muscle used for stability instead of growth and they are constantly contracting which is why they respond best to a higher rep range. Every now and then add in some lower rep work in the 10-15 range to mix things up and keep your muscles confused. Your abs can be trained every other day or you can do them 2-3 times a week to achieve good results. Use this exercise in conjunction with a strength training routine that covers the rest of your body to reap the maximum benefits.
Other Exercises To Use: There are other exercises that can serve as a substitute for exercise ball abdominal crunches. Some of these are a direct substitute and some are a little bit harder. Try them and see how they work for you. You can put your legs on the ball and pull the ball towards you. You can perform the crunches without the ball on the floor. You can raise your legs, either on the floor or suspended from a bar. You can also use a machine with resistance to perform your crunches. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of all the exercises that target the abs.