Crunches on a big ball will help strengthen your abs, but for more tone you need to add intensity.
Here are 10 ways to add intensity to crunches with a stability ball.
First off, a mushy ball on low air will add a little more challenge to any style of crunch. A firm ball will provide more support.
10 Ways to Make Your Ball Crunches More Intense
The basic position is shown below: hands folded to chest. Add more intensity by clasping a five or 10 pound weight plate to your chest.
Do not let the plate leave your chest as you rise upward; keep it glued there. Small dumbbells can also be used (again, keep them against your chest).
The image below shows a more challenging position using the arms, as long as you don’t jerk your arms/elbows forward to propel yourself into the crunch.
Elbows must remain aligned with your ears at all times. Holding 2.5 lb. plates in your hands, while in this position, will add more intensity.
To add a little more difficulty to the hands-behind-head position, add a twist to your body as you crunch, as shown below.
However, the image below also shows a lower body position that makes any crunch easier: slipping down on the ball. This makes it easier for your legs to help get you through the exercise. Instead, stay more horizontal on the ball.
Again, do not allow your elbows to lead with the crunch. Let your abs and low back do all the work.
Additional Ways to Add Intensity to the Ball Crunch
Hold the crunch position for five seconds at its highest point. Don’t flop back down on the ball right away.
Another trick is to hold both arms straight beyond you, effectively lengthening your body. This creates a longer “resistance arm.”
However, as you crunch, keep your elbows at your ears. Do not jerk your arms forward to assist with the movement. This defeats the purpose of outstretching your arms in the first place.
Keep those elbows aligned with your ears througout the entire movement.
To make this even more difficult, hold 2.5 lb. weight plates in each hand, or, hold a weight in both hands — always keeping the elbows aligned with your ears.
Don’t Let the Ball Move
Throughout any of these various modifications, make sure that the stability ball remains fixed on the floor, rather than rolling forward as you rise.
This can be accomplished by keeping your feet firmly planted in the same position throughout all the repetitions, and by avoiding jerking your body upward.
Lift your shoulders and back off the ball in a controlled way, focusing on making your abdominal muscles do all the work. Jerking motions will take work away from the core.
Lastly, make sure that the ball isn’t too big for your height.
The bigger this implement is, the more initially inclined your body will be at the beginning of the crunch motions.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.