Exercise Ball Crunches
Exercise ball crunches are done with a large exercise ball. This movement is excellent for targeting the rectus abdominis (mainly upper portion). Although this exercise requires a piece of equipment (Swiss-ball), it’s cheap enough to buy for use at home. This exercise was determined by researchers to be the best overall, since it required less work by the hip flexors (compared to sit-ups) and was the most efficient. Your hip stabilizers and abdominals will have to work much harder to keep you balanced throughout the movement (because of the instability of the ball). The exercise ball crunch is a much more intense crunch because it allows for a fuller range of motion while performing the exercise and develops core stability to help you balance on the ball.
Exercise Instructions – Proper Technique
Lie on your back on the stability ball with your feet flat on the floor about a hip-width apart. Place your hands behind your head or by the sides of your head. You can also cross your arms over your chest to make the exercise easier. Slide forwards, rolling the ball under your bottom until your lower back is centred on top of the ball. Your thighs, hips, and lower abdomen are approximately parallel to the floor.
Exhale as you curl up as high as you can to bring your shoulders and upper back off the ball. Hold this position for a moment, and then slowly lower yourself back to horizontal position while you inhale.
Exercise Ball Crunch Tips & Tricks
All the basic crunch tips apply here.
- Plant your feet flat on the ground to steady your body.
- Your entire back, from tailbone to shoulders, is resting on the ball (starting position).
- To make the exercise easier, place the ball under the upper part of your back.
- To make the exercise harder, place the ball under the lower part of your back.
- Lift your shoulders and upper back off the ball contracting your abdomen and pulling the bottom of your rib cage towards your hips.
- Your lower back always remains in contact with the ball.
- Keep your thighs and hips stationary during the movement.
- When you lower yourself back down, keep the movement controlled.
- Keep your head and neck aligned by keeping a fist’s distance between your chin and chest.
- It is of the utmost importance to squeeze the abs as hard as possible during each repetition to make up for this limited motion.
- You may be tempted to try to increase your range of motion by lifting your entire torso off the stability ball. This is no longer a crunch, but a sit-up. In a sit-up, the abdominal work is secondary and tension is greater in your lower back.
To make the exercise harder, extend your arms behind your head. Or hold a dumbbell in front of your chest or behind your head. Make sure you start with a light weight. Also, doing basic crunches with a bosu ball is a great way to make the exercise more effective and focused.
The entire rectus abdominis works in this exercise, although it is most demanding for the upper sections.
Main muscles: rectus abdominis
Secondary muscles: external and internal obliques, transverse abdominal, (pyramidal)
Antagonists: spinal erectors
Basic abdominal crunch, decline bench sit-ups, machine crunch, kneeling cable crunch, classic floor sit-ups, modified V-sit, vertical leg crunch, etc.
If regular crunches no longer feel challenging, try this variation. The ball will add as much as 15 degrees to your range of motion and improve your balance. You can add weight by holding a dumbbell under your chin.