Exercise Ball Exercises – Which Ones Hit The “Core” Hardest?

Exercise Ball Exercises – abdominals

Twitter 365 Project - Day 57

Any fitness routine has to address the stomach or abdominal muscles. Any good fitness routine will address all the abdominal and core muscles. There are any number of good ways to do this. Exercise ball exercises is one of them.

They can be called anything from “swiss balls”, “gym balls”, or “stability balls”. But, one of the better investments in exercise equipment that you can make is in a good exercise ball. This is because of the huge variety of exercise ball exercises that can be done with one or even two balls that will cost you anywhere from $15-$30 dollars US.

People have used the stability ball for things ranging from a stretching prop, dumbbell fly bench, or even a chair to ease low back pain. However, it’s best known for it’s use in targeting abdominal muscles with core stability exercises.

The obvious reason for this is its spherical shape. It really doesn’t matter whether you are sitting on it or lying across it. Whichever position you find yourself in on the ball causes you to recruit and utilize different muscle groups in combination and coordination in order to stabilize your body and avoid falling off of it. This makes it the perfect addition to your home gym or workout without weights routine.

Traditional ab exercises like the crunch can be done when sitting on an exercise ball and it’s pretty hard to cheat at it. If you position yourself right, you can also do side crunches to work the obliques. Another ab exercise is the plank that can be do with toes, or shin, or even thighs on the gym ball depending on your fitness level. However, there are two ab exercise ball exercises that research has shown to hit and recruit the abdominal muscles best…

Exercise Ball Exercises – The Abdominal Roll Out

The Exercise ball roll out, and the exercise ball pike. Both of these are done face down on the ball and involve supporting a majority of the bodyweight against gravity. The easier of the two is the roll out.

To do the roll out correctly, you position yourself on your knees facing the ball while resting your clasped hands and wrists on the ball. Then you proceed to slowly roll the ball away from your mid-section while extending your body out straight. Once you reach your limit in extension, you roll the ball back toward the starting position. Rinse and repeat.

Studies have shown that the roll out exercise produced upper six pack muscle contraction as high as 63% of the subjects maximum voluntary isometric ab contraction. While the lower abdominal were contracting at 53% of max. voluntary contraction. Obliques came in at about 46% of max contraction. Compare that to traditional crunches or sit-ups that produced contractions of less than 53% of  the max. voluntary contraction for the six pack.

Exercise Ball Exercises – The Pike

The pike was the other top producer of abdominal muscle contraction when looking at core exercise ball exercises. However, the pike is a little more challenging than the roll out. This is because this exercise requires a lot more upper body strength and a lot more balance.

To do the pike, you assume the “push-up” position with hands of floor and lower legs on stability ball with your body supported between. You then, by contracting your abs and lats, roll the ball toward your head bending your body at the hips. The end point should find your toes supported on the ball and your body almost perpendicular to the floor, supporting your body on your outstretched arms. Then reverse the motion slowly and return to starting point.

Electromyography measured rectus contractions at 46% for the upper six pack, and 55% for the lower six pack, or rectus abdominal muscles. This makes sense due to the fact that your lower abs are the muscle working to roll the ball toward your head.

But the pike also hit the obliques pretty good. The external obliques contracted at 84% and the internal obliques contracted at 56%. The pike also recruited more of the lats also. You can see that the pike is also an excellent upper body exercise also.

Exercise Ball Exercises – Many Will Work The Core Muscles

There are a ton of exercise ball exercises, or core stability exercises that you could do work the abs. This post just highlights two that have been shown to really activate the “core” muscles of the abdomen pretty well and can be used to add some variety to your workout routine if you’re not already doing them.

top photo Creative Commons License photo credit: rich115

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