When you think of doing crunches on the ball, you most likely get a vision of a large, brightly-colored, rubber inflatable ball.
Did you know there is a far more effective alternative?
Regular large ball crunches are an excellent exercise but you can dramatically increase their effectiveness by performing them on a much smaller ball.
How small of a ball do you use for small-ball crunches?
The ball I use for the exercise is somewhat larger than a basketball (you can actually use a basketball for this if you like though I prefer the softer ball). It is soft rubber and I got it at Target for two bucks. You can find balls like these at most department or toy stores. Note: if you get a toy ball, be sure it is fairly thick rubber. You don't want it to burst. Test it out at the store before you buy it.
Set the ball on the floor and sit in front of it with your back up against it. Your knees will be bent and your feet flat on the floor.
Roll yourself back over the ball, wrapping your back around the ball as you lay back. Note how the smaller ball not only increases the stretch on the abs but doesn't support your body as much as the larger ball. This vastly increases the demands placed on the abs during the movement.
Not only must your abs execute the crunch movement, they must also balance your torso to a far greater degree than with the larger ball.
Don't be surprised if you find your abs quivering as you do this, even if you are an advanced trainer. I have been doing this one for years and I still get the quivers if I haven't done it in awhile.
Get a full stretch back, rounding your back completely over the ball so your head is almost touching the ground. Crunch up slowly and squeeze your abs hard at the top.
To make the exercise easier, you can adjust where you place yourself on the ball.
Notice how the hips are lower and the ball is higher up on the back. This angle and placement not only removes some of your bodyweight from the exercise but gives you better leverage as well.
To make the exercise harder, roll yourself further back on the ball.
The ball will be closer down towards your hips and your torso will be on a decline. This decreases your leverage and forces your abs to work with more of your bodyweight.
When you become strong enough at the above variation, you can try adding some weight to the exercise. Try holding a small weight plate above your head during the movement, or on your chest.
Be sure your ball is strong enough to take this extra weight.
This picture gives you an idea of the size of ball I recommend.
The plate beside the ball is a 45 pound Olympic plate.
Basically, any smaller-sized ball will work as long as it's not way too small or so big that it's not really small anymore.
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