The Truth About Stability Ball Training for the Abs

Written By Dr. Siff stability ball

While the Ball may permit a greater range of movement compared with certain other types of abdominal training, the fact that it deforms considerably when you lie across it means that it does not offer the same range of trunk action as full-range trunk extension-flexions based upon PNF patterns. As research has shown, exercise done on a ball will increase the activation of the peripheral muscles, but decrease it in the core muscles, so that, for an equivalent load, ball crunches offer a smaller degree of trunk action and abdominal muscle force production than standing cable crunches.

Why is it that so many people still think that crunches and sit-ups have to be done in a supine position?  After all, there are many people with lumbar pain who find that any form of supine situps over a ball, flat on a mat or with posterior pelvic tilt are very uncomfortable or painful.  The standing version can be used on a cable system using all variants of the PNF patterns recommended for trunk extension and flexion.  Moreover, the standing version of situps and crunches enhance the sort of functional stability which one requires in so many sports in which you are standing rather than lying flat on your back.

If you wish to combine ball training with crunches, then try doing cable crunches while standing on a ball (wedged so that it does not roll), wobble board or large inner tube.  Tell me how you enjoy that variation!  Later on add some more proprioceptive training by doing that same exercise whilst wearing a blindfold. (Editors Note: For those who have asked me how to perform this exercise, Dr. Siff is joking!) Even if  you learn to stabilise more efficiently, you will still fail to produce the same degree of force and trunk range of action as in the standing version of situps and crunches on a cable machine. By all means use the Ball for training to provide some variation for those who may need or enjoy it, but never be misled as to its scope and limitations.

Dr Mel C Siff Denver, USA