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Fitness: The benefits of the stability ball

Who doesn’t want a firm, toned abdominal region? Tightening up the mid-section is one of the most common motivators for many people as they embark on a new fitness routine.
One hindrance to working the abdominal muscles is that crunches, leg raises and planks done on the floor can be uncomfortable at times. The more comfortable you are while exercising the more likely you are to stay committed.
A great alternative and improvement to doing abdominal workouts on the floor is the stability ball (also known as the balance ball or Swiss ball). It is a very inexpensive fitness tool that can be used in a multitude of ways to add freshness and comfort to your workout.
Not only does the stability ball make it easier to get into many abdominal exercise positions, it also engages more muscles of the core area of the body because more balance is required to remain stable on it than the floor or a bench.
Another advantage to incorporating the stability ball into abdominal workouts is that the lower back is effectively supported. Crunches on the floor are very effective but the unsupported space between the back and the floor can make crunch workouts uncomfortable on the lumbar area of the spine.
The stability ball contours to the shape of the entire body that is resting on it so every part of the body touching the ball is supported.
While performing all abdominal exercises remember to always exhale regularly with every repetition to provide continuous airflow through the body. Holding your breath will cut your sets short and make all the exercises much more difficult.
The stability ball can be just what you need to start on a great abdominal routine for the upcoming spring and summer. It’s comfortable, convenient for use at home, and relatively inexpensive.
Here are five effective exercises performed on a stability ball:

1. Rollouts- Start by kneeling behind the ball placing your fists on top of it. Smoothly roll forward letting your elbows eventually be the last part of your arm touching the ball as it rolls towards your body. Perform three sets of 10-12 repetitions.
2. Planks- Begin by kneeling behind the ball with your forearms resting on top. Straighten the entire body maintaining a firm posture on the stability ball. Hold this position for three sets of twenty seconds each.
3. Knee Tucks- Kneel in front of the ball and place one leg at a time up on it until you are in a pushup position with your shins resting on the ball. Pull the knees into the tucked position as the ball rolls with the motion of the legs. Perform for three sets of ten repetitions.
4. Pikes- Start in the same position as knee tucks. Keep the legs perfectly straight and raise the tailbone up towards the ceiling making an upside down “V” with the body as the ball rolls with the motion of the legs. This is one of the all-time most effective abdominal exercises. It engages not only the upper abs, but also the lower abs as well while maintaining balance using the obliques and lower back muscles simultaneously.
5. Crunches- Begin by sitting on the ball as if it is a chair. Take one step out with each leg as the ball rolls backwards. Next, find a stable spot on your lower back where the shoulder blades still hang off of the ball during the exercise to get a full range of motion. Raise the upper body up in a crunching motion and then return to the starting position. Repeat three sets of ten repetitions.

Sammy Cusimano is the founder of Genesys Training based out of New Orleans, Louisiana, and has been a professional trainer since 2001. His experience with training clients ranges from competitive athletes to senior citizens. Cusimano’s goal as a trainer is to help clients safely reach their fitness potential and become the best version of themselves for overall health and wellness.

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