Stability balls are great for working your core muscles, especially your oblique abdominals. Using a ball can be fun, and it’s an inexpensive way to get a great abdominal workout. The ball is unstable so your muscles have to work extra hard to keep your body balanced during various exercises. The best ball exercise for the obliques is a standard oblique crunch. There are also other exercise variations on the ball that will help tone your obliques.
An oblique crunch on the ball is the best exercise for this muscle group because it’s straightforward and it gets the job done. Lie on the ball so that your back is on the ball and your hips are off of it. If you need extra support, lie on the ball facing a wall so that you can brace your feet against the wall. With your hands behind your head and elbows out of sight, lift your body and twist to the right, looking up at a 45-degree angle to the right as you lift. Repeat this 10 times to the right, and then reverse to the left and repeat 10 times.
Oblique Circle Crunch
A variation of the oblique crunch is a circle oblique crunch, or what some call an around-the-world crunch. It starts with the standard oblique crunch to the right, but instead of releasing after the crunch, you circle the crunch to the other side. Start the oblique crunch and angle to the right. From there, transition to center, but keep your shoulder blades lifted off the ball, and then twist and crunch to the left. Return to a relaxed position on the ball. Repeat five times starting to the right, and then reverse and start the circle to the left.
An oblique twist on the ball starts with you lying on the ball with your shoulders and neck supported by the ball with your feet on the ground -- this creates a bridge with your upper body parallel to the ground. Clasp your hands together with arms straight toward the ceiling, or use a small beach ball as a prop. Take your time and roll to one side so that your arms are parallel to the floor, tighten your abdominals as you roll. Rotate back to center. Do 10 repetitions, and then reverse to the other side.
A side-wall crunch is also a good oblique workout if you are worried about your balance on the ball. Place the ball near a wall about a leg's length away. Lie on your right side with your hips on the ball; your upper rib cage should not be touching the ball. Stagger your feet about three feet apart and brace them against the wall. With your hands behind your head and elbows out of sight, rotate your upper body so that you are looking up at a 45-degree angle toward the wall and then return to lying on your side facing right. Do 10 repetitions on each side.
The size of ball you use should be appropriate for your height. The best ball is one that you can sit up straight on with your knees and hips even with each other -- your thighs should be at a 90-degree angle with the floor. Make sure your resistance ball is properly inflated. A saggy ball is definitely not safe to use.
- American College of Sports Medicine; Selectively and Effectively Using a Stability Ball
- FitLink.com: Around The World - Stability Ball
- The American Council on Exercise: Stability Ball Russian Twist
- Fitness Magazine: Side-Wall Crunch
- Chris Clinton/Photodisc/Getty Images