Core exercises are about more than a flat tummy. Having a strong core is important for maintaining lower back health as well as helping with posture and balance. There are plenty of abdominal exercises out there, but the ones that target your entire core use an exercise ball. An exercise ball allows you to get off of the ground, making your abdominal muscles work to keep you balanced throughout the exercises.
Stability balls, also known as Swiss balls, are large inflated balls that range in size from 12 to 30 inches in diameter. The stability ball is known to help improve balance and posture, and can be seen in more places than just the gym. Many office workers are making the switch to a large stability ball instead of a chair to help them with their posture and back pain throughout their long work day. Simply sitting on a stability ball causes the abdominal muscles to engage, meaning that you are working your core as you sit.
Medicine balls are actually strength-training tools. The balls are weighted, and come in varying weights and sizes. Used in exercises such as the medicine ball throw or lunge to chest pass, the medicine ball also works well for weighted abdominal exercises. One abdominal exercise that uses this tool is the medicine ball seated trunk rotation. The usual seated trunk rotation targets the oblique muscles, but adding the medicine ball makes the muscles work harder, while also targeting the upper-body muscles used to hold the ball.
Blue Half Ball
A blue half ball is a stability ball that is cut in half, with the bottom being a hard, flat surface that you can stand on. The blue half ball can be used with either side up, and is used mainly for balance training. Abdominal exercises on the blue half ball are more difficult because your abdominals are constantly working to keep you balanced. Even a simple plank exercise is made harder by balancing with your hands on the flat side of the blue half ball with the ball side down. Your core has to work to stabilize the ball and keep you from falling over, making it that much harder than a traditional plank.
As with any new workout or exercise, it is best to check with your doctor before trying any exercise ball workouts. Exercise balls require balance and skill, so if you are a beginner, have a trainer demonstrate proper form for you. Ask a friend or a trainer to spot you when you are using an exercise ball to help you if you start to lose your balance.
Kaitlin Condon is a holistic health coach and certified physical fitness/wellness specialist. She is a contributing health writer for the teen magazine "Miabella," as well as several online publications.