Forget the ab belts, ab loungers and all those other gimmicks you've seen on late-night television; the Swiss ball may just be the very best tool out there when it comes to working your abs. As simple as it is, a Swiss ball can be used for dozens of challenging abdominal exercises to get you off the floor and away from those tedious sit-ups so you can sculpt a stronger core in less time. Work ab exercises into your routine no more than three times per week; any more than that and you risk overtraining your abs and shortchanging your results.
Sit on the Swiss ball with your knees bent. Walk your feet out until the ball is supporting you from your lower back to your shoulders, and the middle of your back is directly on top of the ball. Your knees should be bent in 90-degree angles and your thighs parallel to the floor. Lace your hands behind your head. Keeping your elbows flared out to the sides, contract your abs to pull your upper body up off the ball and toward your legs. Slowly lower yourself until your shoulders are on the ball.
Kneel on the floor with the ball to your right. Lay on your right side on top of the ball, bending your right leg behind you, straightening your left leg so your left foot is flat on the floor and your left toes point in the same direction you're looking. Lace your hands behind your head and let your elbows flare out. Engage the oblique muscles on your left side to bring your upper body up off the ball and toward your left thigh. Lower back down and complete all reps before switching sides.
Sit on the ball with your knees bent. Walk your feet out until your head and upper back rest on top and your thighs are parallel to the floor. Raise your arms straight over your head, palms touching, and press your shoulders down into the ball. Without moving your feet or legs, slowly rotate your upper body toward the right side, moving your arms along with your torso; pause once your arms are nearly parallel to the floor, then twist to the opposite side.
Lie facedown with your hips and lower belly on the ball, your toes and hands touching the floor and your palms under your shoulders. Engage your abs to pull them into your body and off the ball, keeping them pulled in this way throughout the move. Walk your hands out in front of you until your knees are resting on the ball and your body forms a straight line from head to heels. Slowly bend your knees in toward your chest, letting your hips rise into the air as the ball rolls under your shins. Hold the position for one count before lowering your hips down and letting the ball roll back under your knees.
Kristen Fisher is a freelance writer and editor with professional experience in both print and online media. She has published articles on a wide variety of topics including health, fitness, nutrition, home and food, and her work has appeared in "Connections Magazine" and on Lifescript.com. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in psychology.