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Get fabulous abs with help of stability ball

March 17, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
No doubt you've tried crunches to work on your stomach muscles. They're certainly helpful, but like other muscles, if you want to make a difference, you need variety and change in your workout routine. If you're looking to whittle your middle, there are numerous things you can do with the help of a stability ball."We walk around the world standing, and so we carry ourselves in an upright position, so it's important that we learn to train our core in that position," said fitness expert Amy Dixon.

Dixon says doing crunches flat on our back in a small, limited range of motion is an ineffective way to work the stomach. Beginners can certainly use them as a start point, but then it's time to move on.

"It's all about progression, taking your body to the next level, standing up, adding a weight with some twists," Dixon said.

One of her favorite tools is a stability ball, which costs about $15, to get that core in action.

She uses the ball with the Lateral Lunge w/ Figure 8 Move. Sweep the ball up and over to the opposite side while stepping out laterally, which pretty much works the whole body with those abdominals.

Another move to whittle the middle is Reach for the Sky. Sit and roll down so that head, neck and shoulders are supported on the ball. Take the arms overhead and pull them through to the back to the area over the chest, while pressing into the ball and contracting the abdominals and squeezing glutes or buns.

Stirring the Pot is a bit more challenging. Start kneeling near the ball, pressing forearms on top of the ball. Take the legs into a plank-like position, which is hard in itself. Keep shoulders above the elbows and make small circles with them on top of the ball in one direction, and then the other. Beginners can try this first on their knees.

For advanced exercisers, try the Oblique Driving Knee Ball Crunch. Bring the opposite elbow to opposite knee, with your back on the ball and one hand on the ground for support. For a real challenge, try the straight arm and leg version.

Try doing these exercises three times a week for a month, doing each move 15 times as one set. Do 3 sets, along with your favorite cardio, to help target that belly fat that sits on top of your six-pack abs.

These exercises can also be found in the March 2010 issue of Health magazine, http://www.health.com/health/.