Abdominal crunches, or ab crunches, are a classic type of exercise used to strengthen and tone the abdominal muscles. For the person who wants to achieve six-pack abs, ab crunches usually play a key role in his or her workout. While many muscles in the region will be worked, it is the rectus abdominis which runs down either side of the abdomen that will receive the most attention. There are various types of ab crunches that a person can do, including ball, reverse, dragonfly, and twisting crunches.
Ball crunches, which utilize a large exercise ball, are said to provide results than other traditional abdominal exercises. This is because the angle of the ball allows for the body to lean farther back than is the case with traditional ab crunches. The greater extension can help stretch the muscles even further. Additionally, the bounce and movement of the ball can force the abs to stay contracted in order to maintain balance.
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The only piece of equipment required for ball crunches is the ab ball. It usually is inexpensive and can be purchased online or at a sporting goods store. As with any exercise, the real key to getting optimal results is proper technique. Not only will this contribute to the most effective workout, but it will help prevent injury to the neck and back.
Overall, the technique for ball crunches is fairly straight forward. The exercise begins by placing the ball on the floor a distance from any wall or piece of furniture. A person will then lay with their back on the ball, feet flat on the floor, far enough away to be able to maintain good balance. The person will then lean back with the middle of the back directly on the ball. Once done, the fingers go on the forehead and not behind the neck to avoid jerking up.
The next step is to tighten the abdominal muscles and slowly begin to curl up. It starts with the head, then shoulders, and finally the middle. To complete the crunch, the upper body curls up a little bit more which gives the final crunch of the abs. The process is then repeated.
This three-step sequence, done with proper technique and speed, is what gives ball crunches the advantage over the more traditional ab crunch. There should be a stretching feeling in the abdominal muscles while a person is performing a correct ball crunch. Once this basic ball crunch technique is mastered, other movements can be added to the program for additional benefit.