Just about everyone would like to have a flatter stomach but most people are unsure as to how to go about achieving their goal. Traditionally crunches have been the exercise of choice, but new research indicates that they are not as efficient at building core muscles as was once thought. Strength training focussed around the core abdominal muscles helps to promote muscle strength and burn fat for the ultimate midsection workout.
The gym ball is a large inflatable ball that can be incorporated into your workout to target a number of specific muscle groups. It is particularly suited to abdominal muscles due to its elasticity, which provides resistance and support in equal measure. When using one in the home it can be useful to sit on when watching television or when at the computer as the tiny adjustments required to keep your body in balance on the ball will help to tone and firm muscles without you even noticing.
Other items of equipment include the medicine ball, a weighted ball often used for strength training and the bosu ball which is like half of a gym ball attached to a flat platform to make a hemisphere. There are a number of ways of incorporating these balls into your workout regime, as in the following exercises.
Lie on your back with your feet apart and the balance ball placed between your ankles. Grip the ball between your lower legs at the midsection of the ball and then gently raise your legs to a vertical position while continuing to keep the ball between them. Hold for a few moments and then gently and slowly lower the ball to the ground. This exercise provides a degree of resistance in the ball which makes your stomach muscles work much harder than through simple crunches alone. When you have mastered this exercise, try to raise your head and shoulders off the ground when your feet are raised.
Lie flat on your back on the floor with your legs bent and hold a medicine ball to your chest. Now raise your upper body to a 45 degree angle, still holding the ball to your chest and twist your upper body slowly to the left and then to the right.
The plank is a popular Pilates position which strengthens the core muscles. Lying on your front on the floor, push your weight up onto your forearms and toes so that your body is flat and fully supported by your arms and toes. Now take up this position but resting your upper arms on a bosu ball. You will need to contract your core muscles in order to maintain your balance in this position.
All of these exercises require the core muscles to contract and hold that contraction for a period of time, unlike many other forms of exercise which fail to contract the muscles sufficiently. Sustained contraction of muscles leads to more effective muscle strengthening making these extremely effective exercises.