Crunches on the exercise ball: There’s a right way and wrong way to perform these. I’m a certified personal trainer and ball crunches may seem impossible to goof up, but mistakes can actually happen, and these errors, or bad form, can get in the way of whatever goals you wish to achieve with this abdominal exercise.
Crunches done with these balls are very inviting, but don’t make the following mistakes:
As you crunch, the ball moves. No, the ball is not supposed to move as you crunch. It’s supposed to remain immobile. Just because it’s round doesn’t mean it should move. If you allow the ball to move while doing crunches, it “helps” you along.
To prevent the ball from moving while you do the crunches, keep feet flat on floor and concentrate on keeping feet in a stable, fixed position on the floor. And that’s the second mistake: allowing the feet to move while you perform the exercise.
The feet must stay planted on the floor. As you rise upward, focus on keeping the ball still; don’t let it move. You will notice right away that this is more challenging than allowing the ball to roll about while doing the crunches.
These two issues — allowing feet to move, and allowing the ball to roll (even a few inches) — are the main issues as far as correctly performing crunches with the exercise ball.
However, there are ways you can tweak this abdominal routine to get the most out of it. For the greatest range of motion (and therefore maximal muscle recruitment), go all the way back on the ball on the down stroke of the crunch. This way, you have a greater distance from which to rise back up.
Secondly, don’t sit up all the way. Because when you do, this momentarily relieves your abs of work tension. To keep the abs in a continuous state of work or tension, don’t crunch up all the way. Go up part-way (the precise angle will vary from person to person, but whatever gives you a good challenge), and then lower back down.
Beginners with ball crunches can hold their arms out in front, the easiest position. If this is too easy, place arms in an X across your chest. If that’s too easy, fold hands behind head, but do not allow elbows to “lead” you upward into the exercise, and do not tug or pull on your neck.
The hardest position is to extend arms straight behind you, aligned with your body, and to maintain the alignment as you crunch up on the ball. This means that at all times, your upper arms are right by your ears. Do not allow arms to veer away from your ears and get ahead of your body; this is cheating! By keeping arms straight and right by your ears at all times, you lengthen the resistance that your body provides, and this makes the exercise more challenging.