Modifying exercises with equipment can often get you more results. Discover how to do exercise ball crunches and their benefits.
Exercise ball crunches are a crunch variation where you simply do the regular version with your back on an exercise ball. Make sure you place the exercise ball against your lower back for the most results.
By adding an exercise ball to this exercise you make your ab muscles go through a larger range of motion.
Since this is generally good for muscle growth and strength progress you can say that exercise ball crunches are slightly more effective in this area.
One thing to note is that you have to use your balance somewhat more. This should not really interfere with the crunch but it is something to keep in mind.
Additionally, if you want to do weighted crunches, you want to make sure the stability ball weight capacity is high enough.
How to do an exercise ball crunch
As the name implies, you need an exercise ball to do this exercise. Once you have this, take the following steps to do an exercise ball crunch:
- Stand or sit in front of the stability ball with your back towards it. Move your upper back on the exercise ball and your feet planted on the ground.
- Roll farther so the stability ball is placed against your lower back. Hold your arms against your chest and your knees at about 90-degree angles.
- Slowly raise your head and shoulders as much as possible while keeping your lower back on the stability ball.
- Lower your head and shoulders in a controlled motion until you are back in the position of step 2.
One study measured the difference in muscle activation between regular crunches, exercise ball crunches with the ball against the upper back, and exercise ball crunches with the ball against the lower back.
They measured that exercise ball crunches with the ball against the lower back engaged ab muscles and obliques more than regular crunches.
And that in turn, regular crunches activated these muscles more than crunches with the ball against the upper back (1).
This means the ball placement is very important for this exercise. More specifically, keep the ball against your lower back so that your abs can go through a big range of motion.
Muscles worked with exercise ball crunches
The main muscles worked with exercise ball crunches are your abs.
Besides that, you can say that your obliques, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps have to work to a tiny extent to keep your body in position.
Keep in mind that you still need to implement a good routine to actually grow and strengthen your abs with exercise ball crunches.
Exactly how many ball crunches you should do depends on details like your training goals.
That being said, for something like muscle growth, you should do about 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 25 ball crunches with a weight that makes these ranges challenging.
Keep in mind that if you use crunch workout equipment like dumbbells, a medicine ball, kettlebells, etc. you want to double-check the weight limit of your swiss ball.
Crunches on an exercise ball vs floor
You may wonder what the difference is between doing crunches on an exercise ball and the floor since they are the same movements that work the same muscles.
The main differences are that the exercise ball crunch allows your abs to go through a bigger range of motion and works these more in a stretched position.
Since these things tend to be more effective for muscle growth and strength progress, you can say that exercise ball crunches are typically more effective dan doing crunches on the floor.
One thing to note is that exercise ball crunches also require a bit more balance. Not everyone likes this.
Benefits of exercise ball crunches
Even though the exercise ball version is a bit more effective, its positive effects are very similar to the benefits of regular crunches. A few of these include:
- Helps you build more muscle: One study measured a higher core muscle engagement in exercise ball crunches with the ball against the lower back compared to floor crunches (1).
- May reduce or prevent back pain: Stronger abs tend to reduce or prevent back pain (2, 3). If you already have issues in this area it can be smart to talk to an expert before doing exercise ball crunches.
- Can make your six-pack stand out more: Making your abs bigger with exercise ball crunches tends to make your six-pack stand out more. Keep in mind that your body fat percentage has to be low enough to get this visual benefit.
You can get these benefits from other exercises too but exercise ball crunches are definitely a great option for them.
Exercise ball crunch alternatives
While they are often great, you may conclude that exercise ball crunches are not entirely perfect for you. In that case, you can also consider some of these alternatives:
- Bosu Ball crunches
- Exercise ball knee roll-outs
- Exercise ball tucks
- Plank exercises
What you like and don’t like in exercise ball crunches play big roles in what alternatives you will prefer.
Are exercise ball crunches a good exercise?
Exercise ball crunches can be a good exercise for working your ab muscles.
Compared to regular crunches, the exercise ball version puts your abs through a bigger range of motion and works them in a stretched position.
These things tend to be beneficial for muscle growth and strength progress.
One thing to note is that you still need to approach your exercise ball crunches in a smart exercise routine. That means doing enough repetitions with enough resistance.
Additionally, there are many other good stability ball ab exercises and other movements for these muscles too. If you like some of these more than exercise ball crunches they could be good choices too.
Are crunches on a ball better?
Yes, crunches on a ball are better for growing and strengthening your abs thanks to the bigger range of motion.