Over the years, there has been great speculation about abdominal training and whether or not it is really necessary. It is true that many larger compound exercises such as squats and lunges activate the abdominals as synergistic muscle groups. However, it is my opinion that the abdominals should also be isolated by doing specific exercises that target them. Please be aware that performing abdominal exercises does not eliminate abdominal fat. In order to do that, you must be following an appropriate diet as well as performing resistance training for the entire body. However, isolating the abdominals will increase their strength as well as help to correct certain postural deviations. It will also greatly enhance the rest of your training as abdominals are activated in many compound movements, as I mentioned before. One classic exercise that effectively trains the abdominals is the Stability Ball Crunch. This exercise is ideal because it provides a cushion for the spine and also greatly recruits the transverse abdominus muscle due to the unstable nature of the ball. To perform the exercise:

• Begin in seated position; roll out until lower back is resting comfortably on ball.
• Place feet flat on floor, shoulder-width apart.
• Position hands behind head to support its weight or across the chest, elbows pointing directly out to sides.
• Raise head even with torso and gaze straight up.
• On an exhale, slowly curl torso forward, flexing middle and upper abs and raise chest upward toward pelvis. Allow head to follow chest. Do not force or pull head forward. Allow abs to do the work.
• Raise chest until you feel abs completely contracted.
• Release slowly, allowing head and chest to drop back down to torso level or slightly beyond.
• Repeat until your abs reach fatigue.

As you progress with this exercise and become stronger, you may increase difficulty by positioning the ball lower on the back, allowing for a greater range of motion on the “lowering” phase. The nature of the ball allows you to extend beyond what you would normally be able to do on the floor. However, I would not rush this progression. Take your time and use caution. It is possible to strain the lower back if you are not careful. All in all, this is one of the best abdominal exercises that there is. So what are you waiting for? Go fire those abs!