Have you ever noticed there are certain parts of your body that take more effort to strengthen than others? I’ve personally had this experience, and I’ve seen it many times over the years working with clients. One of the most common disconnected areas I've come across is the abdominal region.
While there are many ways to strengthen and help connect to the abdominal muscles, I’ve found using a small stability ball to be an effective tool. It helps to recruit the inner thigh and pelvic floor muscles when working the lower part of the abdominals. Here are five exercises that will take less than 10 minutes, and can be done anywhere.
1. Upper abdominal exercise
- Start by sitting down on a mat, with your knees bent, feet down, and legs pressed strongly together.
- Place the stability ball at the base of your shoulder blades, and your hands behind your head.
- Keep your tailbone reaching towards your heels, and inhale as you begin to extend your upper body over the ball, working your head toward the mat (it may or may not touch).
- Exhale to bring your chin towards your chest first, then continue to curl yourself up. Tip: on the way up, focus on the back of your ribs pushing into the ball. Repeat 8-10 times.
- Bonus stretch — extend your upper body over the ball once more, for an upper back and abdominal stretch.
2. Lower lift
- Lie down on the mat and place the ball underneath your sacrum (the back of your pelvis).
- Keep your head down and arms pressed firmly into the mat as you first bring your knees into your chest, then stretch your legs long to the sky.
- Press the backs of your legs together, then lengthen and lower them to a point that is challenging, while you keep your back down on the mat. Tip: work your back ribs down into the mat.
- Repeat five times.
- Begin the same way as you did for the lower lift, with your head down, arms pressed firmly into the mat, and legs stretched up to the sky.
- Open your legs as wide as your mat and circle them down as low as you can without your back arching off the mat, then bring them together and back up to the sky. Tip: lengthen the thighs out of hips as circle legs around, and pull your belly button in towards the spine and up towards the ribs.
- Repeat five times in each direction.
- Begin once again as you did for the lower lift, with your head down, arms pressed firmly into the mat, and legs stretched up to the sky.
- Keeping both your legs straight, lengthen and lower one leg as you bring the other leg towards you. Tip: As you lower the bottom leg imagine that your abs are being drown up and under your ribs.
- Once you’re in the scissor position, pulse the bottom leg two times, then switch legs. Tip: keep your legs as straight as you can, otherwise you'll bypass a nice stretch in the bottom leg hip as you pulse. Also work the top leg butt cheek towards the bottom leg heel to help keep your hips square.
- Repeat five times each leg.
- Begin with your knees into your chest, heels together, toes apart, and knees as wide as your shoulders, with your head down and arms pressed firmly into the mat.
- Keep your heels pressed strongly together as you extend your legs out to a challenging diagonal working towards completely straight. Tips: imagine your legs are as light as feathers and your abs are pulling away from them, keep your ribs heavy into the mat.
- Pull your knees back into your chest still pressing your heels strongly together
- Repeat 5-10 times.
- Once you’ve completed the last rep of the frog, take the stability ball out from under you, lower your butt down, and take a few breaths.