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12.10.2009


Abdominal training better on a Swiss ball

A crunch these days instructors prefer to call it a curl up is more effective if you do it on a Swiss ball than just lying on the floor. Sports scientist Michael Duncan at the University of Derby came to this conclusion after doing an experiment with fourteen students. Abdominal muscles work harder if you train them using a Swiss ball.

Duncan got seven female and seven male test subjects to do four different abdominal muscle exercises while they had electrodes attached to their stomachs which measured how hard the muscles were contracting. Three of the exercises the students did using a Swiss ball, and one a crunch they did on the floor. The Swiss ball exercise that most resembles the crunch is the Swiss ball curl up. See the illustration here.

According to Duncan's measurements, the test subjects contracted their abdominal muscles more when they did the curl-up on the Swiss ball than when they did it on the floor. This is shown by the left-hand bars in the figure below. URA = upper abdominal muscles; LRA = lower abdominal muscles.


Abdominal training better on a Swiss ball


Abdominal training better on a Swiss ball

Swissball-
jackknife (1)



Abdominal training better on a Swiss ball

Swissball-
jackknife (2)

For three of the exercises it was true that the upper abdominal muscles worked harder than the lower ones. The exception was the Swiss ball jack-knife. See the pictures below.

If you have problems training your abdominal muscles, or if you just want to train your abs in the best way, then Swiss ball exercises are a good way of doing so.

Whether this is also true for other exercises is not clear. Many gyms swear by the Swiss ball. Some instructors get their pupils to even do chest, shoulder and arm exercises on a Swiss ball. This supposedly stimulates the abdominal muscles directly as well, so you get a much more varied workout.

Similar experiments to the one that Michael Duncan did have not yet provided conclusive evidence. Bench presses done on a Swiss ball do not result in better activation of the abs than if you do them the old-fashioned way.

Source:
J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2009 Oct;13(4):364-7.