Abs on the Ball

Pilates has long been revered for its slimming and toning effects, particularly on the body’s core muscles. Here, we add a stability ball to some classic Pilates moves for an even more effective approach. On the ball, your core muscles are forced to activate, no matter what movement the exercise involves—this makes it all but impossible to cheat. Try these five exercises to get your abs in top shape.

Flat Back/Roll Up

1. To Start: Sit on the Ball with your arms reaching forward.

2. Movement: Tuck your pelvis under and slowly walk your feet forward until your shoulders and head are resting on top of the Ball. Press your hips up in line with your knees and shoulders, reaching your arms overhead in line with your ears. From there, reach your arms forward, rounding your back again. Walk your feet in, rolling yourself back up to a sitting position. Repeat about 5 times.

Stomach Crunch

1. To Start: Sit on the Ball with your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart, and your hands behind your head. Walk your feet forward until your lower back is resting on the Ball.

2. Movement: Contracting the deep abdominals, raise and lower the upper half of your torso, keeping your spine in a C-curve. Be sure that you aren’t coming up so high that your hip flexors engage; at the same time, don’t let your back collapse over the Ball. The range of motion is very small. Repeat about 10 to 20 times. (To work the obliques, curl up on a diagonal toward one knee. Repeat alternating sides.)


1. To Start: Lie on your back with your feet on top of the Ball, your legs straight, and your arms resting on the floor above your head.

2. Movement: In one smooth motion, curl up as high as you can, reaching your arms forward on a high diagonal. (Beginners, your low back may remain on the floor; for an advanced challenge, aim to come up onto your sitting bones.) From there, raise your arms overhead in line with your ears. Roll back down to the floor, one vertebra at a time. Repeat about 5 times.

Knee Stretch

1. To Start: Lie with your stomach on the Ball and both hands on the floor. Walk your hands forward until your mid-thighs or knees are resting on the Ball. You should be in a long, straight line from head to toe.

2. Movement: Tuck your knees in, rolling the Ball forward toward your chest. From there, straighten your legs, rolling the Ball back to the starting position. Repeat about 8 to 10 times.

Side Sit Ups

1. To Start: Lie sideways over the Ball with your feet supported against the base of a wall. Only the side of your hip should be resting on the Ball, not your ribcage. Keep your knees and inner thighs together, with the bottom leg straight and the top leg bent (the top foot will be behind the bottom one). With your hands behind your head, lean out so that you are in a straight, diagonal line from head to feet.

2. Movement: Bend at your waist to raise your torso up to a vertical position, then lower back to the diagonal. Keep your hips still, so that the hinge happens at the waist. Repeat, about 10 reps per side.

If you suffer from an injury or other health condition, or have any questions regarding the suitability of stability ball training, please consult your doctor before attempting these exercises.

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