A great way to work the abs without hurting the lower back or the neck and shoulders is to use an exercise ball, which is an inflatable, flexible ball that can bear the weight of the body through a variety of exercises. Exercise ball ab workouts can help develop core strength as well as muscle tone and strength in the abs, and many of the exercises are simple to execute. The best exercise ball ab workouts begin with simple crunches, which are much better for the body than crunches done without the ball, as muscles in the back and other areas of the body are not excessively strained.
To execute an ab crunch as part of exercise ball ab workouts, simply sit on the exercise ball and roll forward until the ball is supporting the lower and mid back. Place the hands behind the head, lift forward so the ab muscles "crunch." Keeping the ball steady and preventing it from rolling is important, as it will engage other core muscles. Repeat the exercise several times, then rest. Do two sets of this exercise before moving on to any other activities in the exercise ball ab workouts.
An ab roll is a good addition to exercise ball ab workouts, provided the user does not have pre-existing back pain. To execute the ab roll, one should get into position on his or her knees with the exercise ball placed in front of the body. He or she should place the hands on the ball, tighten the torso, and roll forward until the forearms rest firmly on the top of the ball. The user should be sure to keep the back straight and the ab muscles tight. Hold the position momentarily, then engage the ab muscles to pull the body back to the starting position. Most of the strain in the exercise comes during the return motion, so it is important to keep the back straight and engage the core muscles.
All exercise ball ab workouts should include weight rotations. One should sit on the ball and roll forward until the upper and middle back are supported by the ball. Engage the core muscles to keep the back straight. Hold a weight or a medicine ball above the head — the amount of weight will depend on the user's physical condition — and swing the weight down to the left side. Hold the position momentarily, then return to the top. Swing the weight down to the right, hold, and return to the top.