This one of my favorite “lower ab” exercises (there is some debate as to whether you can actually focus tension on one area of the abdominal wall or not. My opinion is that you can’t specifically ACTIVATE only one section or area of a muscle but you can, by using different body positions and leverages, work specific areas with more focused effort.
So even though you’re not totally isolating the lower abs, you’re putting your body in a position where the lower aspect of the abdominal wall is responsible for more of the movement (I should’ve been a lawyer…).
Anyway, this exercise is an excellent because it impacts that lower ab area without putting a lot of torque on the lower back, which exercises such as leg raises, etc. tend to do.
To do this one, you’ll need a Swiss ball and a decline bench
Just fyi, I pulled this exercise out of my book “The Best Abdominal Exercises You’ve Never Heard Of”
Move the bench in front of something solid, like a rack, machine or solid vertical post. The high end of the bench should be up against the solid object as this is what you’ll be holding onto during the exercise. The higher the angle of the bench, the harder this exercise is so when you first try it start with a fairly low angle on the bench.
Place the ball on the bench, about halfway up it. Exactly where you set the ball to start will depend on the bench length and your height. This will take a little trial and error to get comfortable with. When you see how the exercise is done, it will give you a better idea of where you need to place it to start.
Rest your elbows on the knee pads at the top of the bench and grab onto that solid object in front of it. The ball should be contacting your thighs, arms slightly bent, and body straight. The point in time when you set your thighs on the bench and take your feet off the ground is when you’ll be most unstable with this exercise. Hang on tight and set your thighs fairly wide on the ball the first time you do it. This will give you more control over the ball until you get used to the movement and get into position for it.
Now for the work…
Using abdominal power, roll the ball up the decline bench, bringing your knees up into your chest. The ball will roll down your legs as you pull your knees up and in. This results in an extremely strong contraction in the lower abs and abs in general, so squeeze very hard and hold it for a few seconds. You can also bend at the shoulders while doing this exercise. Remember, you’re going to be very unstable on the ball while you’re doing this exercise so hold on tight! If the ball rolls off the bench, just put it back on and start again.
1. Setting the ball in the wrong place on the bench to start
If the placement of the ball is too far off, you will either not be able to do the movement at all or it will be awkward or too short. Play around with positioning to get a good idea of where to place it. A good technique is to stand at the bottom of the decline bench and hold the ball in front of your thighs. Let your body drop forward while holding the ball so that it lands on the bench with you on top. Now grab hold of the post. This should give you a good indication of where to place it.
2. Placing your thighs too close together on the ball
This makes the exercise more unstable and more difficult. When the thighs are close together, you are less able to use muscle power to maneuver the ball on the bench, making it more likely that the ball will roll off to one side.
3. Not squeezing the abs at the top
The best part of this exercise is the top of the movement where your abs are tight and your kness are up into your chest. Squeeze the abs hard here!
1. On your toes
As you roll up and in, try coming up all the way on your toes for maximum difficulty (both in tension on the abs and in difficulty keeping your balance on the ball). Your body will be far more unstable when the surface area contacting the ball is reduced down to only your toes.
2. Side to side
If you’ve got strong abs, upper body strength and good balance, you can try moving the ball from side to side when you’ve got it held at the top of the movement. This makes the exercise very tricky and very unstable but it can add a strong contraction to your side abs.
That’s the exercise! I know you’ll get some strange looks when you do this one but I also know that you’ll see those same people trying that exercise when you come back the next day :)