Flat and fabulous summer abs

Abs on the Ball

Balls have been used for many years in physical therapy and for good reason. Our bodies are made up of many muscles with different roles. Some muscles contract to produce movement; some muscles contract to stabilize the body.

Challenging your stabilizing muscles helps you learn to activate your body's proprioceptive (your ability to feel where your body is in space) mechanisms. Stabilizer muscles are more effectively stimulated when training in unstable environments.

Stability ball exercises provide an unstable environment to help you train for balance, coordination, and flexibility and improve the mind muscle connection. Training with a stability ball challenges the mind and the muscles to work together to stabilize the body on the ball.

Ball Safety and Size

The ball is an appropriate size if the angle of your knees and hips are 90 degrees when sitting on the ball. It is even slightly better for the ball to be larger and the hips above the knees. Avoid hips below the knees

Tips for Getting Started on the Ball

For some new exercisers, lowering into this position can be a little scary, so here are some tips to get into correct position for the supine incline exercises.

Keep your feet out wide on the floor to provide a base of stability. Place your hands on either side of the ball as you slowly walk your feet forward, keeping knees bent, and allow your hips to flex as you lower your bottom towards the floor. Stay in a somewhat upright position, only reclining slightly, and maintain constant pressure on the ball as you lower until the small of your low back (the lumbar curve) is firmly "nestled" and supported by the ball - on the side, but somewhat toward the top of the ball. Once you get there, your fingertips should be able to touch the floor for reassurance, if you need it.

First, get a feel for this position by contracting the abs and slightly rocking side to side. Once you feel secure, lift your arms and place them across your chest or behind your head.

Exercise 1: Incline Curl
(Rectus/Transverse Abdominals) 12 -15 reps

Step 1) Begin with your arms across your chest or behind head. Take one hand, make a fist and place it between your chin and chest. This checks the alignment of your head and neck.

Step 2 ) Keeping feet and hips fixed, contract your abdominals, again pulling the belly button down and in, and slowly flex forward with your torso.

Tip: in this slightly reclined position, your neck muscles may begin to fatigue. The arm position across the chest decreases the load of the curl and helps to strengthen the neck muscles that support the head. Once you begin to feel fatigue in the neck, you can take one arm up and place the hand on your upper back between the shoulders to create an arm cradle to help support the weight of your head.

Exercise 2: Intermediate - Ball Curl with a Twist
(Internal and External Obliques, Rectus and Transverse Abdominals) 12-15 reps

Step 1) Begin with arms across chest or behind head.

Step 2) Lift opposite shoulder toward opposite knee.

Tip: As you twist think about twisting entire torso side to side.

Exercise 3: Advanced - Russian Twist on Ball
(Internal and External Obliques, Rectus and Transverse Abdominals) 12-15 reps

This is an advanced core exercise that trains your balance and stability while trying to maintain proper form.

Step 1) Start on your back with your shoulder blades centered on the ball.

Step 2) Roll over onto your shoulder and contract your obliques. Return to the starting position and repeat the action going the opposite way.

Tip: To make this exercise more challenging you can use a hand weight or a medicine ball with your hands.

Exercise 4: Intermediate - Modified Moving Plank
(Gluts, hamstrings, shoulders, all abdominals) 10 reps

Step 1) Start by kneeling on the floor mat in front of the balance ball.

Step 2) Put your feet shoulder width apart and lean forward placing your lower arms and elbows on the balance ball.

Step 3) Straighten your arms to move the ball ahead. Keep the ball under your elbows at the point of full extension. Stop before your hips start to sag.

Step 4) Pull yourself back to the start position.

Exercise 5: Intermediate - Plank
(Gluts, hamstrings, shoulder and all abdominal groups) Holding for 30 sec and working your way up to 2 min.

Step 1) Same as above but instead but place feet on the ground.

Step 2) Lift your body up on your elbows and keep your back as straight as possible as you position yourself in a straight line.

Tip: Make sure that your back is straight and your abdominal muscles are tight. Check that you aren't rounding your shoulders. You should aim for a long spine. As you get stronger, hold the position for longer. You should work towards holding it for one to two minutes.

Foods that can help to maintain flat stomach.
Source: Nutritionist Christina Lazzaretto, R.D.

Foods which are rich in monounsaturated fats can help to maintain a trim stomach. These include olives & olive oil, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, macadamias, pecans, peanuts, peanut oil & peanut butter, avocado and avocado oil.

Foods to avoid are those made up of processed carbohydrates. These increase insulin levels and stimulate abdominal fat. Some examples of these are low-fiber processed breakfast cereals, white bread, bagels and scones, white rice and sugary soft drinks.

However foods are only one factor in the equation. Your best bet to keep a flat tummy includes watching your diet, exercise, and posture. People who exercise regularly are better able to use fat as a fuel source -meaning they burn more fat all of the time both during exercise and rest. Yet doing 1000 crunches a day and exercises still is not enough. It is very important to keep your abs activated by using your deep abdominals to prevent the slumped forward posture and a big belly.

About Julie Ann McCarhty, PT, DPT
Julie Ann McCarthy is a native to the Bay. She grew up in Menlo Park, CA. and holds a Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California and a B.A. from University of California, Berkeley. Currently is a physical therapist at Presidio Sport and Medicine in San Francisco. Julie is a movement specialist who has been teaching fitness over the last 10 years. As a physical therapist she has a unique ability to instruct exercises to a wide variety of fitness levels from the high end athlete at to an individual just starting to exercise or recovering from an injury or disability. She has been featured on Fit TV and currently teaches at Crunch, Bay Club of San Francisco, Club One and Presidio Sport and Medicine. She teaches kickboxing, spin, abs, boot camp and weight training.

As a physical therapist she promotes health, fitness and wellness to the community. She volunteers through local races and lectures on core strengthening for runners. She is an officer of the executive committee for the Golden Gate District of Physical therapy which helps promote wellness in the community. When she is not teaching she is staying physically and mentally fit herself as a local triathlete and road runner. www.presidiosport.com

Presidio Sport And Medicine
Physical Address:
1162 B Gorgas Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94129
Mailing Address:
PO Box 470607
San Francisco, CA 94147
Phone: 415.561.6655

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