When you're trying to build strong abs, you'll want to have a stability ball in your arsenal. A 2001 study by the American Council on Exercise found that out of 13 exercises researchers studied, the stability ball crunch was the third most-effective for activating the abdominal muscles. And there are tons more exercises for your midsection that you can do on a stability ball.
However, stability ball exercises on their own don't burn many calories, which is what you'll need to do to lose any fat around your midsection that's covering your ab muscles. For that, you need high-intensity cardio. Get creative and combine stability ball ab exercises with exercises for your whole body in a fast-paced routine that gets your heart rate up, and you'll boost the burn significantly.
What Burns Calories?
Physiological processes such as breathing and digestion burn calories. In fact, anytime you move, you burn calories. You even burn calories while you are sleeping. However, you burn the most calories when you are very active and using many muscle groups at one time. Some of the biggest calorie-burning exercises include running, swimming, cycling or rowing at a fast pace, high-intensity aerobics and jumping rope.
Smaller, isolated movements such as ab exercises don't burn many calories because you're not moving continuously for a longer period of time like you are when you're doing cardio and you're not using a lot of big muscle groups. A 10-minute stability ball ab workout will burn about 30 to 45 calories, depending on your weight. The more you weigh, the more calories you'll burn.
To put that in perspective, you can burn 105 to 155 calories pedaling at a vigorous pace on the stationary bike, or 100 to 148 calories running at a 10 minute-per-mile pace.
Read more: The Best Exercises for Fat Loss
Boost the Burn
Instead of doing single sets of stability ball exercises with rest breaks in between, incorporate the exercises into a full-body circuit training workout designed to use all your muscle groups and hike your heart rate.
Choose exercises for all your major muscle groups, including your chest, back, shoulders, abs and legs. Perform one set of each exercise with no rest breaks in between, then repeat the circuit one or two times. A sample circuit might include one set of each of overhead squats, lunges, hamstring curls, back extensions, crunches, decline pushups, side bends and triceps dips.
Do each exercise for 30 seconds to one minute, and then switch without resting in between. This is crucial to keep your heart rate up so that you burn, baby, burn.
At the end of your circuit, wipe your sweat, take a drink of water, then get back to work!
When you're first doing this type of workout, one circuit may be enough. But after the first few times you do it, you'll want to increase your work effort to two, three or even four sets to get the most bang for your buck.
Calorie-Burning Cardio Bonus
Want to really torch some calories? Add a period of high-intensity cardio in between each circuit. Jump on the treadmill or stationary bike and sprint as hard as you can for one to three minutes. Or, jump rope or do jumping jacks for five minutes. Then get right back to your stability ball workout.
Read more: Total-Body Blast Stability Ball Workout