One of the most common requests I get is for exercises where you can feel your Abs working. Even though we all know we can’t spot reduce the fat that’s hiding our un-discovered six pack, we still want to feel the muscles there burn once in a while.

So most people go for a few obligatory sit ups.

The problem with both sit up and crunch type exercises is they put a load of pressure on the lower back. Imagine your spine’s like  credit card. If you keep bending that card it’ll start going white in the middle and eventually break.

Probably best not to do that to your spine.

Besides, if most of us spend our whole workday in a quasi-upright-crunch type position do we really need to spend more time there when we’re in the gym?

So, now you know what we shouldn’t be doing to strengthen and tone our stomachs, let’s take a look at what we should.

Enter the plank… with forearms on a stability ball

Set Up: Begin kneeling behind a stability ball with your forearms resting on the centre of the ball.

Execution: Brace you stomach as you lift your knees up off the floor. So your toes are on the floor and your forearms supporting you on the ball

Coaching Points:

  • Keep your head, shoulders and hips all in a straight line
  • Brace your stomach to activate the deep abdominals
  • No sagging lower back or hunching over the ball


Build up from 30 to 60 seconds holding the position. Rest for 30 seconds then repeat.

Sample Progressions:

Once you’ve built up to doing 2 sets of 60 seconds try progressing by:

  • Rolling the ball back and forward with your arms – keeping your torso fixed
  • Moving the ball in large circular motion – keeping your torso still

Remember, your core muscles are designed to stabilise your spine and PREVENT movement at your lower back. So swap the sit ups for planks for a stronger, flatter stomach.