Although many exercises for the core, which encompasses back as well as abdominal muscles, may be done without any equipment, the presence of additional weight, resistance or instability of these exercise aides produce additional challenges that strengthen the core more quickly and efficiently. Following are the best core equipment aides commonly used by exercise instructors and personal trainers.
Exercise Balls are Most Frequently Used Core Exercise Aids
One of the most versatile pieces of core exercise equipment, these are commonly used for abdominal crunch variations. With the neck, shoulders and torso supported on the ball, abdominal crunches become more difficult because the lower part of the rectus abdominus and the hip flexors are engaged as the gluteal muscles and quadriceps hold the torso level. The ball is also good for abdominal and back stretches. Posture can be improved while simply sitting on the device. Exercise balls come in two sizes – 55mm and 65mm – with the larger size typically used by those measuring 5’ 6” and over.
Bosu Ballast Balls Have Additional Weight
Similar in size to plain exercise balls, Bosu Ballast balls have one additional feature – five pounds of sand are contained within the device. The transparency of the devices aids exercisers because they can see the sand shifting inside the ball while working out. This is important to the Ballast ball’s effectiveness. In addition to using it in the same manner as regular exercise balls for abdominal exercises, Ballast balls are used for exercises such as rotations, diagonal shifts and impact shifts, all of which use the additional weight and resistance of the sand to help improve the core.
Bosu Balance Trainers Provide Extra Instability
The shape of this device may be likened to a slightly flattened half moon. It is often used like a ball, but because one side has a stable platform, it can be used for a variety of aerobic exercises. With the dome side up it can be used for squats, lunges, marches and similar aerobic moves. The instability of the stepping surface forces the core muscles to contract to maintain balance. When the device is flipped onto its dome, it may be used for push-ups, plank and other exercises that even on their own have the ability to strengthen core muscles. Abdominal exercises and a variety of upper body workouts can be performed while standing on the Bosu trainer.
Medicine Balls and Free Weights
These balls look similar to basketballs and range in weight from two to 12 pounds. They can be used for rotations, diagonal shifts, impact shifts, side bends and weighted abdominal crunches and twists. Medicine balls are effective for mimicking sports-like movements and are often used in league trainings.
Free weights can perform many of the same exercises as medicine balls. However, the way individuals must grip them make some of the movements, such as weighted abdominal crunches, impractical or difficult to maintain.
These aides come in several different forms, from long tube-like structures to cuffs that fit around the ankles or legs. Resistance bands create tension throughout the body, thus recruiting more muscle fibers to maintain proper form during a workout.