Breaking Down the Swiss Ball Reverse Crunch

A lot of fitness membership sites will give you a Las Vegas style buffet of exercises, routines, and “workouts”.

Over here, you’ve got your upper body, then over here is the lower body, then over there are the back drills, and let’s not forget the abs and the “core. It’s up to you. Pick and choose. Mix and match.

Caveat emptor as my father liked to say. Buyer beware.

But what they don’t tell you is why something works or doesn’t or why you should avoid certain drills.

The one I’m talking about today is the Swiss Ball Reverse Crunch. It’s often touted as “great for six pack abs” or if you’re a new mom struggling with some excess belly fat, “this is the drill for you to tame that pooch!”


First, let’s get the whole “six pack abs” thing out of the way.

In case you’ve been on a Safari for a few years (or like a decade) or hanging out at a Mt. Everest base camp waiting for it to thaw, the “six pack ab” is the Holy Grail of fitness.

Just hop over to and search “six pack abs” and see what you get. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

See what I mean? Some of the titles read like they belong on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine. I think my favorite is “Get Six pack Abs in Six Minutes on Your Couch!”

What have I been missing? I could have had a six pack while watching American Idol! Doh! Oh, I probably did have a six pack, well not all by myself.

What’s a Six Pack?

The “six pack” is the area of your belly from just below the strenum (breastbone) to the pelvis created by the appearance of the Rectus Abdominus muscle. It’s a long muscle that has several sections. It’s the sections, when your body fat is low enough, that creates the “six pack” look.

Let’s be real for a minute. The ONLY exercise that reveals a six pack is you exercising control over what you eat. You ONLY see the muscle definition if your fat levels are low enough (and yes, developing the muscles helps once you have low enough fat levels). For men, it’s in the single digits so think 6-8% body fat. And for women, it’s so low that it can easily put you in the danger zone of low body fat. Like low enough you’ll stop menstruating and develop very high risk for stress fractures.

So, despite what you read or see on YouTube, there isn’t an exercise that will carve a six pack out of belly flab.

The Skinny on The Swiss Reverse Crunch

Watch this video to get an idea of the drill in case you’re not familiar with it (it’s used a lot in gyms, by trainers, etc. so there’s a good chance you’ve seen it maybe used it yourself)-

A basic tenet of spine friendly drills is limited, repeated spinal flexion which this drill violates by rolling the pelvis toward the head and lifting legs.

A reverse crunch is hard enough but, believe it or not, holding the swiss ball between your legs adds mass. You might think, “Well, it’s just a rubber ball!” True. But it’s a larger rubber ball at a fair distance from the spine. So the result is a much larger cranking effect on the spine. Sort of like what happens when you use a really long lug nut wrench to remove a wheel from your car. A long wrench needs just a little bit of force from you to create a load of force on the lug nut. Same thing here. A little force provided by the legs creates a lot of force in the spine.

The problem is that spinal tissues just don’t like to be flexed over and over. And to make it even worse, you’re not just bending the spine but doing it with a lot of load (created by the legs and swiss ball). Sure, you can do it occasionally and you might even be able to do it frequently, if you’re lucky, and maybe escape any low back problems.

But why gamble when you can do SO many other drills to build a rock solid core?
Now, some people make the “I’ve done it forever and never had a problem so why should I stop?” argument.

This is the most common argument against stopping sit ups.

You seem immune.

Here’s another way to think about it. If I told you that if you never smoke a cigarette you would have a.2% chance of getting lung cancer and if you smoked that chance increases to 25%, would you start smoking? Keep smoking?

If you’re a gambler, well, you might think your chances of beating cancer are pretty good.

If you’re smart, you’ll realize that this is an average number. For some people, the percent increase is a lot higher. It comes down to how the carcinogens in the smoke alter your genes. That’s the gamble.

So, when it comes to spinal loads, while we don’t have data that shows causation between something like the swiss ball reverse crunch and low back pain, we do have plenty of data that shows high correlation between spinal compression loads and injury to the spinal tissue (just read Stuart McGill’s work for more info); enough data that continuing to do it could easily be classified as a poor choice.

But, that’s up to you.

For me and my spine, I’ll stick to spine friendly but challenging drills.

How about you?

My core health philosophy is simple: life is movement. When you can’t move freely or in a way you need or want to, suddenly your life seems a lot smaller. So, I promote movement through the fundamentals first: know your abilities and weaknesses, work on the weakness, build your stability, balance and endurance, then your strength, then power, then stamina.
If you’ve tried just about everything under the sun to get healthy & fit or are fed up with programs that leave you feeling worn out, frustrated with lousy results or worse, injured, then I’m your guy – Fusion can help you.
Why? I make complex, sometimes even contradictory, health & fitness concepts dead simple to understand and use.

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Like to Gamble at Golf? Try Bridge!

Over $10 Billion a year is bet on golf right here in the United States alone. This exceeds all other gambling action on most other sports combined! The only thing bigger is the Super Bowl and the Final Four.

Clearly, like those events, only one winner will be declared, right?

That’s what my golf lessons are all about – to teach you the different gambling games, the science of betting, strategy, attitude and more.

One game that is quite popular among the high-rolling, big-cash gambling set is a Partner Game named after the volatile card game of Bridge.

Bridge, (the golf version) definitely puts a lot of pressure on you and your partner to perform. It is not for the faint of heart and can definitely show who has the fortitude and who lacks it.

Hence, when you get an edge you can really put the pressure on your opponents to come through as well.

Here’s the basic rundown of a game that requires much balls, skill, psychology and the ability to read your opponents:

Teams of two alternate holes, bidding the number of strokes that will be the total score of its two balls. For example, if team A believes it can finish the par 5 in 11 strokes, team B can do the following:

1. Accept this bet and hope team A scores higher.
2. Bid lower than 11 for their own score.
3. Accept the bid of 11 strokes and double the bet. Team A can redouble it if they are confident enough to do so.

The hole-winning team gets two points for its bid and an additional point for each stroke under its bid. 2 points are subtracted if the team misses their bet and 1 point is subtracted per stroke above their bet.

Make things even more interesting by making provisions that if both partners birdie, the points are doubled. Playing for $100 per point can have the losers reaching for their checkbooks on the 18th hole!

One key to this game is to vet your partners well or you’ll be sweating it out big time when he starts putting up 8 after 8.

Good luck, good hustling.

“As long as there’s been golf, there’s been gambling. And where there is gambling, there will be hustling.”

Freddy Kaboot

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