There are a variety of ab machines that promise to deliver an effective ab workout leading to a washboard stomach, but do they live up to these claims? In this post, we are going to look at manual ab machines and electric ab belts to consider whether they are worth the money. We will also give consideration to whether weighted crunches can achieve the same end result as a sit up machine.
A cheap and cheerful piece of equipment, ab rollers are something we often recommend to newbies – not because they are easy, but because they are cost effective and easy to store. Ab rollers, AKA ab wheels, work your abs, lower back, glutes and obliques. Perfecting your form takes time and is 100% necessary if you are to reap the benefits of rolling. Rollers with thicker wheels are more suitable for beginners because the thinner wheels require more by way of stabilization. Ab rollers can be used on a floor or on a bench; for comfort, always opt for padded handles.
Ab rockers may look like something you would sit a baby underneath and, in a way, they kind of are – a gym baby, that is! They are suitable for the absolute beginner who cannot perform a crunch while maintaining decent form. Rockers support the user’s head while the handles allow them to assist the up movement of a crunch using the upper body. This helps to build core strength. With regular use, they should eventually be able to perform crunches unassisted.
Ab rockers can also be used to do knee lifts. Again, the headrest provides head support while the handles disperse some of the effort required to perform a lift. The same goes for using an ab rocker to perform side crunches. We all have to start somewhere, ab rockers provide a starting point for anyone – regardless of fitness level.
Sit up machine
A sit up machine/ab bench is a seated machine with handles and adjustable weights. It is simple to use in terms of form, so long as you align your abdomen with the pivot point of the machine. The actual exercise is intuitive: load up on weight, grab the handles and start to pull down while engaging your core.
Remember to control the motion of each move throughout – that means no sudden release of the weights. One of the main benefits of a sit up machine is that you are supported throughout the movement, lessening the risk of strain that can come with improperly performed crunches. Moreover, they allow you to progressively load on more weights, thus giving plenty of growing room for your abs.
Incline sit up bench
An incline sit up bench allows you to dip below the usual horizontal plane when performing a sit up. This extends the range of motion and requires your muscles to work harder at the beginning of each crunch. The jury is somewhat out on whether they supercharge the benefits of a crunch or whether they are a back injury waiting to happen.
Watch the tv shopping channels for long enough and eventually an advert for an electronic ab belt will come on. The basic premise of these belts is that they stimulate the abdominal muscles using electric pulses. Worn for 10 minutes a day, they claim to be equivalent to performing a very high number of crunches. Do these belts deliver on their promise? No, if they did then we would not bother writing about ab exercises. Every ab post would just be buy this magic belt. We WISH they worked, how amazing would that be? But, for now, the only way to build abs is by putting in the gym hours.
…versus simple sit-ups
What can the above offer that the humble sit-up cannot? Well, an ab roller offers a new way to work your core muscles; ab rockers assist the sit-up movement; and ab belts…they do not offer much. Sit up machines are the next step up if you have mastered the sit up and want to load up on resistance, offering a safe way to diversify your training that does not potentially put your back at risk.
Weighted crunches are another way to up your sit-up game. They are done by holding a dumbbell or flat circular weight to your chest, which increases the resistance of each rep. This develops your ab muscles and delivers a better workout – all without buying a specialist piece of equipment. The benefit of using a sit up machine over a weighted crunch, however, is that the sit up machine better supports you throughout the move and protects against injury. This is not to say that weighted crunches are dangerous per se, rather an ab machine is extra safe. Moreover, it is capable of loading on more weight than you might be able to hold.
Which would we go for? The ab machine wins hands down for us, purely because it takes care of a lot of the concerns around form, which can be prevalent during crunches, and offers extra safety.