What’s the Best Ab Machine Equipment in 2018? We Break It Down Below:
updated December 1, 2018
In the never ending quest for six pack abs, the home fitness market has been flooded with all manner of abdominal toning machines, each one touting itself as the ultimate solution to the mid-section obsession. Most of them fall way short of the mark. Yet, there are a few products out there that do stack up when it comes to toning and strengthening the abdominals and core.
While they won’t miraculously melt fat from your waist (only diet and sustained cardio can do that), ab machines can give you a rock hard set of abs that will look great when the fat disappears and that will make you a fitter, stronger, more functionally able person.
Different Types of Ab Toning Products
The Abdominal roller, or ab wheel, has been a favorite ab exercise for decades. It consists of a small revolving wheel with handles attached. A major advantage of the ab roller is that it is a synergistic exercise. It requires the coordinated use of the muscles of the abdominals and the lower back. It also allows you to achieve a maximum stretch and contraction on your abs with each and every repetition.
Our favorite ab roller is the Perfect Fitness Ab Carver Pro. This hi-tech take on the traditional ab wheel features a carbon steel spring which provides resistance when you roll the wheel out and assistance when you roll it back in.
Abdominal toning belts use electronic muscle stimulation to give a concentrated workout to the abdominals while you are doing other things. They have been around in various forms since the early 1970’s when news of their use as a secret exercise weapon trickled out of Soviet Russia. Before long, dozens of opportunistic marketers had jumped on the bandwagon and they were being touted as the effort free way to a six pack. The claims became so outrageous that the Federal Trade Commission took three manufacturers to court in the 1980’s.
The outrageous claims surrounding ab belts has led many people to dismiss them as quackery. Yet, the past few years have seen a reboot of the industry that has given a whole new lease of life to the ab belt. Radical new designs, better technology and hard hitting scientific data have led many to change their opinion on the ab belt.
Research such as the 2012 study out of Poitiers University in France have shown that electrical muscle stimulation can be as effective as conventional exercise in terms of improving strength and toning muscle. This study compared the use of electrical stimulation training with dry land strength training in national level sprinters. The results showed that the swimmers who received electrical muscle stimulation only were able to improve their swimming velocity to the same extent as the conventional exercise group. Interestingly, the electrical muscle stimulation group showed greater gains in strength across all ranges of strength - concentric, eccentric and isometric.
So, yes, ab belts do work, so long as you choose the right one. Our favorite is the Flex Belt. In the space of a 30 minute workout, this variable intensity device will give you the effect of hundreds of abdominal, oblique and intercostal contractions. If you’re a skeptic, give it a thirty minute trial - you will be a believer!
Ab Glider machines allow the user to move along a preset track that works their abdominals and intercostals. They usually come with a pair of handles to keep your upper body stationary and a padded seat. The movement pattern is either horizontal to target the abs or vertical to hit the sides of the waist. Many machines come with a 180 degree rotation track to allow you to work all areas of the core.
There are a number of other devices out there that do not fall into the above categories. Some of them are chair like (Ab Rocket and Ab-Doer Twist), providing targeted ab movement while your back is in a protected position.
Other machines provide a frame for you to perform crunches and other moves that target the upper and lower abs. You can also purchase devices with foot stirrups and handles that allow you to compress a handle to contract your abs, such as the Gut Buster, and sit up and roman chair benches.
Top Abdominal Toning Machine Reviews
The Ab Glider combines two distinct abdominal motions into one machine - rocking from side to side and moving back and forth. This allows you to work both the upper and lower abs and the obliques in one fluid motion. The machine is produced by Pro Form, a reputable company who are best known for their high quality range of treadmills.
The point of difference of the Ab Glider has you moving through an arcing motion when you pull yourself along the tracks. You are also able to swivel the track to hit all areas of the core.
Ab Glider Pros
- Variable tracking to allow you to target the entire core
- Side to side and forward backward motion are combined in one motion
- Smooth, quiet 180 degree rotational track
- Established, reputable manufacturer
Ab Glider Cons
- Does not fold away for easy storage
- Not designed for people who are under 5’4”
- The frame of the machine is not as sturdy as it should be
- Lack of arm support which may lead to neck strain
The Ab Glider offers an effective way to target the individual areas of the abdominal area with an innovative variable tracking movement. However, its design has been descried by some users as ‘flimsy’ and ‘cheap’. The lack of arm rests may also lead to neck and lower back problems. Take a look at the Ab Coaster Pro before sinking your money into this one.
The Ab Rocket appears to be a stylish padded chair that sits on rails. The padded portions are actually massagers, which go to work on your body while you’re exercising. The unit is solidly built and relatively easy to put together. When assembled it is also very space efficient.
When you first sit on the Ab Rocket, you’ll notice how comfortable the padded seating is. However, the design does not allow for customization to a person’s height and bodily dimensions, so some people may find it difficult to get comfortable in the unit.
The Ab Rocket comes with a DVD which teaches you a number of moves that you can perform to isolate and work the upper and lower abs along with the sides of the waist. You also get a number of resistance bands to allow you to add an extra element of intensity to your workout.
Ab Rocket Pros
- Sturdy construction
- Extra resistance by way of bands
- Allows you to target all areas of the abdominal wall
AB Rocket Cons
- Does not allow for custom fit
- Exercises take time to perfect
- Can bring on lower back pain
The Ab Rocket offers some unique movement patterns and isolation options fo the abs. It will provide an effective workout. However, it is not user friendly in terms of fitting different body types and may worsen an existing back condition.
The Ab Circle pro uses both rotation and resistance to work the abs. It is shaped like a large disc and has handles and knee supports on board. The promotional material claims that the motions of the device provide both an intense abdominal workout to strengthen and tone the muscles along with a cardiovascular workout to burn off the body fat. However, the limited range of motion doesn’t really give you enough movement to constitute cardiovascular exercise.
Despite claiming that the Ab Circle pro is like a treadmill for the abs, the manufacturers offer no supporting data to back up the assertion. Again there is no research to back up the claim that 3 minutes on the Ab Circle Pro is equivalent to doing 100 sit ups.
Ab Circle Pro - Pros
- Provides an effective exercise track to isolate and work the muscles of the core
- Compact and sturdy design
Ab Circle Pro - Cons
- Too much unsubstantiated hype
- Sitting position may aggravate lower back conditions
The Ab Circle Pro can provide an effective abdominal workout. However, you need to forget all of the marketing promises and use it for at least 15 minutes per day, every day to get some results. You won’t lose weight with this machine, but you definitely can strengthen and tone your abs.
The Ab Coaster Pro has you performing reverse crunches along a preset track, while your arms are resting on pads. You achieve this by pulling your knees up toward your rib cage. By adjusting your position on the seat, you are able to target either the upper or lower abdominals.
A unique feature of the Ab Coaster Pro is that you are able to add extra resistance to allow for progressive resistance as you get stronger.
Progressive resistance is a foundation principle of strength and conditioning exercise.
Ab Coaster Pro - Pros
- Arm supports take pressure off the lower back
- Pins allow for extra resistance
- Side-on locking allow you to isolate and work the external obliques and intercostals
- Rep counter display allows you to monitor your training
Ab Coaster Pro - Cons
- Not Height Adjustable - The arm-rest is not adjustable for height, meaning that taller or shorter people may struggle to find their ideal comfort zone on this machine.
The Ab Doer Twist is a chair-like device with looped handles. The machine features a front stabilizer. The long looped handles are also ergonomically designed to lessen stress on the joints. It also features rollers that provide a massaging, therapeutic effect as you work out.
The Ab-Doer Twist is one of very few home ab trainers to receive a Seal of Approval from the National Health and Wellness Organization. The unit is constructed of heavy gauge steel and thick padding that is well stitched. It also offers multiple resistance options to allow for progressive resistance as you get stronger.
Ab-doer Twist Abdominal Trainer Pros
- Provides effective lower back support during exercise
- Heavy duty construction
- Massage roller provides therapeutic effect
- Ergonomic design
- A wide of range of exercises that target specific areas
Ab-doer Twist Abdominal Trainer Cons
- You need the exercise guide or DVD to know how to use the machine
The Ab-Doer Twist stands out to us a solidly built machine that will deliver a hard hitting abdominal workout while massaging the spine. Forget the hype about losing weight and revealing your abs and you will be pleased with the results.
As we’ve uncovered, there are some quality abdominal training machines on the market. They effectively target all areas of the abdominals and core to strengthen and firm those areas. The problem, of course, is that the marketing departments that sell these products are still taking us for fools. They think that we’ll fall into the ‘lose 10 pounds in a week’ and ‘reveal your awesome six-pack’ nonsense that they keep dishing out.
The simple, honest, scientific truth is that you cannot lose body fat by doing exercises for your abdominals. What you can do is to strengthen and tone your abdominal muscles, just like working your biceps will strengthen and tone them. And, strengthening and toning the abs is vital for overall health, fitness and vitality.
The way to get rid of bodyfat so that you can actually see your abs is to combine high intensity cardiovascular exercise with clean eating. It is the consistency of the three elements - strength and conditioning training with the types of machines reviewed here, cardio exercise and nutrition - that brings real results.