Abs are commonplace in magazines, commercials, Oscar winning movies, video games, and the gym. While such imagery is commonplace, one rarely sees chiseled and flat stomachs on most other people's torsos. If asked, plenty of these people would sport a tighter and smaller stomach. However, how to obtain such a body is not always clear. Most people are not aware that muscle groups need different forms of stress for maximum results. A daily regimen of crunches might work wonders for a few months, provided the form is solid. However, soon the body adjusts to such stress and the muscle group plateaus.
Ab exercise machines provide the needed direction, stress, and versatility to fight plateaus and comprehensively develop one's stomach. Generally, these either improve one's form, create a new exercise scenario, or provide weighted resistance. This guide will cover these three categories as well as explore how to best appraise and purchase the equipment.
Ab Machines that Improve Form
Even the basic crunch is tricky. Effective crunches require one to use the stomach throughout the exercise, but people will use other body parts for leverage, such as their legs, neck, arms, or back. This is perfectly natural because these shortcuts are the easiest way to achieve the given movement. Imperfect crunches can still work the stomach, but the exercise is less efficient and effective. After all, the general objective is to focus all effort and exertion on the stomach to tone and flatten it.
Mind over matter is easier said than done. Not only beginners face problems when attempting crunches, bicycles, or reverse crunches. Those already experienced with core exercises will leverage stress away from one muscle group to another located near the target. For example, those targeting the obliques, or "love handles," may use their lower abdominals. Ab machines that encourage form are generally more compact than bulky machinery found in other categories of ab exercise machines.
The Perfect Situp
The perfect situp is an interesting device that forces stability and muscle isolation. Through hooking one's feet into specially made footholds and using the machine's head strap, one can exercise without worry of using other muscles for leverage. Perhaps best of all, this machine provides zero support, so users will achieve maximum stress without needing to worry about controlling each and every exact movement.
Ab chairs come in a number of different versions, such as the namesake product or the ab lounge sport chair. While each of these certainly have other features attached, the basic premise of the ab chair is to provide a comfortable means to isolate one's exercise of the abdominals. These simulate the natural crunch through a folding mechanism. Just use the abdominal muscles to lift the legs and fold the chair inward. Ideally, one's other body parts are encouraged to be at complete rest, isolating one's abdominal muscles.
Ab rockers are one of the most simple ab devices that encourage form. Ideal for those who accidentally leverage their back or shoulders, this machine provides a comfortable way to isolate the abdominal core through back cushions and arm holds. Those who already have a developed stomach will want to skip this device, but beginners will find it very useful for building prerequisite strength before upgrading to more challenging routines.
Ab Machines that Provide Unique Challenge
Different machines require different positions and motions. They normally build upon the basic crunch, but this is not always the case. Many devices encourage fresh movements that isolate the abdominals or obliques, usually through a machine that encourages twists or other motions that require equipment.
While great for beginners, such ab machines are ideal for ascending plateaus. Those tired of regular calisthenics may find such equipment interesting and fun, which is a major incentive for continuing to build a flat torso or maintaining one.
Ab wheels are quite compact and great for those who travel or like bringing their own equipment to the gym. Using one is quite simple, only requiring the user to get on one's knees and move the wheel back and forth across the floor. This motion both isolates the abs and forces them to stabilize while replicating a basic crunch. As a bonus, these machines are also known to do wonders for the back, as this muscle also plays a role in stabilizing the muscle group. There are a number of ab wheels available, but a versatile option is the LifeLine Power Wheel, which includes foot straps for new exercises that encourage core stability.
The Ab Circle
The ab circle has seen a lot of attention, and for good reason. Using a circular rotary plank complete with knee support, this machine encourages users to twist their torsos while also stabilizing their form, thereby working the obliques and total abdominal tract. While this basic formula is a good recipe for dropping waist size, the machine is also adjustable for other exercises such as the basic crutch, preempting potential plateaus. While the ab circle is widely regarded, there are alternatives that offer other forms of the exercise, such as the Ab Doer Twist Machine.
Ab gliders simulate the crunch, but are more challenging. The unique design forces one to drag the knee plank upwards. This controlled motion encourages form, completely works the abdominals, and uses gravitational resistance. Its unique design also tones the back and shoulders while keeping the abdominals isolated, unlike ab wheels. Ab gliders are larger devices and can be adjusted to exercise one's obliques, glutes, shoulders, triceps, and back. Other machines, such as the Ab Flyer, provide these same motions but may lack the ab glider's versatility.
Resistance Machines for Abs
Using basic motions and natural resistance is well and good, but many people prefer to use weights. Not only can these help tone and build bulk, such machines also increase raw power while also providing the normal benefits of abdominal and core workouts such as flexibility, agility, and balance. Whatever the benefits, working with free weights requires expert form and can be dangerous to both person and property. These three aspects lead most weight lifters to compensate through auxiliary muscles, downgrading the exercise's effect on target groups such as the stomach. Thus, resistance machines are generally preferred when training one's abs with weights.
Seated Crutch Machines
Seated crutch machines are commonly seen at gyms and use either free or installed weights, so base selection on other equipment currently owned or being purchased. Such mechanisms are simple and work the abdominal tract whenever one's upper body is lowered to the knees. How one does this differs device to device, but hand grips or a chest plank are the most common. Benefits include more controlled form and greater back safety.
Resistance cables are ideal workout equipment for those that want to avoid the gym. Lightweight, portable, and versatile, travelers are also known to carry a set around. While resistance cables are somewhat unremarkable, specialized equipment can make these integral for anybody's ab routine. Use a door anchor or wall mount to replicate exercises offered by the cable crossover (described below) or footstraps for more challenging leg lifts. Best of all, resistance cables are easily adjusted for any desired level of resistance, commonly found ranging from 10 lb to 70 lb. Those who fear the idea of resistance cables snapping, which they occasionally do, can take extra precaution through protective sleeves.
Cable crossovers are perhaps the most massive type of equipment available and a common fixture at gyms. While meant to be a total body workout, these devices provide a number of exercises that focus on the abs, such as reverse crunches and torso twists, though resistance cables can provide the same for a fraction of the cost and floor space. However, serious heavy lifters should consider these machines, as resistance cables rarely provide comparable challenge.
Selecting the Right Ab Exercise Machine
Knowing which machines to purchase can be a challenge, particularly for those unaware of their fitness level. If unsure, basic is probably best. Concentrate on exercise machines that improve form, as these help the user learn the right torso motions. That said, weighted resistance can increase one's abdominal strength, thereby increasing one's ease of form when completing other excises.
Consider your lifestyle when selecting an ab exercise machine. Creating a flat torso can be a challenge for busy individuals or travelers. Portable or lightweight options are an excellent solution, allowing users to exercise when convenient, no matter if at the office, hotel room, or airport.
Which muscles to exercise is another question. While each machine can stress the entire torso, some exercises are more conducive for abdominals rather than obliques. A general rule of thumb is that equipment which encourages a crunch will target general abdominals while rotary or twist exercises hit the obliques.
Last, remember that fitness enthusiasts are a vocal community. If a piece of equipment or brand is interesting, look it up. Ask around. YouTube has many workout videos, some that may feature the given machine. While not a solid trial, such videos can at least demonstrate who uses the equipment and how.
Learn By Example
Instructional videos are provided with some equipment. While these can feel like a waste of time, and sometimes corny, the demonstrations are a real bonus for those who need solid examples for proper form. Other people may use the video workouts to provide encouragement when working out, or to keep rhythm. Give such videos a try; you might be pleasantly surprised. Those who lack instructional videos but want the experience can try YouTube, which has a plethora of exercise videos.
Abs aren't everything. Luckily, most abdominal equipment has adjustable features or multiple uses. Single exercise machines certainly can work wonders, but those offering different routines or exercises for different body parts enable a fuller exercise routine and eliminate need for equipment focused on the back, shoulders, legs, or other muscle groups. Alternative exercises offered by ab machines usually have the same effectiveness as machines dedicated to other muscles.
Purchasing Used Ab Equipment
Used equipment is perfectly fine. However, be aware that it is possible to hurt oneself on perfectly functional machines, most often when the machine is not properly used. Even when equipment does not pose a health risk, faulty machines are disappointing, to say the least.
Whenever purchasing used equipment inquire about its condition, reason for sale, and warranties. Nearly all shipped equipment will require some sort of assembly. A good trick is to ask the merchant about every nut and bolt that comes with the machine. Use an official resource to verify that such pieces come with the device and that none are missing. Keep in mind that some equipment, such as resistance cables, becomes less durable with uses.
It is worthwhile validating the legitimacy of merchants selling used goods, as noted in eBay's Opinions, Authentication, and Grading page. This provides the validation that the equipment is legitimate and the merchant reputable.
How to Locate Ab Equipment on eBay
After researching the equipment and even speaking with some gym rats, choosing the ideal ab device is a piece of cake. Finding that device is not. Shopping around normally only requires a search keyword, but some equipment may not fall under an easy classification. Search brand and model names if possible.
However, all possible listings will be available through eBay's Sporting Goods portal in the Gym, Workout & Yoga category and the Fitness Equipment subcategory. Most machines that strictly apply to abs can then be found in the Abdominal Exercisers section.
When browsing, make sure to research the seller's reputation and history, especially if looking at used equipment. While such preliminary caution is always a good standard, know that eBay and PayPal both work to ensure a legitimate market. If the worst case scenario happens, purchasers can make use of the eBay Buyer Protection, which covers all losses if the item is faulty or unshipped.
Like all aspects of fitness, the right ab machine really depends on the person. However, we all have shared anatomical traits. Most often similar types of equipment and exercises are just as effective from one person to the next, but our agendas and current fitness can differ a great deal.
Do your research and gain a general idea of which exercise routine seems worthwhile to pursue for you. Then find the necessary equipment. Always factor delivery into the total price and make sure to request the shipper insure the equipment if it is expensive. Purchase the item via one of eBay's eligible payment methods in order to be covered by the eBay buyer protection policy.
Make sure the seller is reputable and has the feedback, terms and conditions, and return policy to assure a fair and secure deal.
With such precautions you'll be toning those abs in no time.