If you enter the gym or want to buy exercise equipment for abs, you bump into many pieces. And, if you look for advice on which one you should use, ones say that these items are useless while others cry up them.
So, what’s the truth? Do you need to use ab machines to build a strong and great looking midsection?
Well, that depends on you, the user. What’s your fitness level? What’s your main goal?
Let’s get into the details.
Ab machines that work
An ab machine is workout equipment that is made for targeting the core muscles. Why core and not abs? Because the abs are only your rectus abdominis muscles that build up the six pack look. But, your core includes your abs, obliques, lower back, and glutes.
Strengthening your entire core is essential not just for making your midsection entirely attractive, but it has health benefits. For example, a strong core improves your posture and performance in your daily life and sports.
And that is the problem with most of the ab machines, that is, they only target your abs and not your core. Mainly, I’m talking about the so-called as seen on TV items. And, with that, those machines don’t work.
Which equipment lets us target the entire core?
The ab wheel, sit up bench, hyperextension bench, vertical knee raise station, hanging leg lifts, stability ball bar are all excellent pieces because, with the help of them, we can target the entire core. So, these core machines work.
Which machines are bad?
Well, I never use such equipment that controls the movement too much, because that isn’t natural. When we perform a movement, it’s not limited to a single muscle group, but more secondary ones are engaged as well. This is how our body works.
The seated ab crunch machine is a good example. It focuses only on your abs controlling the motion so much that no other muscles need to be activated.
Do ab toning belts work?
Frankly, I don’t believe they help, although I’ve seen positive reviews. I believe in dedicated training and diet that takes time but brings long-lasting results.
Who should use machines for ab training?
Well, that is the point when we need to talk about the fitness level.
Beginners – Not yet!
For a total beginner, who can make only a few crunches or lying leg lifts, it doesn’t make sense to use a machine. If someone doesn’t have the required core strength yet to perform a machine exercise correctly and with enough reps and sets, it’s worthless to use anything. They should stick to the beginner level abdominal exercises until they build adequate core strength.
That seems logical, but I’ve seen so many guys suffering on the vertical knee raise machine or on the ab bench, just for the sake of following the others at the gym. They made only a few reps with an incredibly bad form.
So, if you are a beginner, I recommend having a versatile bodyweight ab workout, instead of using machines.
More advanced athletes – Might be!
The progressive overload is an important technique to keep the development of an athlete. That means frequently we modify the workout to force the abdominal muscles and nervous system to adapt. To reach that, we can do more reps, sets, make the training more intense, or switch to more advanced exercises.
And, that is where ab exercise machines come in, we can do harder exercises with the help of them. Let’s say you do sit-ups on the floor, and making 30 or 40 is already easy for you. By switching to a decline ab bench, you get the mentioned progressive overload.
Another example is switching from lying leg raises to hanging leg raises. The difference between the exercises is huge. But, that is what we need to keep the core muscles growing.
Then why I said, might be.
Because we can turn simple exercises harder in various ways. For instance, you can do weighted sit-ups or leg raises on the floor with ankle weights. Or, planks by lifting one of your legs.
To sum up, ab workout equipment is useful for advanced athletes who need a new impact to get progressive overload.
Someone who wants to lose belly fat – Won’t help much
People having a lack of knowledge about working out and fat loss, want to use the abdominal exercise equipment to burn belly fat and love handles.
However, the truth is that exercise equipment for abs hardly burns any belly fat.
You may think now, “But, why? We attack the abs! The area where we want to burn fat.”
The point is that we have fat on our stomach because of having a high body fat level. So, to get a leaner midsection, we should lower the fat level by getting daily fewer calories than our body needs, so that it burns calories from the stored fat.
The best way is to follow a healthy diet that gives the right type and amount of nutrients for the body, but at the same time leads to a daily calorie deficit.
The other way is to do workouts that burn a lot of calories at a given time. Such intensive workouts include exercises that engage a lot of muscles at once, such as burpees. rowing or running. The more muscles are activated, the more calories they burn.
And, that is why ab machine exercises aren’t so good for burning stomach fat. The moves engage just a few muscles targeting the core, and this way, they don’t burn many calories.
So, if you want to lose weight, focus on your diet, and do cardio instead.
To sum up
Ab workout machines are useful for those who already have existing core strength and want to keep the positive development. These machines aren’t the best choice for burning fat and for newcomers who should stick to exercises without equipment at the beginning.