Doing crunches is not for everyone. Doing planks is too boring and requires more core strength than you think.
An ab machine is more fun, but can you get good abdominal and core conditioning at home without spending a fortune?
The answer is yes. There are multiple types of ab machine with a good range of motion that can help you develop your abs.
In this article, we’ll look over some of the most popular ab machines available. We’ll highlight their pros and cons so you can decide which one is better suited for you.
We’ll also give you a detailed guide so you’ll have an easier time spotting the best ab machine that fits your needs.
Best Ab Machine Reviews
1. Star Uno Core Max
This ab machine certainly gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “full-body workout”. It allows you to work on multiple muscle groups at a budget-friendly price.
The machine has a pretty good range and balance between lower body, core and upper body training. It’s actually one of the few ab machines that also lets you achieve a good burn on your legs and chest.
The design of the Core Max resembles an ab chair to some degree. It lets you do assisted crunches which means it will be easier to maintain a correct posture. A great feature for beginners struggling to find proper form.
It has three levels of resistance and it’s very easy to store. You also have the option of adding a fitness monitor and resistance bands, though these will cost extra.
What's to like about the Star Uno Core Max
The best part of owning a Star Uno Core Max has to be the assisted workout it lets you do. Not only is the machine beginner-friendly, you also get a nutritional guide and a workout DVD as part of the package.
What's not to like about the Star Uno Core Max
The main drawback of the Star Uno Core Max? Although it’s an ab machine, it doesn’t really seem to focus on developing the abdominal muscles. There are just two exercises you can do for your abs compared to the other six for upper and lower body workouts.
2. Wonder Core Smart
The Wonder Core Smart is quite similar to the Core Max. Although it offers the same number of exercises, you will feel more resistance. This makes the Core Smart a better choice for intermediate and advanced users.
The Wonder Core Smart is perhaps the best ab machine of its kind. That’s not to say that there aren’t superior ab machines of other types available.
We also like that the Core Smart is relatively affordable. You get to train your upper body, lower body and your core for the cost of just one device.
The machine also comes fully preassembled so you can start using it right out of the box. The resistance is adjustable and the Core Smart is super easy to fold and store.
What's to like about the Wonder Core Smart
The fitness guide complete with nutritional information and the exercise DVD are always nice to see. Although the device is easy enough to use, the suggested tips you get as part of the deal can greatly improve your posture and hasten the results of your training.
What's not to like about the Wonder Core Smart
Given the limited number of ab exercises that you can perform, this ab machine is better suited for full-body conditioning than a 6-pack training regimen.
You can find out even more about the Wonder Core Smart by checking out our complete, in depth review here.
3. STEALTH Interactive Fitness Board
Planks are boring and they’re not that efficient either once you hit a particular conditioning level. To make things challenging and efficient, STEALTH offers one of the most intriguing ab machines on the market.
The interactive fitness board combines gaming with abdominal and upper body exercises. It’s just what the younger generation needs to stay motivated while training.
The plank is comfortable and supports users up to 250 pounds. It also allows a dynamic 360-degree range of motion which is important for training all the abdominal muscles.
The app is free so you won’t have to pay extra for games and workout routines. This does help offset the cost of the interactive fitness board.
What's to like about the STEALTH Interactive Fitness Board
The interactivity is its most important feature. Because of its unique design, the STEALTH Interactive Fitness Board makes the traditional plank more efficient, more entertaining and quite frankly a lot of fun for beginners and advanced users alike.
What's not to like about the STEALTH Interactive Fitness Board
The STEALTH is on the pricey side. Even though the games and the app are free, the initial investment can be considered too high by some people.
4. Esther Beauty ABS Stimulator
EMS (electrical muscle stimulation) machines have been around for decades but it wasn’t until recently that they received the recognition they deserve.
This device is easy to carry around with you while traveling. It’s perhaps the best ab machine to have on the road in terms of value for money.
Along with the ab muscle toner you also get two more straps which you can use for your obliques, arms, chest or legs. Each has its own controller.
The recommended workout duration is 20 minutes although you can change that depending on the intensity. 20 minutes is just the recommended duration of uninterrupted use.
What's to like about the Esther Beauty ABS Stimulator
The portability of the Esther Beauty ABS Stimulator is its biggest selling point. The device is easy to carry and easy to charge which means you’ll never have to skip conditioning while on the road.
What's not to like about the Esther Beauty ABS Stimulator
As is the case with any EMS device, this one can’t be used by everyone. People with pacemakers or women who have recently given birth shouldn’t wear anything that uses EMS technology.
5. Wonder Core 2 Sit up Exerciser
This modified version of the ab chair offers dual resistance for double the intensity of any ab workout. It’s easy to use and comfortable and puts a new spin on the traditional chair.
The Wonder Core 2 has a 180-degree range of motion. This allows you to perform even more exercises than you could on a traditional ab bench or ab chair.
The resistance belts give you the intensity you need for muscle gains at the beginner or intermediate level. The lack of weights makes it less attractive for advanced users despite it being a viable conditioning machine.
The Wonder Core 2 is very durable, though this is reflected in the high price. That being said, it is one of the most complete ab machines on the market.
What's to like about the Wonder Core 2 Sit up Exerciser
Having resistance on the way down and on the way up is the bread and butter of this ab machine. This might even make it the best ab machine in the chair category.
What's not to like about the Wonder Core 2 Sit up Exerciser
As good as it is, the price of the Wonder Core 2 is a bit steep. There are cheaper alternatives which sacrifice durability and material quality for a lower price tag.
Buying an ab machine is just the start of your journey in getting those abs beach-ready. An ab machine, like any machine, is just a tool. The way you use it is just as important as the machine itself.
That doesn’t mean that any old ab machine will do the trick. Some tools are multi-purpose and the same principle applies to ab machines. Here are some of the essential features to consider when buying your fitness equipment.
The material of your ab machine usually dictates its longevity. For example, plenty of ab wheels and ab rollers are made of plastic. They may be cheap but they also break down easily when you use them in intense workouts.
You want your sit up benches to have a steel frame. You might also be interested in spending some extra money to ensure you get quality padding: Sponge padding around the leg rests, rubber underneath the floor supports and perhaps even a waterproof or water-resistant cover on your bench.
When you buy an ab machine you know that you’ll just have to spend a bit extra for durability. The framework is very important, especially for ab chairs and sit up benches. This doesn’t only affect the longevity of the machine but also its weight capacity and stability.
On the other hand, a heavy-duty frame means that the assembly and installation will take longer. Not only that, but it’s likely that you won’t be able to move the apparatus from one room to another with ease. That being said, lightweight frames generally don’t provide enough stability for people over 200 lbs.
The heavier the device, the better it is for larger individuals.
Ab machines come in various sizes. However, this doesn’t mean that the best ab machine is the longest, widest, or heaviest of them all. Size matters only when you want to maintain proper form and be comfortable while doing your sets.
Even smaller machines such as ab wheels and ab gliders come in various sizes. They have to come in different sizes in order to accommodate different shoulder lengths. Therefore, size is a very important feature to consider when shopping for ab machines and equipment.
One of the most popular types of ab machine is the ab wheel. It’s small, easy to store and can offer you a strong core workout. It also helps with conditioning your upper torso, provided that you set it at a high enough resistance level.
The one downside of the ab wheel is that it’s not really the best ab machine for beginners. Even with very little resistance, the exercises are difficult if you’re out of shape. Consider this an intermediate to advanced piece of workout equipment.
You can learn more about ab wheels in our complete review of the best ab roller wheels.
Ab chairs are very beginner-friendly. In fact, you may even call the ab chair the best ab machine for people with back problems and poor core strength. The ab chair folds and takes away a lot of the load when you’re doing crunches.
They come in quite a few designs. Some of them even incorporate different resistance levels and a movable chair for rotational abdominal exercises.
Sit Up Bench
The sit up bench is the staple of any well-equipped gym. The role of most sit up benches is to assist the user in performing exercises with the proper form. This means they can provide some leverage and stability so that there’s less strain on the lower back.
There’s something else too. Most advanced benches are equipped with weights and are adjustable. With one of these, you can take your workout to a whole other level by increasing the intensity or, in the case of beginners, decreasing the resistance to get in more reps.
Some of them can also be adjusted in both decline and incline positions to allow for leg workouts and lower back workouts. Sit up benches are also popular ab machines due to their folding designs and small footprint.
However, as a general rule, the sit up benches that you see in gyms have tend to have higher weight capacity and stability, so keep that in mind when you’re trying to compare costs.
Pull Up Bars
Pull up bars help with abs strengthening. They allow you to stretch and crunch your abdominal muscles in a wide range of movements. They also double as full upper body workout equipment, so buying one makes a lot of sense if you want full body conditioning at a low price.
Electrical muscle stimulation or EMS is a popular method of training muscles or helping with muscle recovery. For ab exercises, these typically come in the form of belts and the users can handle a controller to adjust the level of intensity and duration of training.
Ab Circle and Ab Glider
The reason these two are in the same category is because they are very similar in what they do. The ab glider is actually a bit better overall as it allows more range of motion. This range is up to 180 degrees which means you can train more muscle groups in one workout with an ab glider.
Other Compact Machines
There are plenty more ab machines that come up for sale each year. There are planks, full-body workout machines and many more that are really hard to categorize.
The classic ab machines which include benches, chairs and so on don’t come with too many features. Some of them are adjustable and some of them allow for weight training, but that’s about it.
Newer machines that incorporate digital features usually come with extensive manuals. Some ab plank devices, for instance, may display heart rate, body fat percentage, burned calories, etc.
EMS ab devices have multiple features such as:
- Multiple controllers
- Adjustable intensity levels
- Additional devices for training chest, arms, legs and back
- USB chargers
- Programmable workout routines
The number of features on an ab machine shouldn’t matter too much as long as you get a machine that’s good for your particular type of workout. Sometimes it’s enough to buy something that offers a full range of motion and has a sturdy build that will last for years to come.
Because most ab machines are quite similar from one manufacturer to another, the brand generally only influences the price. If you look closely at three or four different sit up benches, you’ll notice very few pros and cons that aren’t the same for all of them as a group.
Going for branded products isn’t always the smart move. After all, new ab machine designs come out each year. You never know when the next best ab machine is going to hit the market.
Ab Machines F.A.Q.
How to Use an Ab Machine?
There are too many types of ab machines to have a standard guide on how to use them. There is, however, a general rule that applies to each and every one of them.
In order to get the most out of any ab machine, be it a roller, glider, chair, sit up bench, crunch machine etc., you have to stabilize your core and maintain proper form.
Not only does this guarantee that you actually contract your muscles the right way but it also prevents injuries and breaking the equipment. You’d also want to alternate and cycle through different ab machines.
The more varied your workout is, the faster you’ll see gains and actually get stronger.
Does the Ab Circle Pro Really Work?
The Ab Circle Pro is not the best ab machine by any stretch but you can get a solid workout out of it. Its use of rotational movements as part of the training routine engages more muscles than most ab machines on the market.
It trains lower and upper abs as well as the obliques. The downside is that the training is not nearly as intense as what’s usually needed to develop a 6-pack. Even proper nutrition and less than 8% body fat percentage won’t guarantee outstanding muscle definition if you rely on just the ab circle pro.
What Muscles Does the Ab Roller Work On?
The ab roller works on multiple muscle groups. It’s not really a full-body workout machine but it does engage more than just your abs.
With proper form, you can use the ab roller to develop your upper and lower abs. The transverse abdominis gets a big workout this way. Because of the limited movement, you won’t be able to work your obliques so it won’t help you develop V-shaped abs.
When doing proper extensions, you should also feel pressure on your shoulders, triceps and lower back. However, keep in mind that the ab roller is more of a conditioning piece of equipment as the intensity is not that great to cause fast or impressive muscle gains.
How to Use an Abdominal Crunch Machine?
The ab crunch machine is an interesting choice for intermediate and advanced users. The principle involves isolating the abdominal muscles and keeping them in tension throughout the entire set of crunches.
Ab crunch machines work with weight plates. That allows you to get more intensity in your workout than doing traditional floor crunches. However, there is a downside.
With ab crunch machines, you’ll often be tempted to cheat your reps by using your shoulders or biceps to pull the chair forward when you lose power in your abs. This is the main reason why the machine is better left for advanced users. They simply have better discipline when it comes to maintaining proper form.
How Effective Is the Ab Wheel?
The ab wheel is quite decent in terms of getting multiple muscle groups involved in a single exercise. While it won’t help you develop a 6-pack on its own without dieting and using other machines for gains, it does help with conditioning and makes for a decent cardio workout machine.
Of course, different intensity levels will have different results. For example, if you also use a weight vest, the ab wheel becomes about twice as effective. Still, for the best muscle definition and for more strength, you simply can’t afford to favor just one device over all others. You have to alternate constantly to notice gains.
The Wonder Core 2 Sit Up Exerciser is the best ab machine on our list. It has great range of motion and applies two-way resistance when you exercise. The resistance bands can also be used to work your chest and your arms, which gives it even more value for money.
If you’re looking for the best ab machine and you’re on a super tight budget then the Esther Beauty ABS Stimulator might be the one for you. Not only is it cheap, it’s also the best portable machine you can get for your bucks.