As with everything else in the fitness industry, you are faced with a dazzlingly huge choice when choosing equipment for your abs.
It can be a little intimidating for beginners, and it can really set you back and knock your confidence if you buy the wrong one.
If you are looking for a little help in choosing your abdominal exercise equipment, I hope this guide will help you make the right choice for you and your needs.
What ab exercise equipment is included in this list?
You have literally hundreds of types, brands and models to choose from, so for this list I have chosen machines and equipment that A) I have used personally either at home or in the gym and B) I have found to be effective in the battle against the belly. I have also tried to focus on equipment that you could conceivably fit into most modern homes, where space is at a premium. The list is by no means exhaustive, so if you think something is missing, or you have any questions whatsoever, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom and I’ll get back to you.
Using this list
To help you find the right information, l have put all of the equipment in an “ease of use” order, starting with belly exercise equipment suitable for beginners and ending the list with machines best left to those with a bit of experience and a decent level of core strength already. I will give a brief outline of what each machine is and does. I will also give an example exercise you can do, so that if you come across any of these at the gym or other people’s houses, you can give them a try.
How do you know which ab machine is right for you?
Before you choose your abs exercise equipment, you need to know your basic core fitness level. To do this, you can do a simple test at home to get a pretty good guesstimate. Get down on the floor into the plank position and hold it as long as you can. That’s it. That’s the whole test.
If you can hold for fewer than 60 seconds, you are a beginner. If you last 2-4 minutes, you have an intermediate core strength level and can choose a wider variety of ab machine. Anything over 4 minutes and you are an advanced user and can choose any machine you like, and probably don’t need my advice. Way to go!
8 Great Abdominal Exercise Machines for your Home Gym
And now to the good stuff. Below I will introduce you to 8 great ab machines for your home gym, and give an example of an exercise you can do for each one.
suitable for beginners
Ab rockers seem to have been around forever. I remember my mum having one when I was a very young man, and trying to use it while I watched cartoons. Ab rockers are essentially a set of curved bars with a head rest between them and handles over the head. They assist you when doing ab crunches, and are a very effective piece of ab equipment for beginners, as they support your form well and encourage you to concentrate on keeping your abs tight.
Step 1 - Find a comfortable flat surface. You can use a yoga mat if your floors are too hard.
Step 2 - Lie in the ab rocker with your head on the pad and your arms resting on the bars directly over your head.
Step 3 - Tighten your abs and breathe out gently while using your arms to push gently forward.
Step 4 - Hold for 5 seconds then return to the start.
Repeat for 3 sets of 5 to 10 reps. As your core strength improves, you can use your arms less and abs more to initiate the rocking motion.
Bosu Balance Trainer
suitable for beginners
A BOSU (short for “both sides up”) balance trainer is that funny looking half ball / half platform contraption you’ve seen sitting unused in the corner at the gym. They kind of look like an old space hopper cut in half, and are amazing for exercises for your abs, core, stability and balance. I will probably receive a few angry letters for saying that BOSU balls are for beginners. While it is true that they are a very difficult piece of exercise equipment to master, there are also a lot of very simple, effective core and ab exercises that beginners can do on them.
Step 1 - Put the BOSU on the floor, ball side up.
Step 2 - Sit on the ball and scooch a little forward from the centre, sitting with your knees bent, spine straight and abs pulled in.
Step 3 - Keep your hands on the ball either side of you for stability, or lock your hands behind your head for increased challenge and core activation.
Step 4 - Slowly raise one leg off the floor, hold for 5, then lower. Use a bent leg to make the exercise easier, or straighten it out for a really tough abdominal workout.
Step 5 - Repeat with the other leg. Do this ten times for each leg.
EMS Ab Toner Belt / Ab Stimulator
suitable for beginners
Ab toner belts and stimulators are the black sheep of the home abs workout and exercise equipment family. Opinions on them range from mildly skeptical to downright calling them a scam. This is usually because people see them as some sort of miracle cure for a flabby belly, or a direct shortcut to rock hard abs, and are then disappointed when they don’t work within a week. Ab toner belts won’t help you to lose belly fat (actually nothing will. It is impossible to spot lose fat), but they will stimulate your ab muscles in a painless, effective way. If combined with a sensible diet and overall workout plan, an ab toner belt can be a very helpful tool in the fight to a tighter tummy. They can allow you to sneak in a quick workout while busy with other things. What’s not to love about that? How you use them depends on the make, but essentially you just strap them on, press go, and do something else for 20 minutes while they do all the work.
suitable for beginner to intermediate
A swiss ball is a large, soft, usually blue inflatable rubber ball that is used for everything from balance training, to core work and weight lifting. Basic seated core exercises can become gruelling muscle toning workouts when the ball is used in place of a static chair. The unsteady nature of the ball forces your entire core and stabilizer muscles to engage while you sit and workout on it, making even deceptively simple looking exercises much, much more difficult. Here is an example of a beginner exercise you can do on a Swiss ball:
Step 1 - Place the ball against a wall
Step 2 - Sit on the ball with your legs hip width apart, arms crossed over your chest, and your abs pulled in
Step 3 - Walk / roll forward on the ball until your lower back is resting on the ball, rather than your butt
Step 4 - From this position, raise your head and shoulders slightly up and forward until you can see your knees, to perform a half crunch
Step 5 - Lower yourself back down, then repeat for 5 - 10 reps, or however many you can do
Ab Roller Wheel
suitable for beginner to intermediate
Ab roller wheels are another ab machine that look like they should be easy to use, but are anything but. The basic function of your abs and other core muscles is to stabilize your spine, and keep your trunk steady. Ab wheels use this function against you, and engage every bit of your core, plus your shoulders, chest, and legs. If you jump on one thinking it is going to be easy, you are going to have a bad time and possibly end up injured. Respect the wheel and it will respect you. I have personally found ab wheels such as the Ab Carver Pro to be one of THE MOST effective pieces of exercise equipment for abs on the market. Here’s how to use one:
Step 1 - Find a nice flat, open area and put something down to rest your knees one
Step 2 - Kneel down with the ab roller wheel in front of you
Step 3 - Hold the handles, pull in your abs, and roll out as far as is comfortable
Step 4 - Hold for a breath and roll back to the start
Step 5 - Repeat for the amount of reps you want to complete
We Recommend the Ab Carver Pro
Decline Ab Bench
suitable for intermediate to advanced
Once you have gotten your core strength to a decent level, you can start to be a bit more adventurous with your ab workout. One of my favorite ab workout stations in the gym is the ab decline bench, and if you have the space at home they are essential workout equipment for your home gym. You can perform a wide range of ab attacking exercises such as decline sit-ups, crunches, russian twists, weighted sit ups and many more. By raising or lowering the incline to suit your fitness level, core strength and goals, you can increase or decrease the difficulty of the exercises too, giving you almost endless choice. As an added bonus, decline ab benches can also be used for other parts of the body, such decline dumbbell flys for you chest, or as a makeshift incline plane for shoulder work. Here’s how to do a basic decline russian twist. Give it a go, but be warned, it is not for the faint of heart.
Step 1 - Set the bench to a decline you are comfortable with. Don’t be too ambitious at first
Step 2 - Climb up onto the bench and lock your feet into the foot holds
Step 3 - Do a half sit up, so that your back is off the bench at about a 90 degree angle. You need to hold this position for the whole exercise. Keep those abs tight!
Step 4 - Hold your hands out straight in front of you. Hold a small weight or something like a basketball. You can increase the weight over time as you get stronger.
Step 5 - Keeping your arms out, twist as far to the left as you can go, then back to centre, then to the right. This is one rep.
Step 6 - Repeat for however many reps you want / are able to do.
Ab Glider / Ab Coaster
suitable for intermediate to advanced
Ab coasters are a very particular kind of torture. They represent one of the most challenging pieces of ab equipment in the gym, but also some of the best results. The gliding vertical crunching motion that they employ is incredibly effective for sculpting ripped abs, especially when you get to the stage where you are strong enough to add extra weight plates. Some models even give you the option of adding a twist at the top to engage more of your core, such as the obliques (side abs). If you can survive the learning curve, pun intended, ab coasters are well worth a place in your abdominal workout routine. You use them as follows:
Step 1 - Climb onto the gliding platform, with your knees on the pad
Step 2 - Grab the handles at the top. You should look almost like you are kneeling to pray
Step 3 - In one motion, glide your knees forward, and crunch your abs. Be careful to pull yourself up with your abs, NOT with your arms or hips
Step 4 - Hold for a breath if you can, then lower back to the starting position
Step 5 - Repeat for as many reps as you can.
suitable for advanced
Any gym worthy of the name will have a Captain’s Chair or two installed, and if you have the space in your home they make a really versatile full body workout station. They look a little bit like a tall throne or a large, high-backed chair with the seat part missing (hence the name). They will also have handles and grips pointing out in various places and directions, depending on the make. They can be used in many ways, from dips to leg raises, and using them for abs is very effective. Here’s how:
Step 1 - Climb up into the machine with your back against the backrest
Step 2 - Place your arms on the armrests and grab the handles
Step 3 - Take a deep breath, pull your abs in tight, and raise your legs in front of you, as close to 90 degrees straight out as you can
Step 4 - Hold for 1 - 2 seconds. If you can’t do this with your legs straight, bend them at the knees until your core strength / mobility improves.
Step 5 - Lower your legs, then repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps. Increase the reps per set over time, as your abs get stronger.
I hope you found this write-up useful. Whatever exercise equipment for your abs you use at home, make sure that you know your own fitness level, practice proper form, and have realistic expectations about your goals and the timescale needed to achieve them. If you’d like to know more about the ab machines we recommend, you can check out this post here.