Ab crunch machines are a fantastic tool for beefing up your ab muscles in a safe, controlled way. Any gym worth the name will have a few different types. When used right, they yield powerful results and even more powerful six pack abs.
To help you get the most out of your ab session, we have written this guide on how to use the ab crunch machines at the gym.
This guide will first explain how they work and which muscle they target. We will then show you how to use some different variations of the machine you might see at the gym. Finally, we will offer some ab crunch pro tips to take your ab day to another level. Let’s get muscle shaping!
Do Stomach Crunch Machines Work?
All of the machines in this guide will give your abs a very thorough workout. Crunches mostly focus on your rectus abdominis, the middle abs, and your upper abs. Used with proper form and consistency, you will build very strong, thick ab muscles.
That’s not the whole story though, as you will also need to reduce your body fat to really see those glorious, sexy tummy muscles. You can read more about how to do that in our Pro Tips section later in this article.
Different Types of Ab Crunch Machine
There are four main types of crunch machine, and next we will introduce them and show you exactly how to use them properly.
Seated Ab Crunch Machine
The “over the shoulder” seated abs crunch machine is probably one of the two types you see most at the gym, and is the easiest for beginners to get used to. Stick with this machine if you are new to ab crunches.
- Step 1 - sit down on the machine and choose the resistance for your workout. If you are new to this, go light at first. Be sensible about your limits until you know more precisely what they are
- Step 2 - place your elbows on the pads and hold the handles. Your arms should be bent at a 90 degree angle
- Step 3 - breath in and pull your ab muscles in. Now perform a slow crunch movement. Be sure to use your abs muscles to perform the exercise. Don’t pull the handles down with your arms. You can also raise your knees up into your chest as you crunch down, to further work the ab muscles
- Step 4 - hold for 1 - 3 seconds, then return to your starting position while breathing out
Front Loaded Abs Crunch Machine
This machine works in the same way as the over the shoulder type, but rather than handles behind your head, it has a cushion that sits against your chest. You perform the exercise by pushing the cushion down as you crunch.
- Step 1 - adjust the seat height so that the pad sits across the middle of your chest, along the pectoral muscles
- Step 2 - select a resistance that is suitable for your fitness level
- Step 3 - cross your arms across the front of the pad. Try not to grip it hard or you may end up pulling it forward as you crunch, making the exercise less effective
- Step 4 - take a deep breath and pull your abs in, towards your spine
- Step 5 - perform a slow, controlled crunch, while breathing out. Keep your neck straight. Don’t start nodding your head as this affects your momentum and may end in injury. Keeping your eyes focused on a spot 6 inches to a foot in front of your feet can help
- Step 6 - hold at the bottom of your crunch for 3 seconds, then return to the starting position while breathing in
Supine Ab Crunch Bench
The supine ab crunch bench works in the same way as the seated version, except you are lying down on your back. This machine is a little trickier to use, and is best left for intermediate users who already have decent form and core strength.
- Step 1 - lay down on the machine in a comfortable position. Place you feet on the rests. The handles should be touching or directly next to your shoulders
- Step 2 - bending your elbows at 90 degrees, grip the handles
- Step 3 - slowly raise your shoulders forward into a crunch, squeezing your abdominal muscle as you come up. Stop when you feel your abs contract or you can see your knees. Remember, you are NOT pulling the handles forwards with your hands, they are support only. Roll with your abs for best effect
- Step 4 - hold for one to two seconds, then return to the starting position, and repeat for the desired reps
Rope Crunch Machine
The rope crunch is a really effective ab exercise, but can be a little difficult to do from the floor. It’s easy to lose your balance and yank your back out. The seated rope crunch machine solves these issues and is perfect for beginners.
It works exactly like the seated ab crunch machine, but you are holding a rope or bands over your shoulders, rather than handles. When holding the rope and performing the crunch, your elbows should be tucked into your sides, not in the air.
Abs Crunch Machine Pro Tips
Now you know the basics, take you ab game to the next level with these easy to follow abs crunch machine pro tips.
Pro Tip #1 - Focus on form not resistance
Don't add too much weight or resistance too soon. When you are just starting out use a resistance that is comfortable and safe. Focus on your form to get the best results. If you use too much weight you will start to use your body’s momentum during the exercise, rather than letting your abs do the work alone. This will lessen the effect of the exercise to almost zero, and be a complete waste of time.
Pro Tip #2 - Take your time
Muscles work best when they are worked slowly. Rather than jack-hammering up and down as fast as you can to get through your reps, take your time. Crunch down for a 5 count, hold for 3 seconds, then slowly return back to the start over another 5 seconds. It’ll hurt a lot more, but it’ll be worth it!
Pro Tip #3 - Workout Regimen
You don’t need to do a full on ab day for the best results. Aim to work on your abs two to three times per week, after you have completed your main workout. You should make the ab crunch machine one of these times.
Pro Tip #4 - Don’t race to reps
Don’t work hard, work smart. Instead of racing to try and do 100 rep sets on the crunch machine, aim to do 3 - 5 solid sets of no more than 15 - 20 reps. When you do too many reps at once your form gets sloppy and your efforts are wasted and you risk injury. Do more sets of fewer tight, correct form reps for best results.
Pro Tip #5 - Don’t forget your cardio
No matter what exercises you do, if you want your abs to stand out, you need to drop your body fat percentage. An ideal of around 12% body fat for men and 16% for women is best, but you will see results with slightly higher numbers too. By far the best way to drop tummy fat is to sweat it off. So, don’t forget to add cardio to every exercise day if you want all your efforts to be worth it.
The Final Verdict
A lot of people avoid these machines at the gym. They usually think they are too hard, take too long to work, or are not effective at all. This is usually because people don’t know how to use ab crunch machines at the gym properly. When used correctly, they are incredibly effective.
It's true that there are other ab machines you can use to get a great set of abs, but crunch machines really are some of the best. If you just follow this guide, focus on your consistency and form over reps, make a sensible workout regimen and eat right, you WILL have a perfect set of six pack abs to show for your efforts.