If you’re tired of crunching your life away on a mat, take a break and check out the abdominal machines available at your local gym. While some abdominal machines look complicated, using them to engage your abdominal muscles is easy and beneficial. It’s important to use proper form to avoid injury and to get the most benefit out of your abdominal exercises.
Your abdominal muscles are part your body’s core, which is the central link to a chain of muscles that connect your lower and upper body, according to Harvard Health. Strengthening the cores muscles, which include your abdominals, oblique and lower back muscles, has several benefits. Everyday tasks, such as scooping up a package, turning to look at the person behind you and even standing still, all require the use of your abdominal muscles. You’ll also benefit from a healthier back, improved balance and stability, improved athletic performances and help reaching fitness goals.
Types of Abdominal Machines
There are several types of abdominal machines to choose from at your local gym. A popular abdominal machine that targets your abdominal and oblique muscles is the captain’s chair. Isolate your abdominal muscle by using the ab crunch and the ab rocker machine. You’ll primarily engage the abdominals and lower back with the ab wheel roller as well as your shoulder muscles. Use your gym’s cable machine to isolate your abs during a cable crunch.
According to the American Council of Exercise, a study led by Peter Francis, Ph.D., recorded muscle activity of 30 participants during abdominal exercises. The results of the study showed that the captain’s chair exercise was the most effective for engaging the oblique muscles and the second to best exercise for engaging the abdominals. Position yourself on the captain’s chair so your back is against the back pad and your forearms are resting on the arm rests with your hands holding each of the handle bars. Lift your knees to your chest; engage the abdominals while also working to stabilize your body. To add variety to this exercise instead of pulling your knees towards your chest, twist and lift them to one side of the body, engaging the oblique muscles. Twist and lift the knees to the other side to work the other side of your obliques as well.
Tips and Warnings
As with any muscle, it’s important to not overwork and strain the abdominals. To get the most out of your abdominal machine exercises, perform them two to three days per week. Choose a handful of abdominal machine exercises per session and perform one to three sets with 10 to 25 reps per set, according to the American Council on Exercise. Ideally, you want your last three to five reps to be challenging and difficult to complete, without sacrificing your form. Don’t ignore pain in your abdominals or lower back. If you feel any pain during your exercises stop and if pain persists, seek out the expertise of your doctor.
- Bodybuilding.com: Ab Crunch Machine
- Bodybuilding.com: Ab Roller
- Bodybuilding.com: Cable Crunch
- Harvard School of Public Health: The Real-World Benefit of Strengthening Your Core
- MayoClinic.com: Core Exercises: Why You Should Strengthen Your Core Muscles
- The American Council on Exercise: Should I Train My Abdominals Every Day?
- The American Council on Exercise: New Study Puts the Crunch on Ineffective Ab Exercises
Danielle Clark has been a writer since 2009, specializing in environmental and health and fitness topics. She has contributed to magazines and several online publications. Clark holds a Bachelor of Science in ecology and environmental science.