Television and the Internet are full of infomercials about the latest, greatest piece of equipment designed to give you a toned, sculpted midsection. While no equipment is strictly necessary to get ripped abs, the question remains: Is any of that stuff really worth your time and money? The American Council on Exercise recommends that anything that motivates you and entertains you enough to keep exercising regularly may be worth the investment, even if it doesn’t provide marked gains on traditional crunches.
In a 2001 study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise, the exercise ball trumped all other ab equipment as the overall most effective piece of equipment. While all exercises done on an exercise ball will recruit your core, including your stomach, to stabilize your body, exercises like the exercise ball crunch focus specifically on your abs.
To do an exercise ball crunch, sit down on the ball and slowly walk your feet forward, lying back as you do so. Stop when the ball supports your lower back. Squeeze your abs to bring your ribs down toward your pelvis, lifting your shoulders and upper back off the ball, then slowly relax back onto the ball.
While the Bosu trainer was not included in the ACE-commissioned study on ab exercises and exercise equipment, when placed with the dome side up, it functions much like an exercise ball. Place the Bosu trainer with the dome facing down, and its hard plastic base becomes the platform for a wobble board. You can do crunches and other exercise ball exercises on the Bosu trainer, and doing standing exercises on it while in wobble board mode will also work your core.
The captain’s chair, also known as a Roman chair, ranked second best in the ACE-commissioned study in terms of activity in the rectus abdominus and first for activity in the obliques. While the captain’s chair also works your hip flexors instead of focusing solely on your abs, it still ranks as one of the best pieces of exercise equipment for your stomach.
To use the captain’s chair, support your body weight with your forearms on the chair’s arms, holding on to the upright handles for extra stability and pressing your back against the back pad. Squeeze your abs tight to keep your back from arching as you bring your knees up to hip height, then slowly and deliberately lower them again.
About this Author
Marie Mulrooney has written professionally since 2001. Her diverse background includes numerous outdoor pursuits, personal training and linguistics. She studied mathematics at the University of Alaska Anchorage and contributes regularly to various online publications. Print publication credits include national magazines, poetry awards and long-lived columns about local outdoor adventures.