There are all sorts of ways to train your abs, but nothing beats a machine when it comes to taking a targeted approach. The best ab machines give you direct, effective burns on all your ab muscles, from the deep core to your surface six pack.
Not just any ab machine will do, though! There are loads of models on the market that do next to nothing for your abs, aside from causing you tons of discomfort. In this guide, we’ll help you steer clear of the painful torture devices and introduce you to the most effective, ergonomic ab machines on the market.
Read our complete guide to learn everything you need to know before you buy an ab machine, and to see which of our recommendations is the best choice for you!
|Picture||Product Name||Warranty length||Cost|
|Sports Research Sweet Sweat Ab Wheel||1 year||$|
|Tristar Ab Coaster Max||2 years||$$|
|Valor Fitness DE-5 Plate-Loaded Ab/Back Machine||3 years||$$|
|Body-Solid S2ABB 235lb Stack Machine||LIFETIME: Frame & Welds|
3 YEARS: Pulleys, Bushings, Bearings, Hardware, Plates, Guide Rods
1 YEAR: Cables, Upholstery, Grips (Normal Wear)
Best Ab Machine Reviews
There are tons of variations on the ab wheel, but this Sports Research model is currently our favorite. Unlike a lot of souped-up ab wheels, it’s not much more expensive than the cheap, generic imports. You can usually find it for less than $30, and it’ll last for years. We suggest it to anyone who wants to stick with a manual roller for their ab training.
It’s inexpensive. You can buy half a dozen of these for the price of one Tristar machine (below). That’s true of most ab wheels, but we’re impressed by how cheap this one is for the level of build quality and design cleverness on offer!
It’s durable. Even very heavy users should have no problems using this long-term. The plastic parts are extremely rugged, as are the outer tread and the handle grip material. The main axle is metal, so it ought to last for years of regular use.
It has nice padding. That really saves your palms, especially when you’re doing quite a few reps.
It has a super-wide wheel, at 3” across. That cuts out the wobble you usually experience with these wheels, and it also takes your weight and spreads it out further so that the components don’t see as much strain.
We also like that the tire is rounded at the edges, so you can roll out to the sides as well as straight ahead! That’s obviously something novices won’t want to try, but it’s an excellent way for fitter people to stay challenged and work their obliques!
The tread is grippy and resilient. While cheap, hard plastic wheels can skitter and slide in a way that compromises safety, this one rolls smoothly and surely. Since it’s so grippy, you can use it without a rubber mat underneath.
The handles are easy to remove so that you can travel conveniently with your wheel. They don’t fall off when you’re using it, either!
It includes a foam knee pad and exercise manual. That’s solid value for money at this price!
It’s covered by a 1-year warranty and no-questions-asked satisfaction guarantee.
While we don’t have any real complaints about the Sports Research, we should clarify that this sort of device isn’t a universal solution. A manual wheel like this is obviously not for everyone. It requires a certain amount of upper body strength and proper form to use safely. If you can’t use one of these properly, you should invest in a machine that will help you work up to being able to do bodyweight training.
This Tristar machine is a really interesting design that allows you to work through the same range of motion you’d use with an ab wheel, only without requiring so much upper body strength or stability. It’s a better choice for novices who may not be able to roll safely yet, and for those whose bodies simply don’t suit the ab wheel format. We recommend it to anyone who wants an ab machine under $200 and who is happy to train with body weight alone.
It’s very ergonomic. While it may not work for absolutely every body type, the Tristar is a lot easier to use for beginners who don’t have the strength or stability yet for an ab wheel. It’s also a safer option for those who have health concerns that are aggravated by ab wheels. You can train your core effectively without having to overuse the rest of your body.
The way it works is simple and intuitive. With your elbows on the pads, you simply pull your knees up to your chest and then slide them back down again. It’s very safe for your back, as well as for your upper body.
You can swivel as well as going straight up and down. That means you can train obliques, which isn’t usually possible on machines like this.
It’s affordable. While this is certainly a lot more expensive than a basic ab wheel, it still costs a fraction of what you’d pay for a commercial machine or a full crunch setup with plate weights.
You can’t adjust the resistance. As with an ab wheel, this machine operates with your body weight as resistance. If you’re looking to do fewer reps with higher resistance, you should look at one of the models below.
This isn’t the most heavy-duty machine on the market, though we don’t think there are any major flaws. It’s simply fairly lightweight and a bit cheap compared with more expensive machines such as the models below.
The electronic rep counter is fairly useless. You’ll have to count yours the old-school way.
This plate-loaded crunch machine is the closest you can get to the machines you’ll find in a gym for under $500. We recommend it to most folks, particularly those who already have Olympic plates for other equipment such as squat racks or bench presses. It’s simple, rugged, and as challenging as you want to make it.
You can adjust the weight, so this can be as challenging as you want it to be! That means you can get stronger faster than is possible with bodyweight training. Instead of having to do more and more reps, taking up more of your time, you can simply increase the resistance.
You can use it with both standard and Olympic weight plates. Adapters are included in the box, so you don’t need any additional fittings to make your plates work. Being able to use your plates as resistance keeps costs down, since you don’t have to invest in a whole bunch of ballast just for one machine.
It’s extremely ergonomic and comfortable. The seat and chest pads are both adjustable, so you can find the best fit for your body and fitness level. Even the foot supports are adjustable! All the contact points are thickly padded, too.
It trains your obliques, abs, and lower back muscles. You can even reverse the chest support to go behind your body, so that you can do reverse crunches and really work those back muscles. This is excellent for building proper posture and maintaining spinal health.
It has a great track record for long-term performance, plus solid warranty coverage. You’re covered for 3 years on the frame, 2 years on the cushions, and 1 year on the popper pin.
It’s not as convenient as something like the Body-Solid below. On the other hand, it’s also a fraction of the price!
The Body-Solid also has a lifetime warranty policy, whereas this one is only covered for a few years.
Because of the way it’s designed, you have quite a lot of leverage. So, any given weight feels easier than it would on a machine such as the Body-Solid. That’s not so much a downside as something to be aware of and to counter with additional weight, though.
This Body-Solid ab machine is our ultimate recommendation in this category. It’s extremely expensive but provides more than enough challenge for any user, plus commercial-grade build quality that’s guaranteed to last for a lifetime. We don’t recommend this to most buyers, but if you’re dedicated to your training or are setting up a gym for your whole family to use, it may very well be worth the investment.
It provides practically limitless challenge. This thing has a massive range of weights attached, so even the fittest users will have no problem keeping themselves moving forward.
It’s as well-made as any piece of fitness equipment we’ve reviewed to date. This thing is built like a tank, from the cushioning material to the steel frame. You definitely get what you pay for with the Body-Solid!
It’s very ergonomic. You can make just as many adjustments as you can on the Valor Fitness above.
It’s just as versatile as the Valor Fitness. You can use it to train abs, obliques, and lower back muscles, all with a massive range of variation.
This one’s truly commercial-grade. We first came across Body-Solid machines in commercial gyms, and there’s a good reason they’re so popular in those settings! It’s guaranteed to last a lifetime.
The only real downside of the Body-Solid is the price. It’s an extremely expensive machine, by any measure. Don’t buy this unless you’re absolutely sure you’ll get your money’s worth out of it. On the other hand, you’ll never need to buy another ab machine again!
Which of these ab machines should you buy?
The Sports Research ab wheel is our suggestion to anyone who wants to keep it cheap and simple. It’s inexpensive, but it’s as ergonomic and long-lasting as anything in its category. Having said that, it does require proper form and some amount of upper body strength. Don’t get this unless you’re already comfortable with planking and basic pushups.
The Tristar machine is a bit of an oddity, but it’s worth considering if you’re looking for a full machine for less than $250. It’s not a crunch design like the Valor Fitness or Body-Solid, but it does train most of the same muscle groups pretty effectively. Get this if you don’t have Olympic plates handy, or if you’ve found crunch machines uncomfortable to use. It uses the same range of motion as an ab wheel, but is much easier for novices to get into.
The Valor Fitness machine is the closest you can get to a commercial-style model without spending a couple grand on the Body-Solid. We recommend it to anyone who already uses Olympic plates around their home gym. It’s also a good choice for anyone who wants something like they’d see in a commercial gym but who can’t afford the Body-Solid.
Finally, we recommend the Body-Solid to anyone who’s serious about their fitness and can afford to buy a commercial machine for their home gym. This is definitely overkill for the average user, but people who train daily or have families who all work out hard can justify the investment. This is as good as ab machines get!
Know Your Options
There are several types of ab machine available.
The simplest option is to get an ab wheel, which is sort of like a rolling pin that’s shrunk down to a wheel. You grip the handles and roll back and forth, either on your knees or on your toes. These devices are extremely simple and inexpensive, but they can be challenging for beginners to use properly. It’s also easy to mess up your back and joints if you don’t use the correct form.
Another option is to get a machine that mimics the range of motion you’d go through with an ab wheel. These machines are generally less expensive than crunch-style machines. They’re only designed to work with your body weight, though.
Finally, most of us train on crunch-style machines that allow you to do crunches with adjustable resistance. You can start without weights until you get the form, and then gradually work your way up. These machines are generally the most expensive, but they often produce the best results, since you can ramp up the resistance far beyond your body weight.
Know Your Body
As you’re deciding which route to take, be sure to consider your body, any health concerns you have, and your current fitness level. For instance, if you’re already in good shape and don’t have any immediate concerns, an ab wheel is a good place to start. You’ll see serious results and be able to move through the range of motion confidently and safely. If you’ve got a shoulder issue, say, an ab wheel won’t be a good option. You’ll want to choose a crunch-style machine that doesn’t involve using your arms or shoulders. These are only two examples. The point is to get you thinking about what’ll be the most comfortable and productive design for you to work with!
Know Your Budget
Narrowing down your budget will also help you narrow down your options. You can pay anywhere from $15 to $2500 for an ab machine, depending on the design and level of quality you choose. You can get top-notch ab wheels for well under $50. Machines which mimic the same range of motion will usually be available for less than $200. If you want a weighted, crunch-style machine, plan to spend at least $300.
We hope you’ve learned everything you need to know to confidently buy yourself a new ab machine! You can learn more about any of the models you see recommended here by clicking on the links in our reviews. That’s also an easy, convenient way to check current prices, find full spec lists, and so on. Don’t forget to have a look at our homepage to find links to all our latest content!