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Best Ab Equipment, Workouts and Gear

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Updated October 22, 2009

Everyone wants washboard abs, but how do you get them? Losing body fat is key, but working your ab and back muscles to make them strong is important too. While you don't need special equipment to work your abs, there are some gadgets out there to help you add a little variety to the same old crunches.

1. Exercise Ball

An exercise ball is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can own, particularly for working your abs. In fact, the ball crunch is one of the most effective exercises for the abs and, don't forget, you can also work on improving strength, flexibility, balance and coordination. You can use it during your workouts or sit on it while you watch TV or work on the computer for better posture. Make sure you choose the right size for your height.
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2. BOSU Balance Trainer

This doesn't look like a traditional ab gadget and it's not. The BOSU (short for 'Both Sides Up) has a flexible dome on top and a flat platform underneath that allows you to stand, jump, squat, twist and bounce to challenge your stability. Your abs and back are greatly involved in balance and stabilization, so the BOSU is a great tool for working your core without so much as doing one boring crunch. A great way to work your abs with a variety of exercises.
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3. Core Max

This is one of my favorite DVD for working the core. Taught by Cathe Friedrich, the DVD includes 3 different workouts, each about 20 minutes long. One uses no equipment, one requires an exercise ball and one uses a medicine ball and exercise ball. There are also pre-mixed workouts to choose from, so there's tons of variety. This video is for advanced exercisers.

4. Foam Roller

It may look a little strange, but the foam roller is great for working the abs in a different way. Because it's an unstable surface, it incorporates those all-important stabilizer muscles. Lie on it to do crunches, leg lifts or other exercises to engage your core.
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5. Pilates

Pilates is an incredible workout for the entire torso, especially the abs and pelvic floor. It also promotes flexibility, endurance and relaxation. Incorporating Pilates into your routine can make a difference in both the strength and functionality of your abs and you'll notice a change in your posture as well.

6. BOSU Ballast Ball

The BOSU Ballast Ball adds a dynamic element to core workouts with the added weight of the ballast inside as well as the stability. The ballast keeps the ball from rolling but it also shifts and moves as you roll, toss and lift the ball during different exercises. With the BOSU Ballast Ball, you can do a variety of exercises that will challenge your core, balance and stability.
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7. Medicine Ball

The medicine ball has made a strong comeback from traumatic P.E. classes from years ago. They come in a variety of weights and sizes and can add an element of fun to your workouts while engaging the abs and back. Bounce it, toss it, throw it or rotate it while doing ab exercises or other moves for a challenging core workout.
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8. Core Strength Workout

These core exercises, all done on an exercise ball, challenge your balance and stability and help target those hard-to-reach ab and back muscles. Working your abs doesn't have to be about hundreds of crunches. You won't have to do very many Ab Rolls or Twists to feel the burn.

9. Sample Ab Workouts

Don't know how many repetitions you should be doing? What about exercises that really work your abs? These sample workouts cover beginner, intermediate and advanced fitness levels and give you new ideas for abdominal exercises. The focus in these workouts is to slow down and reduce momentum so that you spend less time working out while getting an effect abdominal workout.

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