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Itís All About the Abs - Abdominal Exercise Equipment That Really Works
By: C.J. Gustafson

Abdominal Exercise Equipment That Really Works

There have been many studies and reports about how our society as a whole has grown heavier and chubbier. The stomach, in particular, has become a trouble spot for many people. This is due in part to the fact that many of us have desk jobs where we rarely use our stomach and abdomen muscles. For others, this is where the excess fat, brought on by the fast food and extra beers, settles in our bodies. Whatever the reason for our big bellies, there has been a host of gadgets and exercises to help do away with stomach flab. Some of these techniques and equipment work better than others. This article will help you sort through the hype.

Before beginning a discussion of abdominal exercises and equipment, it is important to point out that even the best ab machine will not help you loose fat in your stomach area. Abdominal exercise equipment can tone and shape your muscles, but the only way to loose the fat is to consume more calories than you take in. Exercise will help you do this, but it is a total body process, not targeted to certain areas.

It is also important to note, that for many people, a flat stomach is not in their genetics, even if they are in good physical shape. Some stomachs have a small curve, and all the crunches in the world wonít change that. However, the exercises and equipment discussed below will help tone, strengthen and define your abdominal muscles.

Abdominal Exercises & Equipment

There are many different types of ab exercisers and equipment. One of the most effective of these, the Roman Chair, is not strictly an ab machine. It is a common piece of equipment found at the gym but it can be used to perform a very effective ab exercise. The Roman Chair is a somewhat taller machine with two stationary, parallel arms and a straight, padded back. There is nothing to sit on.

When working on abs, the best way to use this piece of equipment is to place your forearms flat on each armrest, with your back firmly against the padding. You should have the Roman Chair set high enough that your legs dangle straight down when you are in position. Then slowly bring your knees toward your chest as far as you can go and hold for a few seconds before extending them to the beginning position. This exercise was number two in a San Diego State University survey that ranked the top abdominal exercises and equipment.

According to the survey, the best ab exercise is the Bicycle maneuver. Many of you are probably familiar with this fun exercise. Weíve been doing it since we were kids in gym class, and it turns out, the bicycle is one of the most effective exercises for working those abdominal muscles. To do the exercise correctly, lie on a mat and press your lower back flat. Put your hands beside your head. Tighten your abdominal muscles and bend your knees toward your chest until they are at about a 45-degree angle. Bring your right elbow in contact with your left knee. Then alternate with the opposite knee and elbow and repeat. You should feel it in your sides and abs.

Leg Crunches are similar to the Bicycle, but with crunches, your torso does most of the movement. Lie on the mat again with your lower back pressed flat. Place your hands at your sides or by your head, whichever is more comfortable. Be sure not to put any pressure on your arms or you will take away from the effectiveness of the exercise.

Lift your legs straight up above your head and bend your knees slightly. Squeeze your abdominal muscles and then lift your torso up off the mat toward your knees. Return to the original position with your back flat on the mat. Relax your abdominal muscles and then repeat. Remember to breathe during the exercise.

Crunches can also be done on an exercise ball and many feel it is more effective than standard crunches. You sit on the ball and place your feet on the floor about a foot apart. Roll back carefully on the ball until you are lying with your back fully extended on the ball. Tighten your abdominal muscles and raise your trunk off the ball to about a 30-degree angle. Return to the extended position and repeat.

Exercise balls are one of the most versatile and effective pieces of fitness equipment relative to their cost. Another low cost equipment alternative is a stretch band. These are just what they sound like, a stretchy band made of lycra, nylon or sometimes rubber. Sometimes called resistance bands, they allow you to work one muscle group while the resistance of the band stabilizes the opposing muscles. It is good for stretching and strengthening muscles and is often used with beginners and those who have experienced an injury.

If you are looking for something a bit more high-tech, there are several pieces of equipment made especially to work the abs. There are the Ab Crunch Machine and the Back and Ab Machine. Both of these pieces of abdominal exercise equipment have been designed to support the lower back and the neck. They also come with adjustable resistance settings.

The Ab Slider, Ab Wheel, and Ab Trainer are other examples of equipment designed to target abdominal muscles. As with most types of fitness equipment, their effectiveness often is dependant upon correct usage and, in some cases, combining them with other abdominal exercises. It is important to fully research the equipment and read instructions before using.

The quest for six-pack abs and flat stomachs has intensified over the past few years. In response, the fitness industry has resurrected some old, faithful exercises, developed new and improved versions, and even created equipment specifically to target abdominal muscles. Combine these top abdominal exercises with an overall exercise routine and a healthy diet, and chances are you will loose the flab and have a stronger, more shapely mid section in a matter of months.

About the Author:

C.J. Gustafson is a successful freelance fitness writer for, your complete shopping guide for home fitness equipment, treadmills, elliptical machines, exercise bikes, ab machines, and weight training equipment.

Copyright 2005

Permission is granted to publish this article on your site only if the author's byline is included and all links are hyperlinked.

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The Power of Stretching    - Dave Snape


Your muscles ache from a good stretch. This is quite
normal and is part of the process. Stretching has
seemingly been with us and particularly with athletes
since the beginning of time.

A very key point to good stretching is to hold the
stretch for at least seventeen seconds. This is a
pearl of wisdom gleaned from a ballet teacher a few
years back. She said that any stretch under 17
seconds was just not effective.

The 17 second rule is exceeded in the high intensity
Bikram's yoga where stretches are held for about 30
seconds. Don't forget the high level of heat that is
used in Bikram's to extract that last little bit of
stretch out of your muscles. An interesting twist that
is not necessary to gain benefits from stretching. But,
it can't hurt, right?

So what kind of benefits can you expect from
stretching? That's an easy one. Have you ever seen the
movie, Blood Sport? Did you know that Frank Dux could
truly stretch his body to the extreme. The actor that
played him was quite elastic as well.

Great elasticity is also something you might see in
well trained Spetsnaz (Russian) agents. They often work
out with Russian kettlebells too. They are for superior
strength gains and the ability to withstand ballistic

Why are stretching and flexibility considered important
to these people? Stretching gives one the ability to
have explosive power available at one's fingertips
without the need to warm up. Of course most of us are
not martial artists or agents. But, you'll be happy to
know there are plenty of other benefits.

Let me give you an example. After learning to sit in
the full lotus position for long periods of time, my
ankles became very flexible. One day I was walking
along and my left foot fell into a pothole. This mishap
pushed my ankle sideways to about 90 degrees from it's
normal position.

Amazingly, this didn't even hurt, not one bit. If my
ankle hadn't been so flexible, I may have suffered a
sprained ankle. At the very least, it would have hurt
for days.

Key point: stretching helps you to avoid injuries.
Not only that but if you do have a muscle, tendon or
ligament injury it should heal faster, theoretically

Stretching actually grows the ligaments, tendons and
muscles being stretched. They really grow longer over

Check with your physician before undertaking any type
of exercise, including stretching.

Here is some good instructional material on stretching:

Dave Snape

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