These days everyone is looking to get in shape and lose a few pounds. The following is a list of home workout tools that are actually worth checking out:
Exercise Balls: Exercise balls are a great tool to use to develop your ever-important core strength. They can be used for abdominal training, weight training, flexibility, yoga, and pilates exercises. Check out the Professional 75cm Anti-Burst Ball or choose from a variety of exercise balls.
Exercise Ball Chair - If you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk using a computer, consider buying an exercise ball chair. Be realistic. The human body was not designed to sit for 10 hours a day. Even people using the best ergonomic desk chairs are prone to poor posture. Exercise ball chairs force your body to make small adjustments all day, slowly strengthening your postural muscles, gluteals, abdominals, and leg muscles. We suggest checking out the FitBALL Chair or choose from a variety of exercise ball chairs.
Pilates Magic Circle - Also known as exercise rings or fitness circles, the Pilates Magic Circle is a 13 inch flexible ring made of rubber or metal with small pads on either side. This device is a dream come true for people who need to stretch and gain flexibility. Using the tool to provide resistance, users can gain both strength and flexibility. A great tool for those who need daily stretching to alleviate back pain. Worth every penny. See other exercise rings.
Yoga Mat - For use at yoga class or at home, yoga mats are ideal for those who attend regular yoga classes and well... just don't want to roll around on a community mat used by who knows how many people. At home, yoga mats are ideal to keep your sweat off the carpet. And any regular yoga practitioner can attest to the value in not rolling around on cold hard wood floors or scratchy carpets. Shop for yoga mats.
Ab Machines - Let's be honest, six-pack abs are not acquired simply by doing abdominal work. They are the result of ab exercises, a healthy, low fat diet, and good genetic luck. That said, strengthening your core muscles is always a good thing. If you like working with machines and have the space at home, an ab machine can be an ideal home workout tool. Tip: Try doing 20 reps on the ab machine during commercial breaks while watching TV. If you want a high quality machine, check out the Multisports Fitness Pro ROM Series Ab and Back Exercise Machine or choose from a large selection of ab machines of various quality and prices.
Treadmills - At the Diet Channel we are big fans of treadmills for cardiovascular workouts. They provide a soft landing for your joints, you can control the speed and elevation, you can walk/run in any weather, and you can watch Oprah while you get in your 60 minute walk. The Spirit Fold-Up Treadmill is one worth checking out or you can find a gaggle of treadmill options, some expensive, some not.
Wrist Weights - If used properly, wrist and ankle weights can be a great way to build strength. It's advised to seek out the advice of a professional fitness trainer on the proper ways to use these so that you avoid injury. In the meantime, check out the Spri Ankle & Wrist Weights.
Exercise Bikes - Another favorite at the Diet Channel, stationary bikes come in many forms and are a great tool for cardio workouts and building leg strength. More importantly, bikes are a low impact exercise and therefore easier on the joints. Our suggestion is the Schwinn Recumbent Bike but their are many options from which to choose.
StairMaster - For those people really looking to get in shape, the StairMaster is an old friend. Good for cardio and building leg strength. There are many different stair climbing machines from which to choose so finding one to fit your needs and budget should not be hard.
If you stay up late enough watching television, you are bound to see countless offers you "can't afford to pass up" on products such as the perfect all-purpose food chopper, lotions that eliminate cellulite, and of course, abdominal machines that promise you that 6-pack you've always dreamed of but never before could attain. Celebrities and infomercial stars with rock-hard abs swear that they achieved fitness through one ab machine or another. Could this be true? How do you know if you should call that toll-free number? The Diet Channel condenses the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and Consumer Reports magazine's investigation of the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of some of the most popular ab machines sold on television today.
The Body Dome looks like an inflatable exercise ball cut in half with a rubber base and elastic cords attached for strength training. For $140, the makers of the Body Dome claim that you will look great naked and burn off as much as a pound a day by using the dome for aerobic exercise, strength training, and ab conditioning. While weight loss can be achieved through using the Body Dome's cardio video, the pound per day claim is, at best, highly unrealistic and, at worst, a complete lie. Weight loss can be achieved through many forms of aerobic activity, and is not dependent on the use of the Body Dome. As for ab conditioning, Consumer Reports finds the Body Dome "provides balance training and targets core trunk muscles" like an exercise ball, but a ball is cheaper. Bottom line: Don't waste your money.
Top 3 Diet Plans (based on Diet Channel visitor activity):
Sonoma Diet - "Get to eat great food and even enjoy a glass of wine." Learn More...
Jillian Michaels - "Jillian guides you through the diet and exercise changes you know you need to make." Learn More...
South Beach Diet - "This hugely popular diet promises diligent followers an initial weight loss of 8-13 pounds in the first two weeks." Learn More...
For $115, the makers of the Ab Swing claim that this contraption, a padded bench that rocks on a metal base, will sculpt your lower abs, upper abs, and obliques while you "sit and swing" for less than 5 minutes a day. However, a San Diego study that tested the Ab Swing, along with five other home abdominal machines, found that this machine was "significantly less effective than a crunch at eliciting upper and lower rectus abdominis activity." Bottom line: Do crunches - they're free and more effective.
For $93, you can purchase Smart Abs, which is a padded frame that you hold in your lap. You rock forward into the resistance. The creators of Smart Abs claim that regular crunches do not work your abs or obliques because you lift 1/3 of your body weight using unnecessary muscles. While it is true that the standard crunch is not the most effective abdominal strengthening exercise, it is more effective than Smart Abs. Due to your upright position when performing the Smart Abs exercise, you lose the benefits of lifting your own upper body. Nonetheless, the makers of Smart Abs claim you'll flatten your stomach, sculpt your waistline, eliminate love handles, and lose 10 pounds and 2 inches in 2 weeks. Not only is this an ineffective way to strengthen your abdominal muscles, it is highly unlikely for major weight loss to occur without significant aerobic activity and a healthy diet. No matter what the exercise or machine, 2 minutes per day is not enough to produce the type of results the makers of this machine are claiming. Bottom line: Is this a joke?
The Ab-Doer is one of the most recent infomercial crazes evaluated by ACE. It looks like a chair with a padded seat and shoulder-height handlebars. To use the AB-Doer, you grip the handlebars and rotate the torso in various directions at various speeds to strengthen muscles and elevate heart rate. The claim is that you aerobically burn fat at the same time you flatten your stomach in just minutes a day. However, a study out of California State University, Northridge, found that over all, the AB-Doer provides a relatively low-intensity workout that burns approximately 4 to 5 calories per minute. By comparison, walking on a treadmill at three miles per hour (which is the equivalent of a light-to-moderate walk) burns approximately 5.3 calories per minute. In terms of strengthening muscle, the study found AB-Doer also falls short in this area, as the exercises elicited less activity than most traditional abdominal exercises. Bottom line: Save your $109.
Other infomercial ab machines
Similar stories exist for all the infomercial abdominal exercise machines, including the Ab Rocker, Torso Track, Ab Roller, Ab Works, and ABSculptor. According to Richard Cotton, the editor of ACE Fitness Matters, "These devices provide no apparent benefit or detriment when compared to a properly performed crunch." However," Cotton says, "if any of these devices serves to motivate an individual to begin and continue an exercise program, then they would seem to have a benefit." Just be aware that none of them live up to their outrageous claims.
Guaranteed toned abs
So what should you do to tone your abs and make them visible? Lose any excess fat around your midsection so your abdominal muscles show. Working your abs will not burn fat in that area. Rather, you must step up the aerobic exercise and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, so you burn off more calories than you take in. Find a few abdominal exercises that you can commit to doing several times per week. Whether or not you use an ab machine, include some exercises that have been proven most effective. According to the San Diego State University/ACE Abdominal Study , the top 4 exercises for overall strengthening of your abs are the bicycle maneuver, the captain's chair, crunches on a fitness ball, and reverse crunches.
The money you would have spent on an expensive ab machine might be put to better use on a $30 fitness ball and a session with a personal trainer to help you perfect your form and make the most of your workout.
- Sternlicht, E., Rugg, S., Bernstein, M.D., & Armstrong, S.D. (2005). Electromyographical analysis and comparison of selected abdominal training devices with a traditional crunch. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 19, 157-16.
- Beim, G.M., J.L. Giraldo, D.M. Pincivero, M.J. Borror, and F.H. Fu. Abdominal strengthening exercises: A comparative study. J. Sports Rehabil. 6:11-20. 1997.
- Tsai, P. An electromyographical comparison of the AB-DOer II and device-free exercises. Master's thesis, California State University, Northridge, 2001.
The core of your body - your back and abdominals - is where you get strength and power to do almost all the activities you do during the day. Whether it is walking, exercising, shopping, or working, your core muscles are important in keeping the rest of your body mobile. Keep your center strong by doing some of these effective core exercises. Hold each position as long as you are able to and gradually improve from there.
To Do: Prop your body up on it's knees and elbows. Gradually work your way into holding from your elbows and feet.
2. Side plank
To Do: Keeping both legs straight and feet together, lift your body onto your elbow sideways and hold. Keep your weight lifted so as to not sink down into the shoulder. Repeat other side.
To Do: Lie on back with feet propped up on a wall or chair. Lift rear off the floor creating a straight line from foot to hip. Hold.
4. Back extensions
To Do: Lie face down on the floor with hands clasped behind the head. Lift shoulders off the floor and return back to start position. Repeat until fatigued.
5. Abdominal twists
To Do: Lie on your back on the floor. Lift both legs into the air while keeping the knees and feet together. With shoulders on the floor, let the legs slowly fall to one side. Lift, return to starting position and turn to the other side. Make this easier by bending the knees, or more difficult by keeping both legs straight.
6. Arm/Leg extensions
To Do: From hands and knees position, extend one arm straight out in front of you and hold. Repeat other arm. Do the same with each leg, extended out in back. Then, try extending an arm with the opposite leg. Hold and repeat the other side.
Taking care of your core muscles is vital to lifelong strength, mobility and posture. Work them in some way each day to keep your entire body strong and fit for day to day activity.
For more information on exercising your core muscles see the following article from TheDietChannel: 3 Core Muscle Exercises that Build Balance and Stability.
Who wouldn't want glorious, ripped, rock-hard abs featured on those infamous late-night infomercials? Is it really possible to get fabulous looking abs, even after childbirth? How about after a ten- to fifteen-year stint as a chip-eating, remote control junkie/couch potato? The answer is "yes," but it will not come easy as the infomercials would have you believe. If you are serious, you absolutely can do it. It takes determination and the right program though. Do both and you will have the abs you have always envied. Here is how:
Use the most effective exercises to target all the areas in the abdominal area. Several have been shown to work better than others. Here are the top four:
1. Crunches on a ball
To Do: Lie back on an exercise ball keeping your knees bent and hips level with the knees. Slowly lift the upper body and then return to starting position. Place hands behind head for more difficulty.
Safety Note: Keep hips lifted and avoid arching back upon release each time.
2. Alternating leg extension with upper body rotation
To Do: Lie on the floor with legs in the air. Extend one leg straight in front while the other knee comes to the chest, connecting with the opposing elbow. Repeat the other side.
Safety Note: Keep legs high in the air instead of close to the floor, which will strain the lower back.
3. Reverse crunches
To Do: Lie on floor with arms to side. Lift knees off the floor, at a right angle from the ground. Contract abdominal muscles by pulling in so that hips lift slightly from the floor. Release and repeat.
Safety Note: Avoid swinging the hips and bringing the feet back to the floor each time.
4. Captain's chair
(This exercise requires gym equipment--focus on previous 3 exercises if you do not have access to this.)
To Do: Hold your body up on the chair. Bring legs up so that knees pull in to the chest. Release each time.
Safety Note: Avoid swinging the legs; use slow and controlled movements.
The importance of aerobic exercise and a healthy diet
Once you are doing the above properly and regularly, you will need to incorporate regular aerobic activity into your workouts. Burning fat through aerobic exercise will help you see those well defined abs. Otherwise, they stay hidden from view even though they may indeed be hard and ripped underneath the fat.
After you have got the right exercise selections and do plenty of aerobic exercise, there is one more thing that you absolutely need to do to have the abs of your dreams. Watch what you eat. Plain and simple--if you want to see your abs and not fat on top of them, do not eat excess fat. Keep your diet low-fat and moderate in calories. When you cut the fat from your entire body, your abs will come shining through. This is usually the last thing to change but the most important one for success.
Start today and you can have the abs you want. Just stay focused, take part in a balanced fitness workout, and eat a healthy, low-fat diet. Once you see that "package" appear, you will be motivated to keep it.
*This article is intended for general information purposes only, is not individual-specific, nor is it intended to replace the advice of your healthcare team.
Ab exercises: Which exercise gets the best results?
Abdominal rotation exercise tips
Sit-ups: Why aren’t they helping?
Ab exercises: Can resistance training make your abs bulky?
If you’re looking for the most effective abdominal exercises for 6-pack abs take a look here. These four will give you a great core.
Exercise #1: Abdominal crunch
The basic old standby. Lie on the ground or on an exercise ball. With hands placed lightly to the sides of the head, lean head back as if looking towards the ceiling. Place tongue on the roof of the mouth and lift chin towards ceiling. Return to starting position and repeat.
Tip: Think less about how high you can lift and more about keeping the head back and chin up.
Exercise #2: Alternating leg extension
Lying on your back take both knees into the air. Extend one leg out in front of the body while keeping the other knee pulled in. At the same time, cross the opposite shoulder towards the bent knee aiming to touch it. Repeat on the other side.
Tip: Go slow. Rotate the upper body as far as possible toward the leg and then all the way back down to the floor.
Exercise #3: Side crunch
Lying on your side with knees bent, place a weight on the top shoulder. Place bottom arm directly in front of the body for balance. Lift sideways towards hip and lower. Repeat on the other side.
Tip: Avoid placing body weight on the arm that is on the floor. Use the waist to lift and depend on the bottom arm to provide balance only.
Exercise #4: Reverse crunch
Lift hips off the floor while pulling in the abdominal region. Return to floor.
Tip: Lift slowly and avoid swinging the hips. Stop at the top and bottom of the movement each time to make sure you aren’t using momentum.
Abdominal exercises - how many and how often?
Do several sets of 12. If you aren’t tiring the muscle by then, add resistance (place a weight on the body part that is lifting). Abdominals can be worked every day, unlike other muscle groups that do best with a day off in between. Remember to cut the fat in your diet and eat nutritiously though. No amount of abdominal exercises will give you the abs you desire if you don’t watch your diet. More than any other part of your body, your abs reveal how healthy your eating habits are.
Few bodybuilders would argue against the importance of abdominal exercises in order to look good. But ab exercises are also important to enabling a person to feel good and perform well. Your body’s core, the area around your trunk and pelvis, is related to every physical action you perform. It is also the location of your center of gravity. By doing upper and lower ab exercises and having strong abdominal muscles, you also strengthen the support system for the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, and hips. This provides increased protection for people with lower back problems and injuries. Strengthened ab muscles also allow for greater controlled movement, and a more stable center of gravity. While this is important to increasing performance and guarding against injury in any athletic endeavor, it is also important for nearly any physical activity, including sitting. Strong ab muscles help you to sit properly without slouching; this supports the lower back and is important for people sitting at a desk for long hours.
The frequency of abdominal exercises
Ab exercises should be done at least three times a week. Select exercises that work all of your core muscles simultaneously. Rather than concentrating on the number of repetitions, your goal should be to exercise with proper form. Make sure to breathe, with full inhalations and exhalations, throughout each movement.
You can even perform abdominal exercises whilst at home
There are numerous ab exercises that you can perform in your home, even while watching television. The simplest is the regular sit-up, or ab crunch, that everyone knows how to do. In this exercise, lay with your back on the floor, and bend your knees to allow your feet to lay flat on the floor; your arms can be crossed in front of your chest, or to add more resistance and to support the neck, they can be locked behind your neck or the back of the head. Using your ab muscles, slowly lift your shoulder blades off the mat. After completing a full slow exhalation, slowly return your back down to the floor. Do not use your arms to pull upwards on your head or neck. Your abs should do the work, and your hands are only there to support your neck muscles. Try this exercise on a stability ball in order to engage more of your core muscles and create an additional challenge. Using a stability ball for ab exercises is an excellent way to strengthen your core, as well as to add variety in doing regular ab exercises like the plank. If you tire of doing isolated ab exercises, try yoga or Pilates, which are both great for strengthening your ab and core muscles.