The 13 Best Ab Machines of 2021

Work your midsection the right way with these at-home tools

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Our Top Picks
Portable for on-the-go workouts, it includes foam knee pads for extra comfort, and its carbon steel design offers ample resistance.
Featuring 12 adjustable decline settings, it can be used to tackle sit-ups, bicycle crunches, or any other favorite ab exercise.
Best Stability Ball:
URBNFit Exercise Ball at Amazon
The classic exercise ball features a non-slip surface and a 2000-pound weight capacity that prevents any mid-exercise bursting.
The simple ab coaster relies on a simple sliding motion that strengthens your core from top to bottom, without any neck strain.
Thanks to its lack of back coverage, the roman chair forces you to engage your core, while its padded handles offer support.
A solid way to make crunches more manageable, the ab rocker is complete with a padded pillow so you can comfortably lie down.
A way to intensify your core routine, the dual-sided gliders are ideal for small spaces, on-the-go workouts, and any surface.
A pick that's made for a range of strength exercises, the bar can be used for pull-ups while the handles are ideal for push-ups.
A rower that primarily targets your core, it's equipped with 12 different resistance levels, so you can easily up the intensity.
An alternative to free weights, it's durable enough to withstand slams and lifts, and can also be used for weighted sit-ups.

Engaging in a good core workout can improve posture, reduce spine strain, and cut down on back pain. A strong core also helps maintain proper exercise form, allowing you to avoid injury and stay active for longer as you age. Ab machines make core exercises easier—ab coasters target the lower core, Roman chairs make sit-ups more challenging, and ab rockers reduce strain when exercising.

“The one thing that people often miss with core training is that they only think about one plane of motion, and that's crunches,” says Parker Oliver CFSC, Chief Operating Officer of BRX Performance. He explains that the abs are a group of muscles that work in three dimensions—anti-extension, anti-rotation, and anti-lateral flexion. 

Noting that the abdomen's primary role is to mitigate motion in the lumbar spine, Oliver explains that ab work can make your lower back feel healthier. “Pick an ab machine or piece of training equipment that lets you train multiple plans or motions, not just up and down like crunches,” he adds. 

Here are the best ab machines on the market.

Best Ab Roller: Perfect Fitness Ab Roller

Pros
  • Ergonomic handles

  • Travel-friendly

  • Includes foam knee pads

Cons
  • Sometimes sticks when rolling

Comfortable, versatile, and easy to use, the Perfect Fitness Ab Roller is an excellent piece of fitness equipment. To do an ab rollout with this tool, start by gripping the ab roller’s ergonomic handles. Then, assume a modified push-up position, where your knees are on the ground and your hands (still gripping the ab roller) are directly below your shoulders. From there, you’ll want to engage your core to slowly roll the ab roller forward—roll it back in to complete one rep. 

The ab roller’s carbon steel spring design should offer plenty of resistance as you roll forward and back, and its wide silhouette should keep you from wobbling as you move around. Remove the built-in handles to carry this piece of equipment on-the-go. And use the foam knee pads it ships with to keep your workouts comfortable and manageable.

Best Bench: XMark Fitness Adjustable Decline Ab Workout Bench

Pros
  • Sturdy frame

  • Adjustable decline settings

  • Ergonomic leg holder

Cons
  • Expensive

The XMark Fitness Adjustable Decline Ab Workout Bench will make a solid addition to any home gym. Start by draping your knees over the built-in foam-lined leg holder, then let your back rest on the bench’s plush padding—once there, you should be facing the ceiling, and your head should be relatively close to the ground. Secure yourself in this position by sliding your feet under the foam-lined ankle holder, then tackle your favorite ab exercises—sit-ups, bicycle crunches, Russian twists, and more. 

The bench’s heavy-duty steel frame should keep it stable and sturdy as you work out. And its 12 adjustable decline settings will help you keep your workouts dynamic and comfortable. 

Best Stability Ball: URBNFit Exercise Ball

URBNFit Exercise Ball
Pros
  • Available in various sizes and colors

  • Includes an air pump and air stoppers

  • Non-slip surface

Cons
  • Air pump is difficult to use

The URBNFit Exercise Ball is a classic exercise ball that lends itself to a variety of stretches and ab workouts. And since it comes in five sizes (and 11 colors), it’s incredibly easy to find an option that works for you. Your stability ball will arrive alongside an air pump and two air stoppers, giving you everything you need to get started. Inflate the exercise ball for workouts, and deflate it when you need to take it on-the-go.

Since it’s crafted from durable PVC, it promises to hold up over time. And its 2,000-pound weight capacity will keep it from bursting mid-workout. 

Lie on top of the ball as you tackle elevated crunches, or use it to perform pikes. You can use exercise balls for all kinds of workouts, so don’t be afraid to get creative.

Best Ab Coaster: Tristar Products Ab Coaster MAX

ab-coaster
Pros
  • Easy to use

  • Cushioned handles

  • Easy assembly

Cons
  • Expensive

If you have room for a fitness machine, consider investing in an ab coaster, like the Tristar Products Ab Coaster MAX. Because the machine relies on a simple sliding motion, it’s incredibly straightforward and easy to use.

Start by standing on top of the built-in footplate and gripping the cushioned handlebars. Then, engage your core to bend your knees and slide the footplate up toward your chest. Keep your core engaged as you slide the footplate back down in a slow, controlled manner to complete one rep. This motion should strengthen your core from top to bottom—without putting any strain on your neck. 

And if you want to challenge your obliques, you can always turn so that your feet are facing one corner of the footplate and complete your reps from there. 

Best Roman Chair: Marcy Adjustable Hyperextension Roman Chair

Pros
  • Cushioned seat, handles, and ankle holder

  • Sturdy frame

  • Small footprint

Cons
  • Expensive

Looking to take your sit-ups to the next level? A roman chair, like the Marcy Adjustable Hyperextension Roman Chair, can help you get there. To perform a sit-up on a roman chair, start by sitting on the cushioned seat and sliding your feet under the padded ankle holder—once there, you should be facing the ankle holder, so that when you lean back you’ll be facing the ceiling. Then, lean back to complete sit-ups the way you normally would. 

Since there’s nothing physically supporting your back, you’ll have to engage your core during every part of your sit-up. And the padded assist handles under the seat will be there to help you whenever you need a little extra support. 

Best Ab Rocker: CAP Barbell Ab Trainer

Pros
  • Easy to use

  • Built-in pillow

  • Affordable

Cons
  • Fabric on headrest is not sweat-resistant

Ab rockers can be a great way to make crunches more manageable, and the CAP Barbell Ab Trainer is a particularly easy-to-use option. Start by sitting on the floor and sliding the ab rocker over your body. The padded pillow should fall just behind your head and neck, allowing you to comfortably lie down. And the other side of the rocker should be within reach. 

Grip the front of the rocker, plant your feet on the ground, engage your core, and begin to lift your upper body to complete a crunch or sit-up. You can use the built-in pillow to keep your head and neck supported, and if you need a little extra leverage, you can press into the front of the rocker.

To lie back down, keep your core engaged and slowly lower your upper body. Again, you can use the pillow to keep your head and neck supported, and you can press into the front of the rocker to add resistance as you lie down.

Best Gliders: Synergee Core Sliders

Synergee Core Sliders
Pros
  • Compact

  • Works on multiple surfaces

  • Available in various colors

  • Affordable

Cons
  • Size runs small

Core sliders offer a great way to make your workouts more dynamic and intense. And since they’re compact and lightweight, they’re great for small spaces—and for carrying on-the-go. Start by assuming a plank position, and place one core slider under each foot. From there, you can slide your feet in and out—or forward and back, if you want to complete a few mountain climbers

Because the Synergee Core Sliders are dual-sided, they should work on just about any surface. Use the grippy foam side when dealing with smoother floors, and use the plastic side when dealing with carpets. Each set comes with two dual-sided core sliders, so once yours arrive, you’ll have everything you need to get moving.

Best Tower: Bang Tong & Li Power Tower

Pros
  • Great for a range of exercises

  • Sturdy frame

  • Large weight capacity

  • Adjustable height

  • Cushioned handles

Cons
  • Expensive

If you’re looking to challenge your abs and upper body in equal measure, you can’t go wrong with a power tower, like the Bang Tong & Li Power Tower. The sturdy piece of equipment is great for a range of strength-training exercises. You can grab the bar across the top of the tower to knock out a few pull-ups, and you can grip the handles on the base of the tower for elevated push-ups.

If you want to use the power tower as a dip station, you can grab the handlebars at the center of the tower. And if you’d like to tackle some leg raises, you can use the same handlebars—just facing the other direction. 

The tower is crafted from heavy-duty steel, and it boasts a weight capacity of 330 pounds. The height of the tower is adjustable between 74.8 inches and 82.68 inches, and since all of the handles are lined with high-density foam, they should be comfortable to grip. 

Best Sit-Up Machine: Sunny Health & Fitness Rowing Machine

Pros
  • Multiple resistance levels

  • Cushioned handles and seat

  • Easy to store

  • Affordable

Cons
  • Lower weight capacity than other options

The Sunny Health & Fitness Rowing Machine isn’t your average rowing machine. In fact, its unique design makes it act a little more like a sit-up machine, giving you a workout that primarily targets your core. Start by sitting down on the seat, placing your feet on the pedals, and gripping the handlebar with both hands. Engage your core to pull the handlebar toward you and slide your seat backward. Then, engage your core to slowly press the handlebar forward and slide your seat back toward the front of the machine. 

The pedals pivot, making it easy to settle into a position that works for you, and the foam-lined handlebars will keep your hands comfortable as you row. What’s nice? The rowing machine comes equipped with 12 different resistance levels, so you can easily up the intensity of your workouts as you build strength.

Best Medicine Ball: Champion Sports Medicine Ball

Pros
  • Easy to grip

  • Durable

  • Great for a range of exercises

  • Available in various colors

Cons
  • Only available in one weight

Medicine balls can be a great alternative to free weights—especially when you’re tackling core-centric exercises. When you’re knocking out a few Russian twists, you don’t want to worry about a dumbbell wobbling around in your hands. You need something that’s comfortable and easy to grip—like the Champion Sports Medicine Ball. Crafted from synthetic leather, the Champion Sports Medicine Ball is soft and supple. But it promises to be durable enough to withstand throws, slams, and lifts. 

Use it during classic exercises, like Russian twists and weighted sit-ups. Or get creative, and use it as a modified ab roller.

Best Balance Trainer: Bosu Balance Trainer

People abs on BOSU
Pros
  • Sturdy

  • Available in various colors

  • Large weight capacity

  • Includes an air pump

Cons
  • Expensive

The Bosu Balance Trainer may not look intimidating, but stand on top of it and you’ll quickly realize what a challenge it can be. The trainer will provide you with an endlessly unstable surface to try to balance on, making simple moves—like standing straight up—feel like a workout. The trainer is crafted from durable materials and boasts a weight capacity of 300 pounds. 

Place your hands on top of it to tackle elevated planks, or use it for simple lunges. Because the surface is so dynamic, you can do just about anything on it and you’ll end up engaging your core. 

Best Resistance Bands: Letsfit Resistance Loop Exercise Bands

Letsfit Resistance Bands
Pros
  • Affordable

  • Available in various colors

  • Multiple resistance levels

  • Easy to use

Cons
  • Can roll up during certain exercises

Resistance bands are a popular choice for lower-body exercises. But you can also use them to make classic ab exercises—like mountain climbers and bicycle crunches—more challenging. Simply loop the resistance band around both feet to add tension to your mountain climbers, and do the same to make your bicycle crunches a little tougher. The Letsfit Resistance Loop Exercise Bands set is a great pick for this kind of exercise.

The set comes with five different resistance bands that boast five different tension levels, and the color-coded design makes it easy to keep track of which band is which. Work your way up from extra-light to extra-heavy. If you need an extra challenge, you can always use multiple resistance bands at once.

Best Sit-Up Bar: Aduro Sport Doorway Exercise Bar

Pros
  • Small footprint

  • Adjustable height

  • Cushioned ankle bar

Cons
  • May scratch or damage door

Don’t have room for a decline bench or a roman chair? Try a sit-up bar, like the Aduro Exercise Bar, instead. The bar will keep your feet firmly in place as you tackle the exercise—just like a decline bench or a roman chair would, but in a fraction of the space.

Simply slide the clamp under a door and close the door to secure the sit-up bar. Then slide your feet under the bar. It should stabilize you as you tackle sit-ups, allowing you to log an intense workout without sacrificing your form. 

Final Verdict

There are tons of different ab machines out there, and which one is best for you will depend a lot on your preferences and goals. If you’re craving a core workout that isn’t sit-up-centric, the Perfect Fitness Ab Roller is a solid choice. It will help you build strength in your upper body and your core, and you can modify your ab roller workouts to be as challenging as you want them to be. The Tristar Products Ab Coaster MAX is a great pick for anyone who loves working out on a full-blown machine. And the Aduro Sport Doorway Exercise Bar is a small space-friendly choice for anyone looking to upgrade their sit-ups. 

What to Look for in an Ab Machine

Fitness Level

There are tons of different ab machines out there—some of which are beginner-friendly, and some that are more advanced. Consider where you are in your fitness journey, and select a piece of equipment that meets you there.

“A machine that works the entire core—which includes the rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, and internal and external obliques—is necessary no matter your fitness level,” says Shelby Morrison, certified personal trainer and owner of ShelbyFit. She explains that all machines should provide you with a good range of motion and that you should feel safe and comfortable using them.

Size

Some ab machines are bulky, while others are decidedly small space-friendly. Consider your space—and your habits—when selecting a piece of equipment. Do you like working out on the go? Make sure to select a more portable option. Have plenty of space to spare? Feel free to spring for a big machine. 

Morrison says that you don’t need a lot of equipment for a productive workout. “For example, an ab roller is very small yet very effective!”

Workout Style

Different ab machines lend themselves to different ab workouts, so find one that suits your preferences. If you hate sit-ups, avoid ab rockers and roman chairs—try an ab roller or ab coaster, instead. Likewise, if you love cardio, opt for an ab machine that will encourage a more active workout—like a rowing-style sit-up machine.

FAQs

What is the most effective ab workout? 

If you want to get stronger and continuously challenge your entire core— including your stomach, back, glutes, and pelvic floor muscles—planks are the way to go, says Kelvin Gary, NASM, the owner of Body Space Fitness in Manhattan. Another plus: “You can safely and consistently challenge your core by doing increasingly challenging variations.” Gary says. 

Beginners should start by doing a plank with their elbows on the ground for 30 to 60 seconds. Then, once that becomes easy, you can challenge yourself by lifting one foot at a time off the ground and alternating back and forth. “This shifts your center of gravity and forces your core to work harder,” Gary says.

For advanced exercisers, Gary recommends trying a high plank on your hands with gliders. Place your hands shoulder-width apart, shoulders above wrists, and put each foot on a glider. Then, with your stomach and glute muscles engaged, slide your feet out and in, like you’re doing a jumping jack. To protect your back and keep the exercise challenging, don’t let your butt or hips move too much.

How often should you do ab workouts?

Whether you hit the gym two days per week or five, Gary believes that abs should be a part of every workout. Ideally, ab exercises should be done after a warm-up (think: foam rolling and dynamic moves like bodyweight squats) but before any cardio or strength training. “Doing core exercises first warms up the entire body and gets the abs ready to support and stabilize the other muscles as they continue to work,” Gary says. 

How long should an ab workout be?

Made up of type one muscle fibers, your abs are built for endurance, Gary says. But that doesn’t mean you need to do a million exercises to warm up or build six-pack abs: “It’s hard to overdo it, but at the same time, you don’t want to over-cook the turkey,” he says.

“When building a program for a client, I generally include one or two exercises,” says Gary. “If you’re doing rep-based movements like hanging knee raises or a slow mountain climber, I recommend doing three sets of 10 to 12 reps. For time-based movements like planks and farmer’s carries, do three sets of the exercise for 30 to 60 seconds.”

If you want to challenge your core with more than two exercises, Gary recommends adding an additional one or two movements at the very end of your workout.


What should I eat after an ab workout?

Like with most workouts, hydration is key. As are carbs and protein. 

When you work out, the body uses water and carbs stored in your body to keep you going, so it’s important to replenish them afterward, Gary says. “I recommend eating a cup of complex carbs—things like sweet potatoes and brown rice. These types of carbs are more nutrient-dense than white rice, for example, and also have a high thermic value, which can aid weight loss.”  

Adding protein to your plate post-workout is also vital. “As we exercise, we’re creating microtears in the muscles. Afterward, with the help of protein, the muscles repair themselves, and that’s how we get stronger,” explains Gary. So, how much should you eat? Gary says females should consume a palm-sized serving, while males should aim for two palm-sized servings. Things like turkey, chicken, beef, tofu, lentils, and seitan are all good sources of the nutrient. 

In terms of hydration, Gary says to rehydrate with at least two cups of fluid post-workout. Dark-colored urine is a sign you’re dehydrated. If your urine is light-colored and clear in the hours that follow your workout, that’s a good sign you’ve had enough to drink, he says.

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  1. Akhtar MW, Karimi H, Gilani SA. Effectiveness of core stabilization exercises and routine exercise therapy in management of pain in chronic non-specific low back pain: A randomized controlled clinical trialPak J Med Sci. 2017;33(4):1002-1006. doi:10.12669/pjms.334.12664