Remember the famous 8 Minute Abs? The classic mid-nineties VHS workout tape featured three spandex-wearing fitness pros on the grass, sculpting their six-packs in just eight minutes a day. Believe it or not, the concept was highly successful, to the tune of $20 million in less than two years.
While you’ll still need a healthy diet to reveal a ripped midsection and toned obliques, don’t dismiss what eight minutes of hard work done regularly can do for your core. If consistent, you’ll notice a tighter, stronger torso in just a few weeks, even if it’s hidden behind a few pounds.
The benefits of strengthening your abs extend well beyond just looking good. Having a robust core — even without a well-defined six pack — will make you better at just about every activity. For example, a sturdy midsection helps you maintain proper running form, resulting in better running efficiency. You’ll hold yoga poses longer and with more ease. A stronger core can even lead to better posture, preventing back pain.
The area in question consists of four main groups of muscles. The rectus abdominis is what most people think of when they say abs. These are the muscles responsible for the sexy six-pack. The other three muscle groups are the transverse abdominis (or TVA), external obliques and internal obliques. Ideally, you'll do exercises that hit all four.
Compared to other home-based fitness machines, core equipment tends to be much more affordable and easier to store. This makes owning more than one piece a viable option, which is great because it pays to switch things up. So, when 8 Minute Abs gets old, get that toned midsection you’ve always dreamed of with these marquee tools.
Best Overall Ab Machine
No exercise engages every muscle in your torso better than planks. And no equipment is better for planks than an ab wheel. Hitting your shoulders and hips as well, SKLZ Corewheels are far superior to your normal single wheel ab roller design. The dual design prevents cheating to one side or the other and allows more advanced movements, such as alternating one-arm planks and side-to-side fly planks. Featuring comfortable ergonomic foam handles, these lightweight, portable ab wheels are a welcome addition to anyone’s home gym arsenal. Bonus: they double as challenging push-up bars.
Best Upgrade Ab Machine
If you really want a visible six pack, you have to be trim. And this rowing machine is hands-down the best single piece of equipment to simultaneously lean out and carve abs. Engaging a whopping 86 percent of your muscles — nearly twice that of running or cycling — rowing burns more calories and works your core more than any other single piece of equipment. The added resistance of cables engages the core with each stroke. Think rowing is boring? With Hydrow's all-access membership ($456/year or $38/month) you can join hundreds of instructor-led rows, live or on-demand.
Best Value Ab Machine
You’d be hard-pressed to find a kit that can hit more body parts for a better price. This plucky, travel-friendly package comes complete with an ab wheel, knee pad, core sliders and a training guide — all you need to shred your torso while getting some exercise variety. Step up the difficulty of your ab wheel workout by attaching the included resistance bands. Assembly is required but only takes a few minutes. Throw in the cardio-ready jump rope, and you've got a must-have for any fitness buff with or without a home gym.
Best Ab Coaster
Ab coasters may look like a funny informercial gimmick, but they sell because they work. Isolating your upper body forces you to engage your entire core to move your legs up and down a scurved track. With a twist of the knee rest, you can target obliques. The best part? No more having to get down on the ground for ab work. Just kneel, grab the handles and crunch. Ab Coaster’s smooth bottom-up slider motion and natural arc make it easy-to-use and reduce stress on the back and neck, making it ideal for beginners and seniors.
Best Parallette Bars
No athletes have stronger cores than gymnasts. Their secret? Repeated bouts of hard isometric holds on bars and rings. Tap into that regimen with these extra-thick bars, which carry a 330-pound capacity and 14 inches of clearance to make it easier to pass your legs through. Word of warning: parallette bars are not for everyone. You’ll need a fair amount of upper body and core strength to get the most from a parallette workout. But if you want the abs of, say, Simone Biles, these are your ticket.
Best Balance Trainer
Step up your sit-ups, crunches and leg tucks with a Bosu Balance Trainer. Trusted most by commercial gyms for its durability and 300-pound capacity, this one is pricier than many similar products for a reason. Packaged with a downloadable guide, the soft, curved design not only makes exercises more comfortable than sitting on a hard floor, but also it requires additional core tension to maintain stability. Just heads ups: it’s completely normal for the ball to deflate every few days — no wonder it comes with a pump.
Best Gliding Discs
Gliding discs may not look like much, but don’t be fooled by their simplistic design. These flat, low-friction pieces of material make for one hell of a core and shoulders workout. Don’t waste your time with cheaper alternatives. SKLZ Slidez are larger and feature a contoured ergonomic tread for a safe and comfortable grip. They also snap together for easier bilateral movements.
Best Ab Bench
No home gym is complete without a bench. Why not get one you can use for abs, too? This model features one flat and three decline bench adjustments, plus 14 thigh cushion height levels and comfortable 2.5-inch medium-density foam. The double-stitched vinyl bench is not only sweat and moisture resistant, but also it's sturdy, boasting an impressive 650-pound capacity. As with most shippable heavy-duty equipment, be prepared to put some elbow grease into assembly.
Best Cable/Pilates-type Machine
Popularized by Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley, this Total Gym knock-off is surprisingly similar for a fraction (one-fourth) of the cost. While it's not a dedicated ab machine, it can hit them hard. Using cables and an adjustable incline, this machine uses your bodyweight as resistance to move up and down the smooth track, with pretty much every exercise you requiring core engagement. The included bands add 50 pounds of resistance so you can dial up the difficulty.
Best Ankle Bar
If you prefer having your feet locked down when doing good old-fashioned sit-ups, this wallet-friendly product is for you. Stop jamming your feet under your couch — just attach this handy exercise bar to any door. Four different heights accommodate all sizes of feet and rubber bumpers protect your door. Just tuck your feet under the bar and go.