One of the most popular machines or equipment in a gym, apart from the treadmill and the bench and the cables, is the ab machine. That chair with some weight attached, which you have to pull down in a sitting position to make sure there is enough flex at the torso, is an effective machine. But only if you know how to use it properly. But it isn’t the only gym machine that can help you build your core and sculpt your abs. There are others, which are available in most gyms, but to get the best results, you need to learn how to use them in creative ways.
We’ve already discussed in an earlier Lounge fitness articlehow adding variety and weights to your ab training results in a significantly greater impact. Whether it is performing around-the-worldswith a kettlebell or sit-ups with a plate, maintaining a progressive overload in your core workouts will help you reach your goals quicker. But variety plays as much a role in this as the amount of weights you move using mainly your core. Sometimes the potential of gym machines need to be unlocked by using them for different muscles.
The first advice from most fitness trainers is to make sure you use the cardio machines—the cycle, the treadmill and the rowing machine—with a braced strong core. “Your core stabilises your pelvis and keeps your hips square in your seat. For the best ab burn possible, tuck your tailbone, brace your core and keep your upper body steady as you ride,” states a Livestrong.com article titled The 9 Best Gym Machines You Can Use To Sculpt Your Abs.
To begin with, let’s focus on the ab machine itself. Also known as a crunch machine, this will allow you to do only one kind of exercise: the ab crunch. The mechanics are already in place in the machine to help your form. But there is still a checklist one can go through while using it. The first is the seat height: stand next to the seat and make sure it is at around knee height. Anything too low or too high will not work. The next is the position of the arms: make sure they are bent at 90 degree angles. If there is padding for the triceps, make sure you place them accordingly.
Now comes the important part; some machines will pull your leg up to meet the elbows, but there is a variant where your legs stay in contact with the gym floor. Either way, the key is to breathe out while pulling your elbows towards the front of your hips. The video below, by FitLife, is a simple starter’s guide.
“Always select a weight that you can easily handle as using too much weight can easily lead to injury. Be sure to use a slow and controlled motion. Concentrate on using your abs to move the weight while relaxing your legs and feet,” states a Bodybuilding.com on using the Ab Crunch machine.
If you want to get familiar to the feel of this exercise, you can try toe-touches with your feet lifted up in a leg-raise position. If this ab machine does not exist in your gym, you can use the cable machine to mimic the same movement as shown in the video below. The other two exercises using pulleys are the pallof press and woodchoppers.
Then there is the brilliantly simple sit-up machine. Without any pulleys and cables and loads, this machine is set up (mostly in a decline shape) to help you do the most basic ab exercise: the sit-up. It does so by locking in your feet to stop them from readjusting during the exercise. The most common mistake one makes while using this bench is letting the lower back curve upwards when the body is returning to the starting position. They key is to keep a straight back to stop loading the lower back which can lead to injury. This anatomical representation video by Muscle and Motion will tell you more.
The same sit-up bench can also be used to do leg raises by placing your head on the highest incline point, thus increasing the distance the legs have to rise in order to complete one rep.
While smaller equipment, like the ab roller or medicine balls can all be used for core workouts, it is the larger, more common pieces in a gym, that have much more potential. Pull-up bars are brilliant for knee tucks and leg raises, and the dip machine can be used for the same. While it is clever to use most of what the gym has to offer, it is also handy to know how to use the most common machines for each and every muscle.
Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator, podcaster and writer.