"David, I understand from reading your e-book and newsletters that diet is the most important aspect of seeing your abs. I also would like to know your opinion of ab machines that are advertised on TV. Some of these products seem a bit overpriced. However, I've been thinking about buying one of them called the AB-doer because I’ve some problems with my back, which has caused me to give up some abdominal exercises I used to do with no problem. Do you think any of these machines will help some merit for someone in my particular circumstance?"
The answer is yes and no. Yes, some machines may have some value. It wouldn’t be correct to dismiss them all completely with one broad generalization. However, I'm definitely leaning more toward no when it comes to most infomercial products such as the Ab-doer, Ab Dominator, Ab Swing, Ab Roller Plus, Torso Track, Torso Tiger, Smart Abs (and I could go on and on). I can’t even review all of them in the space of one column, but I’ll give you my thoughts on the Ab doer and ab machines in general.
Typically, any machine that involves gripping handles out to the side and in front for support aren't ideal, because once you begin to get tired, your body will naturally have a tendency to use the arms grips to force the abdominal motion, taking the abs out of the picture almost completely and asking your back to do more work, which sets you up for an injury the exact opposite of what you need in your situation.
I've tested similar gym equipment, which use handles in almost the same position as these home machines. Still not much difference. Even though you're sitting upright as with the AB-Doer, or lying prone as with the torso track. each tends to focus on a specific range of motion to the detriment of full range.
If you are absolutely dead set on buying some type of TV-advertised abdominal product, get the Ab Swing (although I can recommend something even cheaper and even more versatile at the end of this column).
The trouble with almost ALL of these ab machines is that you are only moving your body in one direction or plane of motion. As you increase strength in that plane, you will create a pattern overload syndrome and set your self up for muscle imbalances that may cause injury in the long term.
Another example is the AB-DOer. If you were to turn this product clockwise, you would clearly be able to see this. I understand the AB-DOer uses a circular rotating motion, but 50 percent of that exercise doesn't even incorporate abdominal muscles. The other 50 percent uses the lower back muscles.
Now, a machine like this may feel better on your back (regarding my yes to some machines answer), but I doubt it. Here's a self-test you can try: Sit in a chair with your back pressed against the chair's back. Pretend to have your arms out to the side, just as the AB-DOer displays. Now contract and crunch your abs. You probably felt a slight lower back strain because the body is naturally designed to slouch down when you try to crunch the abs from an upright position. This lower back strain can actually feel more acute if you add the resistance of the AB- DOer.
There's one exception to the rule: Sometimes, gym abdominal equipment will have the same range of motion as the AB-DOer, using weights, but no hand grips. The difference is the fact that you're pushing a padded weight forward with your chest.
This range of motion naturally keeps your back straight mainly because you must push the weight forward. You can do a test to see what I mean by finding an adjustable chair, lowering it so that a desk edge is at chest level, and pressing against it. Your upper body is "forced" to stay straight in order to push the weight forward. It won't allow you to slouch down, as the AB-DOer will.
One piece of simple exercise equipment that I highly recommend you invest in is called a Swiss ball (also known as a stability ball). The Swiss ball is more versatile than any piece of infomercial ab equipment ever will be. It's also safer and more effective.
My abdominal and core conditioning course, Firm And Flatten Your Abs teaches you exactly how to use the Swiss ball, including dozens of photographs. You'll also learn simple but powerful abdominal exercises that require no equipment whatsoever. To get more information, visit :