Products that promise to get your abdominals in shape have gotten a bad rap because they often are associated with schlocky infomercials and exaggerated claims. But there are some inexpensive products available that, with proper use, actually can strengthen your abs and core muscles, which are important for your posture and a healthy back.
Roy M. Wallack
Rolling your way to washboard abs
Altus Ab Wheel: Bare-bones, two-handled wheel you roll fore and aft from a kneeling position.
Likes: Provides superb functional fitness that strengthens movements you use in everyday life. Rolling outward from a kneeling position forces abs to stabilize and balance your midsection. Wide wheel adds stability. Good for all fitness levels.
Price: $8.50. (800) 654-3955, www.altusathletic.com
When you want to target the whole midsection
Tricore Ab Toner: Popular roll-cage apparatus that works abs comfortably and safely.
Likes: Smooth rocking motion mimics natural spinal movement. Effective for people at all levels of fitness. Headrest protects your neck from hyperextension. The device isolates your abs and does not actuate the hip flexors, as do sit-ups. Allows a variety of midsection exercises. Includes a comfortable mat.
Price: $49.99. (800) 619-4227, www.preciseexercise.com
For exercisers who need a little boost
Everything Up Back-Up Pillow: Fabric-covered foam wedge for the less athletically inclined.
Likes: Elevates and supports lower back and hips, resulting in less pressure and potential for discomfort and pain during sit-ups and leg lifts.
Price: $39.95. (323) 651-1019, www.everythingup.com
It all starts with a chin-up bar
Keys Fitness Ab Sling: Hard-core workout for serious gym rats
Likes: Nylon slings that attach to a chin-up bar make it difficult to cheat. Do leg raise, pull knees up to your chest, twist knees to the right or left to target the obliques.
Dislikes: Must have a chin-up bar ($15 to $20). Because you're hanging above the ground, there's always the risk of falling.
Price: $39.99 (4-inch model); $69.99 (7-inch model). (800) 683-1236, www.keysfitness.com