By the Editors of Men’s Health
Are those infomercial exercise devices six-pack saviors, or money-wasting scams? You don’t have to call an 800 number to find out. Researchers at Slippery Rock University, in Pennsylvania, measured muscle activation in five different abs gadgets and compared them with the classic situp.
The Ab Sling
These hanging straps activated people’s abdominal muscles mostóbut were also the most despised exercise, says study coauthor Jeff Lynn, Ph.D. “It’s very uncomfortable. Many complained about arm and shoulder fatigue, pain, and numbness.”
The Ab Rocket
The makers of this abdominal rocking chair tout its neck-and-back-supporting design. But according to Lynn, users reported neck strain and thought the motion felt unnatural.
In theory, it sounds smart: Increase your range of motion with a squishy ball wedged beneath your lower back. But science finds otherwise: Standard situps produced 25 percent greater lower-ab activation than the Bender Ball. What’s more, a rolled-up towel can serve a similar purpose.
The Ab Lounge
Testers enjoyed this exercise; their backs, however, did not. “It allows you to hyperextend your back,” Lynn says. “This puts potentially damaging pressure on the low spine.”
Banish this blow-up chair to the kiddie pool. “The Bean was the worst of the lot,” Lynn says. “It actually facilitates movement forward, so you do less work.”