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The Best and Worst "As Seen On TV" Abs Products

Best: Ab Wheel

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If you're going to buy one thing from this list of products, experts agree this should be it. "When it comes to ab work, most people think crunches and sit-ups," says Chris Matsui, C.S.C.S., director of Fusion Performance Training in NYC. "The ab wheel does the opposite. It strengthens your abs and back, all while staying in a neutral spine position. This is important since most of us are sitting hunched over all day at our desks," says Matsui. Plus, it's small and cheap, which means you're not making a big investment in terms of cash or space. ($16;

(BTW, stop believing these abs myths right now.)

Photo: Amazon

Best: The Bender Ball

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This little guy gets high marks because you can use it for so many different types of exercises. Plus, it's pretty effective at developing core strength when used consistently. "The Bender Ball will actually give you results, primarily because the exercises done on it include both moving through ranges of motion and midline stability," explains Ethan Wolf, C.S.C.S., owner of StrengthRx Crossfit Los Angeles.

Here's what the means for your workouts: "The range of motion exercises are effective because they can include the full movement potential of the spine, including rotational movements," says Wolf. "Midline stability exercises, or exercises focused on preventing movement in the spine (like a plank), are an essential part of any abs program and are often neglected with other devices." What's more, the Bender Ball makes exercises like crunches (with it under your lower back), for example, harder rather than easier, unlike the majority of other As Seen On TV abs products. ($20;

Photo: As Seen on TV

So-So: The Ab Coaster

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"This machine, while large and clunky, is actually an effective way to train the abs," says Wolf, who actually has one himself. "It allows for a full range of motion in the spine, which leads to more muscle fiber recruitment and better development." Abs exercises tend to utilize a fixed lower body and moving upper body, but this machine accomplishes the opposite. "The Ab Coaster is different in that it fixes the upper body in place and uses movement of the hips and legs as the means of providing resistance. These exercises are often more difficult to perform, and the Ab Coaster takes out the guesswork." The biggest downside? That price tag—oof. ($330;

 (Another unique way to target the abs is with standing core exercises.) 

Photo: As Seen on TV

So-So: The Ab Roller Evolution

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Now we're firmly in meh territory. The Ab Roller is an age-old apparatus in the fitness world that's generally used to do crunches with a little extra head support. "While this setup does make it easier to focus on your abs without straining your neck, the exercise itself is literally just a crunch," says Wolf. The extra support is nice, but one of the best things about crunches and sit-ups is that they can be done anywhere, anytime, and using a piece of equipment to do them takes away that level of convenience. Plus, "the crunch is not the most effective way to train your abs because the range of motion is limited and the stress placed on the abs is low," he adds. "However, one unique aspect to the ab roller compared to similar devices in its category is that you can add weight and make the crunch more difficult." Of course, the weights are not included, so you'd have to shell out extra cash to make the device more effective. ($30;

(Want some alternative ideas? Scope out these weighted abs exercises for a strong, sculpted core.)

Photo: Ab Roller

So-So: Wonder Core

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"This machine gives you a way to work your glutes (with bridges) which is a plus," says Rachel Straub, C.S.C.S., coauthor of Weight Training Without Injury: Over 350 Step-by-Step Pictures Including What Not to Do! "The largest core muscle is the gluteus maximus, so this is nice to see." The only catch? Glute bridges don't require a machine to be performed effectively—and that's pretty much the gist of why this product only gets a so-so rating. "There are a lot of other exercises you can do—scissor kicks and push-ups, for example—but these can just as easily be done without any equipment," says Straub. ($85;


So-So: Simply Fit Balance Board

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This device claims to work your abs by forcing you to maintain your balance while twisting from side to side. Most people need to work on their balance, so if the Simply Fit board will make you more inclined to exercise, then great, says Straub. "I like the fact that you can do it standing and it doesn't ask you to round your torso," she adds. "However, I am not a big fan of twisting and turning motions, as this can strain the lower back." ($40;

(Related: Is It Ever Okay to Have Lower-Back Pain After a Workout?)

Photo: Simply Fit

Worst: AbDoer 360 System

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"The first time I saw this piece of equipment, it made me cringe," Straub says. "Doing crunches on this puts your shoulder in the dangerous 'high five' position, where your arms are above your head." Plus, the machine has minimal back support and encourages all sorts of twisting and turning movements, which isn't the safest idea when your body is in this position, she explains. Straub's conclusion: "All I see when I look at this piece of equipment is back and shoulder pain." Ouch. ($190;

Photo: HSN

Worst: Ab Rocket Abdominal Trainer

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The problem with this one is that it actually makes core work too easy, says Wolf. "In providing assistance by de-loading your sit-up, you're removing much of the hard work that will create results in your midline," he says. Besides the fact that it does much of the work for you, it only allows you to do one single exercise: the sit-up. Yes, sit-ups are a tried-and-true movement, but there's more to core training than crunching. (Check out this no-crunch abs workout for proof.) Plus, Wolf points out that sit-ups may not be appropriate for everyone based on their weight and fitness level. "Sometimes, sit-ups can create stress and pain in the low back, so there are many people I would advise to avoid this movement," he says. ($190;

Photo: Amazon

Worst: SlenderTone Abs Belt

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"This is by far the worst device," says Wolf. "While the belt creates contractions in the abs, it provides no resistance. Without resistance, there is nothing for your abs to adapt and grow toward. This means no change in your body." Not to mention the fact that it overtly appeals to those who are looking for a quick fix without putting in any work. "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If it was really as easy as strapping a belt on while we watched a movie, I'm pretty sure everyone would have a six-pack." True that. ($200;

Photo: HSN


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