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Use exercise balls in a variety of ways to engage your stomach muscles.
Nothing beats good old-fashioned crunches for working your stomach muscles. If you've grown bored of this tried-and-true exercise, however, and long for more diversity in your ab repertoire, you may have been thinking about investing in one or two home workout machines that target the muscles in your midsection. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) lists a few equipment-assisted ab exercises on its list of the best.
Abs on Wheels
There are a number of different versions of a basic wheel with a handle on it for rolling your abs into better shape. Whatever name it goes by, the ab wheels are effective for engaging your rectus abdominis and your oblique muscles, especially if you alternate rolling to the right and left as well as rolling straight out and back. Start by kneeling on the floor and holding your ab wheel by the handles on either side, palms down. Place the wheel on the floor in front of you near your knees. Keeping your elbows straight and your abs taut, roll the wheel forward, allowing it to go as far as possible. At the top of the exercise, your knees will have extended, your torso will be on the ground and your arms will be extended above your head. Pull your arms back, keeping your elbows straight and the wheel on the ground, to return to the starting position.
An exercise ball is a versatile piece of equipment for working your abs because even when you're not doing ab-focused exercises, you're usually engaging your abs to help maintain your balance and stability. You can perform straight-forward crunches on an exercise ball or do them twisting from one side to the other as you crunch up. You can work your abs as well as your entire core when you do bridges and planks with the ball supporting your legs. A less common ab-focused exercise with the ball is done lying on your back with your knees bent and your legs hip-width apart and resting on the ball. Tense up your abs and squeeze your legs together to lift the ball up. Hold for a count of three then lower the ball to the starting position in a controlled descent.
Lift Those Knees High
Vertical leg raises are effectively a reverse sit-up. You need a captain's chair to properly perform this ab-working exercise. It looks like a chair with a back and arms but no seat. It's also raised to suspend you off the floor so that your legs don't touch the ground. To start, brace your back against the back rest while the arms of the machine help hold your body suspended. Bend your legs at the hip, raising them until they are parallel to the floor, and hold for a count of one. Then, slowly lower them to the starting position.
Not listed by ACE but still a favorite of fitness professionals, the roman chair provides a challenging ab workout. Some Roman chairs are fancier than others, but a basic Roman chair looks like a stool or bench with no backrest that has a padded bar to slip your feet under. The bar holds you in place. To do the exercise, lie back until your torso is parallel with the ground and your hips are nearly extended. Then sit up in a controlled motion, bringing yourself back to your upright starting position. You can hold your arms crossed over your chest, hold a weight plate as you perform the exercises or even alternate twisting to each side as you sit up. The constant in the exercise is engaging your abs throughout the movement, tensing and holding them taut.