When it comes to at-home core workouts, using an ab machine might not be your default. But for both newbies and abdominal-drilling veterans alike, they can equal a more effective workout -- and speed up how long it takes to get a six-pack.
We asked trainers to share their tips for finding the right tool — plus, the 14 best ab machines for home workouts, based on your individual goals and training style.
1. Best Ab Machine for Plank-Lovers: Total Gym Elevate Core Adjustable
If you're into plank variations like mountain climbers and knee tucks, this is one of the best ab machines for progressing, regressing and modifying the moves to fit your body and prevent boredom. It has seven available levels of incline — choose yours with the easy-to-use lever.
With this machine, you'll improve balance and stability through your abs, pelvis, lower back and hips, Brown says.
Buy it: IndoorFitnessDirect.com; Price: $1,995
2. Best Ab Wheel: N1Fit Ab Roller
Put your core stability to the test and wheel your way to six-pack abs with ab-wheel exercises. The performance handles provide a firm grip, no matter how sweaty you get, and the wide wheel with ridges offers support so you can roll forward without losing balance.
"This machine can provide you with assistance in the overall activation of the abdominal muscles," Brown says. As you hold the handles and roll out your upper body, you're forced to activate your abdominals, so you don't collapse or fall over. This will improve improve muscular coordination, too.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $13.99
3. Best Ab-Wheel Alternative: AbDolly Core Training System
The wheels on this ab-wheel-like device make it easy to move your core in every direction. Do plank pikes, knee tucks, mountain climbers and ab roll-outs forward, backward, side-to-side and diagonally. The result: you up the engagement of your deep-lying ab muscles and obliques.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $79.99
4. Best Ab Tower: French Fitness BOSU Vertical Leg/Knee Raise Ab Machine
If lying down while doing ab exercises hurts your back and space isn't an issue, consider purchasing this ab tower for your home gym. Lean your back against the Bosu ball, place your forearms on the arm pads, grab the handles and get those legs moving. Try performing leg-lift exercises like knee tucks and scissor kicks.
"The BOSU makes using this machine easier on the spine," Tamir says. "You can also use it for stabilization exercises, which is great for anyone with knee issues, and you can hit different areas of the abs like the obliques by turning your body positioning."
Buy it: FitnessSuperstore.com; Price: $999
5. Best Compact Ab Tool: Synergee Core Sliders
And a challenge to your body-weight ab workouts with these dual-sided sliders. They allow you to work on multiple surfaces, including hardwood floors, carpet and turf. Torch your core with pikes, mountain climbers, slide-outs and push-ups with arm slides.
"They're lightweight and compact, so they're easy for travel and home workouts without taking up much space," says Meghan Hayden, CPT, a personal trainer based in New York City. "They're such a simple piece of equipment that can be used in so many ways. You can put them under your feet or hands and test the core in a large variety of ways."
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $11.95
6. Best Ab and Total-Body Machine in One: XMark Functional Cable Trainer Machine
If you've never thought of a cable machine for your ab workouts, now's the time. With cables, you can work some of the best core exercises around, like Pallof presses, cable chops, and cable rotations. They hone two important functions of your core: rotation and resisting rotation, to fully activate your transverse abdominis and obliques, Tamir says.
Plus, once you've trained your core, this cable machine allows you to rock pull-ups, flyes, pull-downs, face-pulls, donkey kicks and so much more. And if you're doing these moves with correct form, they will all engage your core.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $2,650
7. Best Medicine Ball: Champion Sports Exercise Medicine Ball
Take a break from your dumbbells and kettlebells and try out a medicine-ball ab workout. Use it for ab exercises like Russian twists, sit-ups and toe touches or full-body moves like wall balls and thrusters.
"Rotational slams hit the obliques and force you to engage your core each time you shift directions," Tamir says.
This leather ball can withstand years of intense workouts and won't slip out of your hands, even if you work up a serious sweat. Choose from eight weights: 4, 6, 10, 12, 14, 18, 20 or 22 pounds. If you're new to medicine balls, go lighter than you think and work your way up.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: starting at $22.35
8. Best Sit-Up Machine: Marcy Adjustable Hyperextension Roman Chair
Also known as a glute hamstring developer (GHD), this machine is a mainstay in CrossFit workouts for a variety of core exercises, like crunches, sit-ups and back extensions.
"If you limit the range of motion by not leaning all the way back toward the ground, but rather until your body is parallel to the floor, you can really hit the abdominals with this piece of equipment," Tamir says.
While it's a great core machine, it's not ideal for people with back or neck problems, and may exacerbate symptoms.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $259.99
9. Best Device for Training Your Abs at Your Desk: URBNFit Exercise Ball
"It's a great piece of equipment to train full-body stability," Hayden says. You can use it for exercises like crunches, planks, knee tucks, presses, squats and more. "And it can double as a desk chair!"
This stability ball can hold up to 2,000 pounds. It's a great option for anyone with mobility issues and joint pain.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: starting at $14.99
10. Best Instability Ab Device: BOSU Balance Trainer
Chances are you've seen this half-sphere at the gym. While it looks like a bouncy toy, don't let the BOSU ball's simple design fool you. Its instability forces you to engage your core similar to how you would on a stability ball. Step one foot on for single leg lunges, or stand with both feet on it and perform a single leg squat.
"It creates proprioception, or instability, so you really have to activate those core muscles for stability," Tamir says. "It's portable, too, so you can move it around easily. Beginners who need to work on stabilization can benefit from it, but advanced exercisers can also use it to add a balance challenge into their workouts."
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $120.10
11. Best Suspension System: TRX Home2
The TRX is one of the best-selling pieces of home equipment for a good reason: This suspension trainer allows you to perform more than 300 exercises using just your body weight.
But what makes TRX ab exercises more challenging than, say, your basic plank or hip dip is the way you position your body in relation to the anchor. Depending on your set-up, you can make exercises more difficult by forcing your muscles to work harder against the pull of gravity.
"For every exercise, either your upper body or lower body is in contact with the ground, and you're suspended in one way or another, so your core will constantly be engaged," Tamir says.
Buy it: TRXTraining.com; Price: $184.95
12. Best Ab Machine for Beginners: Core Max Smart Abs and Total Body Workout Cardio Home Gym
If you have trouble doing sit-ups and crunches with proper form, this ab workout machine is perfect for you.
"The machine provides support to those who may not feel comfortable doing sit-ups on their own," Tamir says. It supports your back and helps you learn how to initiate the movement through your abs rather than your back and neck.
This ab machine has three different resistance levels, so you can adjust it easily to your liking. Plus, it comes with workout videos and a workout chart to give you ideas on how to best use this tool.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $69.99
13. Best Decline Bench: Finer Form Decline Bench
Hit your ab workouts from a different angle with this exercise bench. It has four adjustable height settings. It's great for doing reverse crunches, weighted decline sit-ups, pull-overs and Russian twists. When you're not using it for ab day, it also works great for decline chest presses.
"The machine gets your pelvis into a posterior pelvic tuck, which is the proper position you should be in, so it not only protects you from injury, but it also forces you to engage your transverse abdominals, which also help with pelvic stability," Tamir says.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $219.99
14. Best Ab Tool for Crunches: Cap Barbell Ab Trainer
By supporting your back and neck, this ab machine for home workouts is another great option for beginners, as it gets you into the correct position to perform a crunch, Tamir says. While the structure is basic, the steel bar is extremely durable and will stand up to numerous ab workouts over the years.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $23.27
What to Know Before You Buy an Ab Machine
The best ab machines for home workouts vary in price, size, weight and function. Here's what you should consider before purchasing one.
Assess Any Physical Limitations
If you're prone to back pain or neck troubles, avoid ab machines that are designed for doing any exercises that can exacerbate your symptoms. Sit-ups, crunches and other forward-flexion exercises are the most commonly problematic moves for people with back and neck pain, according to Hayden.
"Invest in a piece of equipment that trains core stability [such as a BOSU or cable machine] rather than one that has you do a million crunch variations," she says.
If you have difficulty getting down onto and back up off of the floor, try a device such as a cable machine or TRX system that you can use while standing.
Consider Your Space and Budget
Be realistic about how much space you have available. Then select equipment you can use to do a variety of exercises, rather than tools that only allow you to do one or two moves.
"Something like the cable machine or the TRX allows you to target the abs, but you can also do hundreds of other exercises on them," Tamir says. Similarly, exercise benches are great for ab exercises as well as upper-body ones like chest presses.
Play Off of Your Exercise Experience
When shopping for at-home fitness equipment, it's always important to look for tools that are appropriate for your current strength levels. Bonus points if you buy something that allows you to progress your workouts as you go along, either with different exercise variations or added resistance.