If there's one goal that most people have in mind when it comes to their workout program, getting six pack abs is it.  It seems as though almost everyone is craving a lean and firm midsection but yet few ever have success in reaching this goal. The first thing that you must keep in mind if your goal is six pack abs is that diet is going to be a must.  Unless you are using a low calorie diet to help burn off all the fat that is currently covering your abs, it doesn't matter how much abdominal exercise you perform, you're still never going to be able to see the muscles.

Once that diet is in order though, then you need to look at which exercises are going to produce the best results.  When thinking about this, you may have found yourself asking whether or not ab machines are really going to deliver.  Will they help you firm and tone that middle or are you best off using your standard crunches and bodyweight ab exercises?

Let's take a quick look at a few of the factors that you need to consider about ab machines and whether or not they really work.

ab wheel exerciseMuscle Activation

The very first thing you need to evaluate when looking at any ab exercise or ab machine tool is the degree of muscle activation that's experienced.  If you want to see maximum results, you want to get using a machine that is going to maximally target those ab muscles. Sadly though, many of the ab machines do this very poorly.  Instead, you'll get in them and rather than using the ab muscles to contract and move yourself throughout the movement, you will actually begin to recruit other muscles to do the job for you. So in the end, you actually strengthen muscles other than the abs while using ab machines.  Not quite what you were going for.

The good news is that you can overcome this though.  When using your ab machine, if you really do focus on squeezing those ab muscle fibers and be sure to relax every other muscle in the body, this can ensure that you put the focus where it needs to be. It's definitely going to take some work on your part at first getting used to doing this, but when you do, you'll see much greater results from the ab machines.

The Intensity of The Workout

Second, the next step to look at when evaluating an ab exercise is the intensity it has you working at.  Here again, since you are fully supported in most ab machines, you aren't going to be working the muscles nearly as hard as you would if you were supporting your full body weight such as during hanging leg raises for instance or during prone-ball roll outs.

Both of those exercises are going to cause every muscle fiber in the core to contract, while the ab exercises will usually isolate just a second of the abs.

While you still will receive benefits from doing this, it's not entirely ideal.

The Degree Of Instability

Third, the last factor that should be looked at when evaluating ab machines is the degree of instability they create. One of the key factors that makes for a fantastic ab workout is when you position the body in as unstable position as possible.

This is one reason why exercise balls are so hot right now in the development of six pack abs.  They throw a huge amount of instability into the mix therefore causing you to have to work that much harder.

This is again, unfortunately, what ab machine exercises lack.  Unless the one you are using has been specifically designed for instability, chances are it's just not putting you in that instable position that it needs to be.

Should You Use Ab Machines In Your Workout?

So, should you add ab machine exercises to your workout?  The truth is that while these machines can be beneficial for strengthening the core, you'd be far better off performing bodyweight movements that incorporate an exercise ball.  You're going to get better muscle activation, workout at a higher intensity, and see more instability – all key for results.

Pair this together with a proper diet, a full body weight lifting program, and some smart interval cardio training and then you will have the perfect recipe for six pack success.