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Exercise Machines
Exercise and Ab Machines - Good or Bad?

Exercise and ab machines versus "free weights." Which is best? Here's a topic that may at first seem irrelevant. However, if we're looking for the most efficient or quickest ways to develop ripped six pack abs or a lean stomach, then it's a very important subject.

We've said it before and we'll say it again. Resistance exercise machines, and ab machines, are much less effective than "free" weight exercises for developing a lean ripped body and six pack abs. Many of the better informed gym and fitness instructors are now recommending that the majority of resistance training is best done with free weights rather than machines. This is because "free weights" are more effective for resistance training.

"Free" weights include barbells, dumbbells and other objects such as kettlebells etc that are not rigidly attached to machines. In other words they're "free" in their motion, as opposed to having fixed paths or lines of movement that most machines have.

So, what's basically wrong with doing resistance workouts with machines that stabilize the weight for you and control your path of movement? Surely that's safer than uncontrolled barbells and dumbbells that you could overbalance with, or drop on your foot! No. The very problem with machines is that they DO stabilize the weights and control your line of movement.

This means it's more of an unnatural movement doesn't require you to use all the muscles you would normally use, like stabilizer muscles. Since the machine is essentially doing a portion of the work for you, it makes them less effective for working out. eg. Performing a barbell squat requires your core muscles (midsection) muscles to come in to action to stabilize your body in way that is very beneficial to strengthening your abdominals. Machines generally don't provide this benefit as much.

The other factor to consider is that, if you're not strengthening your stabilizer muscles, you're putting yourself at risk of an injury. This is especially true if you largely rely on machines for exercise, over a reasonably long period, for body and ab training. Exercises that use cable based apparatus are not considered machines. For example horizontal rows and lateral pulldowns which use cable equipment are very good exercises. 

All lined up and nicely spaced out, the latest exercise machines give a gym the appearance of being very modern and sophisticated. After all, if gyms had less of the latest machines and many more free weights, it could give the appearance of being a male dominated "sweatshop," but looks are often deceiving.

It's not to say there isn't a place for machines. If you love to use exercise machines at gyms, then add them to your program mix for variety, but only for about 10 to 15% of your routine. Having a week or two of machine based exercise only can give you an interesting change and bring you back you refreshed to your mainly free weight exercise program.

For more info on good exercises for fat burning and developing six pack abs, see our exercises articles here at Also we highly recommend getting Mike Geary's "Truth about Six Pack Abs" As you'll see, it's the most complete and honest guide to developing the ultimate set of six pack abs, or flat lean abdominals.

Source: Original article by Richard Beale August 2008

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