There are many gimmicks and products out there hailed as miracle workers when it comes to helping you shape and sculpt your abs. The Ab Coaster came onto the fitness scene in 2007 announcing that it would “put you on the fast track to great abs!”
“Today their professional line Ab Coasters are present in around 10,000 fitness clubs and gyms across the country.”
The Ab Coaster was created by the Abs Company, a fledgling fitness company launched in New Jersey the previous year by Don Brown and Sean Gagnon. Brown owned a small group of health clubs in New Jersey, and Gagnon was his lead fitness trainer. They became very focused on the importance of core training and created several innovative products to make it easier for the average Joe to achieve a sleek and svelte physique.
The Ab Coaster was one of those products. Today their professional line Ab Coasters are present in around 10,000 fitness clubs and gyms across the country. They also have a home line for your own personal gym, which is what we are going to review today.
What is Core Training?
You hear a lot about building up your core today. It’s a primary focus of Pilates, yoga and exercise balls, and chances are you will find a machine or two at your local gym devoted to that. The core is a critical group of muscles that support and stabilize your body.
Located in your midsection, the core consists of your abdominal muscles, pelvic floor muscles and back muscles. These muscles, working together, power most of the body’s movement, supporting the spine when you walk, run, bend over, sit and stand up.
“Weak core muscles can result in chronic pain in the back, pelvic floor or other areas.”
Weak core muscles can result in chronic pain in the back, pelvic floor or other areas. Core strengthening exercises can help the muscles to work together better, providing the body with the support it needs.
There are four muscles in the abdominal group that the Ab Coaster works on strengthening:
Rectus abdominis – these are the muscles that form the six pack. Their purpose is to the move the body in the area between the ribs and pelvis.
Transversus abdominis – these are the deep abdominal muscles underneath the rectus abdominis. They works to stabilize and support the trunk.
External and internal oblique muscles – these muscle groups are on the sides of your body and are what makes it possible for you to twist and turn.
To try to tone these muscles, people usually turn to sit-ups or crunches. “Crunches are the most popular ab exercise, but they are not the most effective way to get great abs,” said co-creator Gagnon when the Ab Coaster first launched. “You won’t see gymnasts or other athletes with great abs doing crunches. In fact, to get a lean, slender waistline, they do the exact opposite of the ab crunch.”
Instead, these athletes often do an exercise called hanging leg raises. They hang suspended from a pull-up bar by their hands and draw their knees to their chests. This exercise sculpts the lower abs upward which traditional crunches are unable to do.
The problem with hanging leg raises is that the average person is not going to be able to them. It takes considerable upper body strength to hang for an extended period of time and draw your knees to your chest. Add to that twisting to one side while raising your knees to work on your obliques…yeah, forget it. I’ll just be over here in the corner hugging myself in failure.
This is why the Ab Coaster was born. Brown and Gagnon figured out an innovative way for the fitness-minded to achieve these targeted exercises without the massive upper body strength.
How It Works
The Ab Coaster has seen a few changes and redesigns over the years, but the basic premise has remained the same. The machine involves a curved track, a seat area for your knees and upper body resting area with handles. Users kneel on the high density, padded foam knee pads and rest their elbows on the top deck, holding onto the handles.
They then engage their abs to slowly bring their knees upward to their chest, sliding along the track and then slowly release, sliding the knees back downward along the track.
The knee seat is adjustable and allows you to turn your legs in multiple angles to work your obliques. The machine is made of all steel rails with easy move casters and nylon rollers.
“Weak core muscles can result in chronic pain in the back, pelvic floor or other areas.”
The key difference in using the Ab Coaster versus just doing traditional sit-ups or crunches is that it works from the lower abs upward. Those exercises do the opposite, making it difficult to actually have any effect on those lower abs. On the Ab Coaster, you will first engage your lower ab muscles as you start to glide your knees up, then the mid ab and finally the upper ab muscles complete the movement.
They did an electromyography test to monitor actual muscle activity. This is a diagnostic test used in the medical field to detect the health of muscles and nerves. It detects muscle contraction. The test found that the Ab Coaster really does engage and work those core muscles when the exercise is being done properly.
It also proclaims to be easier on the back and neck than doing traditional sit-ups or crunches. This is definitely true about the neck. Instead of contracting those muscles while lifting the weight of your head and pulling your torso upward into a crunch, it’s able to stay neutral. Your upper body is already upright and leaning on the upper body support.
The Abs Company sells several different models of the Ab Coaster. The base model is the Ab Coaster PS500. This machine is slightly smaller to take up less space in your home gym at L 51” x W 25” x H 50”. It weighs 70 pounds. It has a 300 pound weight limit. To add more resistance, it can hold 20 pounds of weight plates. It comes with a 1 year limited warranty on the frame and 90 day warranty on the roller bearings and knee pads.
The Ab Coaster CS1500 is a step-up from the PS500 and is used in the home or in light commercial settings like hotel fitness centers. It features adjustable hand grips and new stronger, thicker handles, a free-style motion seat and upgraded front and rear legs. It is slightly bigger at L 53” x W 27” x H 53” and weighs 90 pounds. It can accommodate up to 400 pounds and has the option to add 30 pounds in weights for added resistance.
The Ab Coaster Black model is the same as the PS500 in size and weight but is even sturdier construction. It comes with free motion seat like the CS1500, as well as a bonus exercise mat and 5 pound weight set. The Ab Coaster Black comes with a lifetime limited warranty.
Each of the models comes with an instruction manual, work-out DVD and Fast Track Meal Plan. The Ab Coaster is also available in commercial models but for the purpose of the review, we are looking at the home models only.
There are many pros to using the Ab Coaster for your abdominal workout. As we mentioned, the Ab Coaster does indeed engage and work your abdominal muscles. By stabilizing your upper body, it helps you to maintain the proper posture while performing the exercises.
“Many users report that if they are doing the exercises correctly it is easier on their back and neckthan doing traditional ab exercises.“
The Ab Coaster also eliminates the hip flexor movement. What are hip flexors? They are a group of muscles that bring your thighs and the trunk of your body together. We use them for walking, going up and down stairs and bending over. When you do traditional ab exercises like crunches and sit-ups, the hip flexors can take over, meaning your abs aren’t really getting the work out you were hoping for. This does not happen using the Ab Coaster because of the design of the machine. It really works your abs without bringing the hip flexors into action.
As we mentioned, the abs get worked from the bottom up using the Ab Coaster. The lower abdominal muscles often don’t get the work-out that the upper muscles do when you are doing traditional ab exercises. Using the Ab Coaster, they are first in line.
Many users report that if they are doing the exercises correctly it is easier on their back and neck than doing traditional ab exercises. In fact, people who report that they can’t do those types of exercises at all are able to do the Ab Coaster without an issue.
For the mind wanderers like me, the Ab Coaster has a digital counter so it keeps track of your reps for you. You can watch your favorite TV show, listen to music or an audiotape without paying attention to how many reps you’ve done.
The Ab Coaster really is made of quality, sturdy construction. We are talking heavy duty steel and tough bearings and rollers. Earlier models pre-2012 had trouble with rollers wearing out. Today’s models are built tough to last. There’s no rocking or shaking while you use it. The seat glides smoothly without sticking or making squeaking or other obnoxious noises.
I’m singing a lot of praise of the Ab Coaster, but of course, there are also cons.
For those not mechanically minded, there is obviously assembly required. It’s not particularly difficult to put together but is going to take you some time.
If you don’t learn how to use this machine properly and focus on maintaining good form with each rep, you can cheat, and your abs won’t really be getting the work out you desire. If you do the exercise too quickly, you add a little friend to the mix who makes it easier to do and spares your abs from working. That friend is momentum. If you start out by rolling backwards fast, you can then tap into swing momentum to bring your knees to your chest fast. Momentum does the work. Don’t cheat yourself. The key is learn how to do the exercise properly by reading the manual and watching the YouTube demos out there. Then use slow, controlled movement to make those abs work!
You can also get hurt by hyperextending your lower back if you are doing the exercise too quickly. Or you can get hurt if you add extra weight for added resistance before you are ready for it. Or if you do too many reps. Be careful, go slow and don’t overdo it to reduce the risk of injury. Some people’s backs just don’t like this machine. So you will have to determine if it’s right for you.
The Ab Coaster is great to work out your abs but that’s pretty much it. You’re not going to get a full body work-out with this machine. So you need to mix it up with other exercises in your routine.
The Ab Coaster is not a small, unobtrusive machine. It is going to take up some space in your home. It’s also heavy so it’s not something you are going to want to be moving around to get it out of the way. It’s going to need a permanent spot in your abode.
For some people with knee trouble, the kneeling action on the Ab Coaster can cause them pain and discomfort. Although the pads are thick, just staying in that form can be difficult for some folks. If you like the action of the Ab Coaster but it bothers your knees, take frequent breaks to stretch them out.
Some people complain that this machine doesn’t melt their belly fat. Well it’s not supposed to. It’s just one tool working in conjunction with several others in order to melt off the pounds.
Will I Lose Weight?
The Ab Coaster is not a miracle machine. It doesn’t give you a full body work-out. It’s not a cardio workout, which is one of the keys to losing belly fat. A cardiovascular workout is any exercise that raises your heart rate using large muscle movements. Examples of cardio workouts are aerobics, running, bike riding and swimming. If you aren’t sweating, you aren’t doing cardio.
The Ab Coaster is part of a system to lose weight. The system has four parts – using the Ab Coaster, getting cardio exercise, reducing your calorie intake and eating healthier. That’s why the Ab Coaster comes with a cardio work-out DVD and a guide for changing your eating habits.
If you use the Ab Coaster in conjunction with cardiovascular exercise and healthier eating, you will see results. You will begin to lose those extra pounds you don’t want around. You have to lose extra weight or you aren’t going to see that awesome toning you are doing to your abs anyway. Those muscles are hiding under belly fat.
Comparison to Other Machines
We’ve already given you several ways the Ab Coaster trumps traditional ab exercises like sit-ups and crunches, but how does it compare to similar machines on the market that work the abs?
An Ab roller or ab wheel is a self-propelled, inexpensive exercise equipment to help tone your abs. It is a wheel with two handles sticking out the sides that you hold onto with your hands. Typically users start out kneeling or standing. They then engage or tighten their abdominal muscles and roll the wheel away from them and then back toward them.
Ab rollers get the job done, but they also bring the hip flexors, arms, shoulders and back muscles into the mix. While good for an overall workout, they are not easy to use. They require upper body strength that beginners don’t have. It’s also easy to get hurt using a roller if you are not using proper form.
The Ab Glider is made by Proform and is similar in looks and concept to the Ab Coaster. However it doesn’t provide as much support to the upper body as the Ab Coaster, making it harder on your arms, neck and back. Users also report it isn’t nearly as sturdy or solid as the Ab Coaster.
There are also other ab generator machines out there. Most cannot meet the Ab Coaster in quality of construction or the upper body support. However, there are ones that are less expensive than the Ab Coaster. So if that is a concern, you may want to choose one of those less pricey options.
The Ab Coaster requires some investment to bring home but its quality construction, positive consumer reviews and real results makes it a valuable addition to your home gym. If you want to tone your abs but are unable to do crunches, sit-ups or hanging leg raises, the Ab Coaster is a great way to get this done. The Ab Coaster can be purchased on Amazon or the Abs Company website.
By purchasing the Ab Coaster, adding cardio to your exercise plan and changing your eating habits, you will see results and the emergence of the coveted six pack.