New Findings Support Old Methods Average Sit-Up Puts The Crunch On High-Priced Abdominal Trainers, Says New American Council On Exercise Study

Posted: Feb 04, 1997 in

SAN DIEGO - A new study to be published in ACE FitnessMatters puts the crunch on dramatic claims from high-priced abdominal trainers like the Ab Roller Plus, ABSculptor, and ABWorks.

The study reveals that while popular abdominal devices claim to "trim 4-6 inches off your frame" and give you "the World’s Greatest Abs," none are more effective—or as inexpensive—as the old-fashioned crunch.

The Department of Kinesiology at California State University Northridge conducted the study, testing 19 subjects on the four best-selling abdominal trainers. Results will appear in the March/April issue of ACE FitnessMatters, published by the American Council On Exercise (ACE).

"The advertisements for these products made some interesting claims regarding the effectiveness of these devices over doing a traditional crunch," said Richard Cotton, editor of ACE FitnessMatters. "We were interested in finding out if these were actually true."

Nine men and 10 women averaging 22 years of age were studied. Researchers utilized four of the top-selling ab trainers - Ab Roller Plus, ABSculptor, AB Trainer, and ABWorks - analyzing five separate muscle groups of the body.

Each subject performed four different muscle movements, depending on the particular instructions of the device. Researchers used a technique called electromyography (EMG) to measure the electrical activity of muscle groups.

In addition to ab-related muscles, researchers also collected data on other areas involved in the exercises.

"We were also concerned with the support supplied by these devices for the head, neck and shoulder area, since this is a feature unique to these pieces of equipment," said Dr. William Whiting, principal researcher of the study.

Many of the subjects preferred the AB Trainer by Precise, based on the comfort of the swiveling headrest. Shorter subjects had difficulty reaching the overhead bar on both the ABSculptor and Ab Roller Plus. Researchers discovered that differences in body size would often determine which device is most comfortable for an individual—and that there is no single "best" device for all individuals.

The study concluded that there are no statistically significant differences in muscle activity for the basic crunch, oblique crunch, and reverse curl with the devices when compared to the same exercises performed without them.

"The bottom line is that these devices provide no apparent benefit or detriment when compared to a properly performed crunch,"” Cotton said. "But if any of these devices serves to motivate an individual to begin and continue an exercise program, then they would seem to have a benefit."

ACE FitnessMatters is a bi-monthly magazine providing fitness professionals and enthusiasts with a "bible" of timely and updated health and fitness information. For more information on ACE FitnessMatters and to subscribe, call (800) 825-3636.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the benefits of physical activity and protecting consumers against unsafe and ineffective fitness products and instruction. As the nation’s "workout watchdog," ACE conducts university-based research and testing that targets fitness products and trends. ACE sets standards for fitness professionals and is the world’s largest nonprofit fitness certifying organization. For more information on ACE and its programs, call (800) 825-3636 or log onto the ACE Web site at

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