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The Ab Lounger (AL) is a popular piece of ab equipment that has been on the market for a number of years. Losing belly fat and love handles is a primary goal for many Americans.
While the AL will work your ab muscles, there are much more effective ways to do it that are safer, and cost nothing.
Your ab muscles will get a workout when using the AL. No doubt about that. They have to contract strongly to stiffen the spine as you flex your hips (bending in the middle).
Recent research has shown that the core should be trained differently than your limb muscles. The focus should be on training the core for stability and stiffening vs. movement through spinal flexion.
So the AL trains your abs without much spine flexion and primarily with a static contraction.
That's good. The downfall of the machine is that the primary movement performed when using it is Hip Flexion. That's not good.
Hip Flexion Focus The primary movement involved when using the AL is hip flexion, which is bringing the thigh up towards the abdomen (jackknife).
When you do a crunch, the movement is spine flexion. The muscles that produce hip flexion attach on your pelvis, spine, and thigh. They aren't ab muscles. So while your ab muscles are involved, the AL emphasizes muscles other than your abs.
In addition, overdeveloped and tight hip flexors can contribute to lower back pain by causing the pelvis to tilt forward.
Risking Your Back Besides targeting your hip flexor muscles (which can lead to back problems), the machine allows you to hyperextend your back at the bottom of the movement (when you're fully stretched out). This can put potentially damaging pressure on your low spine.
Effectiveness A recent study at Slippery Rock University (as reported in Men's Health/ Sept 2010) measured muscle activation in 5 different ab gadgets compared to the classic sit up.
In both upper and lower ab activation the sit up beat the AL. In fact, the AL came in 5th in both categories.
Fat Loss Any talk of losing love handles or fat loss from using any piece of ab equipment is false. Spot reducing doesn't work. Working your ab muscles won't burn the fat in your abdominal area.
That can only come from expending more calories than you're consuming through a combination of diet and exercise (cardio and strength training).
Verdict: The Ab Lounger costs over a $100, is less effective than sit ups, takes up space in your house, and could potentially injure your back. Save your money and save your back. Just say no to the Ab Lounger.
Alternatives There are many more effective ways to work your abs other than an AL or sit ups/crunches. The Plank, Side Plank, Ab Wheel, and the Exercise Ball Roll Out are examples of superior ab exercises. All of them involve little or no spine movement (making them safer) and work your core in a way that crunches can't match.