Let’s be honest here: There’s really no need to get help from an ab exercise gadget if your only aim is to strengthen your stomach muscles. But if your goal is to engage your whole core—think back, hips, and butt as well as your abs—then that’s a different story. “The abs are at their best when the rest of the core is well-conditioned, since all of those muscles work together when we perform many kinds of exercise and movements,” says Dr. Michele Olson, professor of exercise science at Auburn University in Montgomery, Ala. “So you’ll be doing your abs a big favor if you use a gadget that targets the rest of your core as well,” she says. Here are three to try.
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1. Weighted Hula Hoop
Not only does hula hooping give your heart rate a serious boost (hello, fat burning!), but it also targets your abs and core in a big way. “Weighted hoops add even more challenge in the form of resistance, plus increase the number of calories you’re burning,” says Olson. “And they still provide the same fun they did when we were hooping it up as kids.” Translation: You’ll trim and tone your belly while having such a blast that you may forget you’re exercising.
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When you use these slippery discs under your feet or hands while doing push-ups, you’ll be calling on your core to keep you steady. “Your deep stabilizing ab and back muscles have to work extra hard to keep your body in position as you fully glide through each movement,” says Olson. Full-body bonus: The gadget targets your muscles through their entire range of motion since you slide all the way from start to finish, making it a terrific way to add oomph to moves like lunges and mountain climbers.
Imagine the result if a foam roller and a pulley system had a love child—that’s the CoreFitnessRoller. “It combines the stability challenges of a foam roller with the muscle-toning resistance of pulleys,” says Olson. Each move works multiple muscles while relying on—you guessed it—core strength to keep you balanced. One of Olson’s fave moves: hip extensions, which require you to kneel on the roller with one leg while using a pulley to work your butt and hamstrings with the opposite leg. Steady, now!
Want more Michele? Visit www.micheleolsonphd.com.