Many exercisers have a goal of developing rock-hard вЂњsix-packвЂќ abs. You can find several exercise machines that will assist in your quest by helping you replicate crunches, as you move your upper torso back and forth against the machine's resistance to work your abdominal muscles. If crunch machines aren't available at your gym, you can also consider some alternatives.
Seated Crunch Machine
Seated crunch machines come in slightly different varieties, but the principle is the same. You sit in the machine's seat, anchor your feet -- or place them flat on the floor -- and then bend forward from the waist as you press against the machine's resistance. In some machines, you may grasp handles located behind your head. In others, you may press your folded arms or your chest against a resistance pad. The machines target the rectus abdominis in front of your lower torso and also work the obliques on the sides of your abdomen.
Leg-Raise Crunch Machine
You can increase the intensity of your abs routine by using a leg-raise crunch machine. The upper part of the device works similarly to the standard crunch machine. Place your feet beneath resistance pads, and as you bend forward from the waist, lift your knees toward your torso. Like the crunch machine, you'll target the rectus abdominis and obliques, but you'll also work a larger number of stabilizing muscles in your thighs, chest, back, shoulders and arms.
Alternatives to Crunch Machines
If you wish to perform resisted crunches or situps, but you don't have access to a crunch machine, lie on a decline bench, anchor your feet at the top of the bench and perform crunches or situps while holding a barbell with your arms extended toward the ceiling. You can also use a cable machine to perform weighted crunches. Secure a double-handled rope attachment to a medium-cable machine, sit with your back to the machine and hold the handles on either side of your neck. Keep your hands in place so you pull the ropes as you bend forward from the waist.
Abdominal Exercise Considerations
No matter which type of machine or free weight you use to strengthen your abs, warm up first with five to 10 minutes of light cardio activity, such as jogging or riding an exercise bike, for example. Remember that strengthening your abs is only half the battle. Any excess fat sitting on top of your belly will remain there unless you establish a calorie deficit. Working your midsection won't spot-reduce the fat in that area, but burning more calories than you consume will trim the fat across your body, including any fat covering your abs.
About the Author
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.