We’ve all seen the feature film-length infomercials about exercise gizmos that promise “chiseled” abs to rival Michelangelo’s David. And a quick Google search of “As Seen On TV exercise equipment” returns a staggering number of results. I asked three trainers to cut through the clever slogans, rebates, and “if you call in the next 30 minutes” deals to determine which products actually deliver and which are total BS.
While no two items in the “As Seen On TV” market are quite the same, Maillard Howell, owner of CrossFit Prospect Heights in Brooklyn, points out that they all share at least one thing in common: “They’re pretty genius on the level of super-laziness,” he says.
There’s no judgement here. Laziness at the gym can be an asset. It can prompt us to make our workouts efficient and smart instead of aimless. When our sloth-like tendencies are being commodified, we all need to make sure we’re informed shoppers so all of our living rooms don’t wind up looking like the Island of Misfit Training Modalities.
Take a deep breath before calling 1-800-GET-BUFF and read the fine print.
The best of the best (and the worst of the worst) “As Seen On TV” exercise equipment for working your abs
Best: Ab Roller Wheel, $13
“Ab rollouts are an advanced core exercise that prevents extension at the lumbar spine (lower back). Most people who complain of low back issues are prescribed ab exercises. ‘Anti-extension’ exercises, such as an ab rollout, will help stabilize the pelvis and spine. However, make note that these are an advanced exercise.” —Charlee Atkins, founder of Le Sweat
Worst: “Ab belts” of any kind!
“Any ‘electrical muscle stimulating device’ is completely and utterly unnecessary. That’s me being as polite as I possibly can. You actually need to move your body and take certain joints through certain range of motion’s using certain muscles with certain amounts of resistance in order to truly change the way your body looks and behaves. Save your money and actually exercise.” —Harley Pasternak, celebrity trainer to Mandy Moore and Miley Cyrus, among others
“You’ve gone from being able to do sit-ups for free in your living room, or your bedroom, or your hotel room to having it cost like $100 to wear something that will theoretically do the work for you. It’s clutter!” —Maillard Howell
Best: Core Coasters, $36
“Similar to an ab rollout, these also offer advanced versions of anti-extension exercises. These ‘coasters’ allow you to create an instability either at the hands or feet, depending on how you use it.” —Charlee Atkins
Worst: Any product that claims to take the “work” out of core work
Every trainer agrees: If your midsection doesn’t feel like it’s on fire, you’re probably not igniting your core.
Best: The Abs Company Ab Coaster PS500, $300
“I ordered this off of television a few years ago and brought it into my studio for clients to use. It’s awesome. You really feel your abdominals work and it doesn’t tweak your lower back. This is not a gimmick, it’s truly a great piece of equipment.” —Harley Pasternak
But wait, there’s more! If you want a great core workout for free, we got you:
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