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What is an Ab Rocker?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Feb 06, 2024
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The Ab Rocker, which might also be sold as an Ab Trainer, is a small, portable version of some types of abdominal exercise machines. It’s used while performing modified sit-ups and when first released to the public several decades ago, it was marketed as one of the best ways to work on stomach muscles and reduce fat, while at the same time avoiding the stresses on the neck that tend to be caused by sit-ups. In this latter goal, it tends to be successful, but many fitness experts question the qualities of the machine and suggest there are both better and less expensive ways to get a flat stomach.

In appearance, an Ab Rocker looks like a semi-circle. It has a small pad that rests on the floor and that cushions the neck. When on the floor, the person reaches up, resting the elbows on small pads in the middle, and holds the top portion of the rocker. When moving up in a sit-up, the rocker keeps the body more stable, so the motion is forward and up and the neck remains supported by the neck pad. The curved design of the Ab Rocker allows for a fluid movement in the sit-up.

Many of these machines are sold with videos or instructions on how to do several modified sit-ups. Cost of the Ab Rocker can vary between about $50-100 US Dollars (USD). They may be sold online, in some sporting good stores, and occasionally on televised advertisements. People might also find used ones at garage sales, flea markets and bidding sites such as Ebay®. Very occasionally, local health clubs have these too.

The reason the Ab Rocker is now more difficult to find is because after careful review, many fitness experts believe the design of the machine makes it not very effective. The idea of relying on a machine to keep the body aligned during a sit-up is actually detrimental to crafting quality abs. Instead, using the side muscles to maintain alignment works core muscles more. Arguably the best sit-up variants involve twisting the body from side to side, so that all core muscles are engaged.

Another difficulty with a single machine is that it’s impossible to spot eliminate fat. Fat elimination comes from cardiovascular exercise, and an Ab Rocker doesn’t provide this. While the Rocker could have some effect on the front abdominal muscles, appearance may not greatly change without weight loss. People wishing for a flatter stomach should definitely plan to incorporate aerobic exercise and healthy diet into a lifestyle. Even then, it isn’t always easy to predict where fat will be spot reduced.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By Cageybird — On Feb 10, 2014

@Phaedrus, I wouldn't choose the Ab Rocker over other abdominal machines, but I did at least feel some core engagement when I used it. Even if you think you're using your back muscles or your arms to cheat your way up, your abdominal muscles still have to do some work. I'd say the Ab Rocker is better than nothing if you want to start an exercise program with affordable equipment.

By Phaedrus — On Feb 09, 2014

One thing I've noticed about an Ab Rocker is that momentum can take over very easily. A personal trainer told me that an exercise should engage the right muscles to be effective. I can fling myself hard enough to do a sit-up or a pull-up, but I'm not really using my muscles to do it. I felt like I was using my arms and back to push myself up on the Ab Rocker, not contracting my abdominal muscles that much.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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