Pros: Works the abdominal and oblique muscles well; adjustable pedals; lightweight.
Cons: What I consider an unnecessary expense.
After reviewing the Ab Lounge and getting many e-mails I decided to review the Ab Lounge 2 comparing it to the Ab Lounge. There have been some problems with these including a recall due to people getting their fingers pinched when folding the Lounge. I have received many e-mails about the sizes of the machines. Fitness Quest, the makers of these machines, have come up with a better but more expensive machine. This is the Ab Lounge XL System which sells for $215.00. For the purpose of this review I will do some comparing and for your information I recommended both the Ab Lounge 2 and the Ab Lounge but for different reasons.
What is the Ab Lounge XL System:
The Ab Lounge XL is one model of lounges made by Fitness Quest. The purpose of the XL like all of them is to tighten and tone your upper and lower abdominal muscles and oblique muscles, which are found on the sides of your abdominal muscles. Unlike crunches, we are told that the machine supports your body, especially your head, neck and back, throughout the exercise.
We are told that the Ab Lounge XL works your abdominal muscles so well because of the jack knife motion. It takes you back beyond 180 degrees. We are told that the greater the range of motion the longer your ab muscles are working. I had a problem with this statement in my other reviews and got many questions about it. For that reason I will tell you at the end of my review why in my professional opinion going beyond 180 degrees is not something I would have my clients do. If I dont want them to then I dont want you to.
I noted the oblique muscles above. There are two layers. They are internal and external. They help flex your spine and stabilize your torso. Remember that when you work your abdominal muscles you are strengthening your back as well so even if you hate doing crunches and do not care if you ever have a 6 pack or even a flat stomach your back will thank you for working your ab muscles.
The Ab Lounge XL weighs the same as the Ab Lounge but comes in 4 pounds heavier than the Ab Lounge 2. The XL weighs 36 pounds. At 36 pounds I consider this machine easy to move.
The Ab Lounge XL will hold a person who weighs up to 275 pounds, which is the same as the Ab Lounge 2 and 25 pounds more than the Ab Lounge.
It measures 54" long x 31 3/4" wide x 45 1/2" high. These dimensions are the same as the Ab Lounge. The Ab Lounge 2 is shorter in length, narrower and a bit shorter in height.
I have maintained that doing crunches in proper form is the ideal and least expensive way to work your abdominal muscles. However for those people, because of weight or physical problems, cannot get down on the floor I like the fact that the Ab Lounge XL is off the floor. The material of the Lounge is flexible which can be good or bad. The bad is that once you get on it, you may have trouble getting off! I have not seen the XL next to the other two machines but it seems like the material is a bit stronger.
The Ab Lounge XL has a frame made of rolled steel. I feel that the frame is durable. Much of the A frame design of the Lounge machines are the same. I will discuss the material in a moment.
There is a 90-day warranty.
The XL comes with a workout video. Please watch it and talk with your doctor if you are new to exercising.
You will see this machine sold with what is called a Professional Package. For an additional $40 you will get a fitness computer to keep track of your reps and time; two tubing bands that attach directly to your Ab Lounge XL so you can work your chest and arms; an instructional DVD; firstpath.com CD Rom; and an extended limited warranty extending your warranty from 90 days to one year. I chose to review the XL without the Professional Package because the machines are identical. I think it is worth the $40 if you will use the tubes which add resistance, if you want the extended warranty and if youd like the DVD and CD Rom. If you have to hesitate save the money.
Jo, Your Personal Trainer, Tells You How This Works and a Closer Look at the XL:
The Ab Lounge XL is a simple piece of equipment. I agree with the claim that it cradles my body while supporting my head, neck, and back. One advantage to machines is that they force you to do a better crunch, i.e. one that is in good form in an easier manner than doing them on your own.
There are handles on the sides. The XL doesnt have full handle bars. They are in a horse shoe shape. I tend to be very critical of handles on machines. However I dont have a problem with the XLs handles. The machine is sturdy enough that if you hold onto a handle as you get on, it shouldnt tip but dont quote me on that. If you are a larger person or have balance problems be careful getting on and off the Ab Lounge XL.
After you are on you will then place your hands over your head and grab onto the strap. I can almost guarantee that the first time you do this you will not be able to figure out how to move the top part of you and the bottom at the same time but you can. You will do it once or twice and feel the technique.
As I pull myself up by the strap the bottom of the Ab Lounge XL comes up as well. Essentially this is what I call a double crunch and Fitness Quest calls a jack knife. As my head comes up my legs do as well forming a V shape. Since I am curling at my head and bringing my legs up at the same time I am working my entire abdominal area. That is all there is to doing a crunch with the Ab Lounge XL.
The XL is the newest model. Fitness Quest has made some good changes which should address many of your concerns.
~They have changed their folding mechanism. In fact if you have the older models you can contact Fitness Quest for a repair kit to alleviate the problem with the folding mechanism. Essentially what was happing is that when the Lounge was being folded people were catching their fingers on the hinges. The XL does not use a hinge. It has a lever. I found it very easy and safe to fold. I just pulled back on the lever and it folded. My fingers werent in the way of the Ab Lounge XL.
~Another upgrade is the material. The previous models are made of fabric. The XL is also made with fabric but it is considered breathable because there are little holes in the fabric that makes it mesh like. This adds a bit of comfort for me especially when hot. If I have workout shorts on and am sweating the new material on the XL doesnt stick to me. By the way the XL is black not blue like the others.
~A huge upgrade will alleviate the many e-mails I get regarding peoples height. I am 5 5" and never had a problem on the older models but short people did. Fitness quest has changed the wing-like foot rests into pedals making them more comfortable to put my feet on. In addition they have made the pedals adjustable. So I just slide the metal in or out to adjust the length of the pedal. The XL will fit, give or take, people who are 4 5" to 6 2" tall.
~Another addition are the iso grips. These are padded handles on each side of the top of the Lounge. I find these particularly helpful for beginners. These grips are comfortable to hold and though I am not a beginner I found doing the jack knife movement easier while holding onto the grips rather than the strap that goes across the top of the machine. The iso grips help me to work my oblique muscles also. I find that I can more easily put my legs down to the side and do a crunch while holding onto the grips rather than the strap.
There is a feature mentioned above that I said I would address. The Ab Lounge XL is advertised as a machine to use for a full range of motion. In my opinion this full range of motion goes to the point of hyper-extending. Full range of motions are excellent in weight training. I do not think the Ab Lounge XLs full range of motion is a positive feature. I think stretching your muscles to work your core is essential. However hyper-extending backward (going back to the point where your chest is lower than your waist) is never something I would suggest a client do. Please note that if you are doing Pilates or a Yoga pose and are experienced you may hyper-extend. This is a general statement for the average user.
Since we now know that crunches are most effective using a small range of motion hyper-extension makes no sense to me. In fact some will say that the range of motion should not be more than 30 degrees or so and I would agree with them. I have posted one e-mail I got below which comes from my Ab Lounge 2 review. You may disagree with me and thats fine. In fact I would love to hear your opinions if you are a personal trainer.
thank you for review of Ab lounger (Want to crunch together). Reason I am thinking to buy this gizmo besides crunches is the posibility to stretch (bend) my body backward. It should make my aging (67) body more flexible.
But you are sharply against it. Can you please explain what is the danger of doing full backward motion? Ladies on QVC were doing that without noticable problem.
Thank you for your time and thank you again for giving us ordinary folks the oportunity to read your opinions.
My response: Hi Thanks for writing. In classes like Pilates and Yoga some of the postures involve
hyper-extending. We are very careful and often modify. Those classes are different than the constant hyper-extension of the spinal column during the back phase of the ab lounge. I am going to give you some quotes from a
person whom I consider an expert - in weight lifting anyway - Arnold Shwarzenegger:
"When you do full range of motion exercises (meaning you complete the entire exercise - you dont go part of the way - in a bicep curl for example full range of motion would be starting with your arms by your side and lifting
them all the way to your shoulders. That is a full range of motion. Partial reps can be done as well - a different type of training- and that would not be a full range of motion). Like hyper-extensions you put so much strain on the lower back that it can take up to a week to fully recuperate."
Hyper-extending will strengthen the lower back because it is an isolating movement. However it can be very dangerous - not just my opinion.
In fact even on the Hyper-extension machine, Arnold writes, "Come back up until your torso is just above parallel. To prevent hyper-extension of your spine don't lift up any higher than this." (I will send you a picture if you need it but essentially it is a back bend.)
The ab lounge does the opposite. Rather than raising the back as I would do on a piece of equipment I am lowering it - same concept.
This is from a site that is talking about stability balls:
"Roll over the ball on your stomach until the ball supports your hips and torso; both your hands and feet should be able to touch the floor. Slowly lift your right leg and left arm and hold for 10-20 seconds. Slowly return
to the starting position and repeat with left leg and right arm. Be careful not to hyper-extend your lower spine or your neck."
Neck Relaxer - Turn and look over your right shoulder and hold. Repeat on the left side. Don't hyper-extend the neck or tilt it backward. Next, gently drop the head so that the ear goes toward the right shoulder and hold. Return to upright position. Repeat forward and on the left side. Keep the spine in an upright position and do not hyper-extend the neck, or tilt the head backward."
Ok so the bottom line is that I feel hyper-extensions can be dangerous. A 25- year old is much more flexible and there is little chance he or she will get hurt however there is research to suggest that stress on joints (such as
running for years and years starting at a young age) can do more damage to the joints than you will find in a non- runner.
Anyway this is a long winded answer. As a personal trainer, I was taught not to hyper-extend and not to allow clients to. I realize that it feels good to bend backward and stretch. I have no problem with that. Hope this helps but feel free to e-mail me back with any other questions.
My Final Thoughts:
I am always asked to recommend my favorite ab machine other than the floor! I do recommend the Ab Lounge XL. I think the changes Fitness Quest has made has alleviated concerns and my 3 star rating for the other two machines will go to 4 stars for the XL. I will recommend the Ab Lounge XL if you weigh less than 275 pounds. I would spend more without a doubt for the XL than any other model.
Do two sets of 25 crunches on the Ab Lounge XL. The Lounge will ensure better form than those done on the floor if you are new to crunches. Twenty five crunches in good form are better than 200 half hearted ones. Hold in your tummy the entire time you are using the machine.
This machine will be very enticing for children. Young children should not be on this machine and certainly not unsupervised since they can get hurt. I have no problem with pre-teens using the Ab Lounge XL as they are careful, have been taught properly how to use it and know not to hyper-extend.
All my fitness equipment reviews are listed on my profile page. If there is a piece you don't find let me know. Thanks for reading. jo