Tried and Tested – Core Exercisers

The key to retain good posture, reduce lower back ache and maintain mobility for longer is to strengthen your core muscles. There are plenty of machines on the market aimed at getting our abdominal muscles into shape in the comfort of our own homes, but can they really help? We put them to the test and sought an expert’s opinion on whether they are up to the job.

Thane WonderCore Smart, £84.99 (Superdrug)

They say:

The WonderCore Smart is a fantastic fitness product, designed to target your entire core like a laser, focusing on your upper, middle and lower abs and obliques.

Need to know:

Folds down for storage. Weighs just under 6kg. Maximum user weight 120kg (around 19 stone). Internal interlocking springs on either side allow for resistance to be adjusted, so you can make it harder as you get fitter.

What’s in the box?

The WonderCore is ready to go straight out of the box and instructions are included with a DVD. There is also a seven-day diet plan and an anti-slip mat for slippery floor surfaces. 3/5

What you do

There are six different exercises, with five of them being specific to core muscles. You need room to lie down while using it, making it easy for most to use in the comfort of their lounge. Instructions say to use appropriate sportswear, though it doesn’t specify what this is. Instructions illustrate what each exercise looks like but don’t tell you how many of each one to do or how often to do them. 3/5

What’s it like?

It was easy enough to use, with some exercises having more effect than others. Our tester felt the abs tucks were working but didn’t get much from the scissor kicks exercise. After doing the crunches, she experienced lower back pain so didn’t carry on. If you don’t have a DVD player, you can view the video online. While useful to show how to do the exercises, it took extensive research to find an online manual that said to stick to 30 minutes a day max if you’re new to the WonderCore. Our tester did a daily programme of 30-50 reps for each exercise over two weeks; it took around 20 minutes to complete. 3/5

Conclusion

After two weeks’ use, our tester found no discernible difference, but will continue to use the WonderCore Smart for some of the core exercises. The guidance issue needs to be addressed with a more comprehensive guide or an app provided to give better instruction and interaction. The diet plan was very basic, and didn’t include gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan options. 3/5

 

 

 

Flex Core 8, £69.99 (JML Direct)

They say:

The body-sculpting system which combines effective body-firming exercises with weight support for safe, controlled workouts.

Need to know

Folds down for storage. Weighs around 2kg. Maximum user weight 100kg (just under 16 stone). Push and slide buttons to increase or decrease resistance.

What’s in the box?

The Flex Core 8 machine, which is ready to use, instructions, DVD and eating plan. 3/5

What you do

This works on the same principles as the WonderCore Smart. Adjust the resistance, then work through the series of eight exercises including crunches, abs tucks and tricep dips – five of them are key to the core, but the instructions, optimistically called a “wallchart”, and DVD show you only how to do the exercises, but not how many you need to do, nor how often. 3/5

What’s it like?

Once she had found the right resistance for each exercise, our tester found the machine really supported her in doing the exercises. The crunches were a whole lot easier than without the machine and she felt her abs were getting a good workout. She did each exercise for four to five minutes every day. 4/5

Conclusion

After two weeks, our tester had lost half an inch from her waist. She had previously been following a fitness and nutrition programme but an injury meant she couldn’t do her usual kettlebell exercises. She continued her own diet as she felt the Flex Core 8’s supplied information wasn’t comprehensive. She could do most of the Flex Core 8 exercises and she felt that her core muscles were really strengthened. 4/5

SIXPAD Abs Fit, £149.99 (sixpad.uk)

They say:

The SIXPAD Abs Fit is advanced EMS training gear that specifically targets your abdominal muscles and helps to build core muscle strength.

Need to know

The SIXPAD is slim, ultralight and cordless so it’s very easy to store when not in use. It’s made of silicone and can be worn under clothing. Gel pads need to be covered when not in use so they don’t get dirty or lose their “stick”. They also need to be replaced after 30 uses or if they get dirty and stop sticking.

What’s in the box?

The SIXPAD, support belt, a set of gels, a battery and a short and to-the-point instruction booklet. It was very clear that people with heart conditions should not use this product about not using the product if any heart conditions, and people with other conditions should check with their GP before using it. 5/5

What you do:

Insert the battery, peel off the storage unit and apply to the skin. There are just two buttons on the SIXPAD – which makes it very easy to figure out. To turn on you simply press and hold the “up” button, then use “up” and “down” to determine the setting. 5/5

What’s it like?

While the SIXPAD is comfortable to wear, it restricts the bend through your middle so you need to stand up. Our tester used the opportunity to do housework for the 23-minute programme with warm-up and cool-down each day. The pads stuck well and you can see and feel your muscles being worked as the very bearable electric “shocks” cause the muscles to contract. 5/5

Conclusion:

Our tester lost around an inch and a half over the month, her core felt stronger and she felt the product did exactly what it promises to do. The product is worth the initial outlay; however, the replacement gel sheets cost £23.99, which is the equivalent of a gym membership so quite expensive. 4/5

Thane 5 Minute Shaper Pro, £92.99 (Argos)

They say:

Combines sit-ups with the concept of the yoga plank position to kick your core into overdrive.

Need to know

Weighs 10.5kg. Maximum user weight 100kg (just under 16 stone). It folds down and is easy to move due to the small wheels in the base.

What’s in the box?

The machine itself, which needs to be assembled (it took our tester 40 minutes) – with batteries, instructions and a user manual plus a seven-day, 1,200-calorie eating plan. Instructions clearly stated to seek medical advice in certain situations and if you are new to exercise. 4/5

What you do

Put your knees in the frame and then draw them up – so from a plank position up to an inverted crunch. There are three levels, increasing the incline of the machine as they go up. As she was already a gym-goer, our tester started on level 2, but felt a few twinges in her back so dropped down to level 1. The instructions suggest you use the equipment for just five minutes a day, but they don’t say how often. 5/5

What’s it like?

It was easy to use and though the range of exercises is limited, it does work the core muscles really well. However, our tester felt concerned that backs may be vulnerable to injury if just starting exercise from scratch. She loved the fact that it took just five minutes, which made it easy to build into her day. 5/5

Conclusion

Our tester didn’t notice any difference in her waist measurement but felt that her core muscles felt stronger. She prefers the gym environment but thinks this would be a good piece of kit for those who prefer to exercise at home. 4.5/5

 

 

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