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Updated April 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best ab mats

It’s not hard to create an in-home gym regimen that is comprehensive, intense, and progressive using only a few items. There are various exercises you can perform to tone and strengthen every muscle of your body. However, sometimes proper form can be elusive without a bit of guidance or help. An ab mat offers comfort and support when performing crunches and other ab-focused exercises. 

These small, high-density foam mats fit into the curve of your back to support and protect your spine and hips. With your back slightly arched, you can achieve a full range of motion during a crunch to get the maximum benefits of the exercise. With an ab mat, you perform the exercise properly, not using your hips to get a boost, for example. This allows you to focus on the form of your exercise without experiencing any unnecessary pain or discomfort. What’s more, you’re not wasting time and energy improperly performing the exercise.

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Ab mats are commonly used as a means to progress to more intense workouts in some comprehensive fitness training programs.

Key considerations

Benefits of an ab mat

An ab mat is meant to support and stabilize your back so you can perform the full range of motion required for an effective crunch. It’s easy to “cheat” without an ab mat, using your hips instead of your core to help perform the motion. This not only places unsafe pressure and tension on your hip flexors, but it also diminishes the benefits of the workout. When transitioning to an ab mat, you may find crunches much more difficult. If so, you were likely not performing the crunches properly and not getting the full benefit.

Drawbacks

Ab mats are best used by experienced exercisers and may not be suitable for those just starting a home workout routine. Because they are all about the same size, they may not be an effective tool for all users. What’s more, an ab mat is not a comprehensive home workout tool and doesn’t help with many exercises that focus on the arms, legs, back, chest, or cardiovascular system.

Expert TIp
Perform sit-ups according to your fitness and skill level in order to avoid injury and get the most benefit from the exercise.
BestReviews Fitness Expert

How to use an ab mat

Position: To use the ab mat, place it on the floor, and sit with your lower back up against the end of the mat with a slight incline. The steeper curve is at the top of the mat, where your shoulders will make contact. When you lean back, feel the mat fit against the length of your spine while your tailbone stays in contact with the floor. Once situated, you can begin your exercises.

Exercises: There is a wide range of popular and effective exercises you can perform using an ab mat. It’s important to learn what's possible and then use that information to create a workout plan or regimen that’s right for you. 

You can do crunches with your arms crossed on your chest or with your arms extended over your head. You can also do reverse crunches in which your back stays on the mat and you lift your legs. You can integrate a slight twist into the crunch to work the oblique muscles on your sides, or hold weights or a yoga ball as you crunch to tone or strengthen your arms or chest. Bicycle crunches, in which you bring a knee to the opposite elbow, and Russian twists, in which you sweep your hands (with or without weights) side to side across your abdomen with your torso raised, can also be done with an ab mat. There are also some exercises you can do lying prone with the ab mat under your stomach.

Size

Ab mats are not adjustable, and most are about the same size: about 15 inches long and 12 inches wide. At their highest point, they’re 2 or 3 inches tall. As a result, an ab mat may not fit everyone perfectly. If possible, it’s useful to test one before purchasing. Due to their size and light weight, an ab mat is easy to store and transport.

Expert TIp
Place the ab mat under your lumbar spine with the higher arching part facing your glutes (butt). This will create the support needed for the abdominals to move through their full range of motion. 
BestReviews Fitness Expert

Features

Color

Most ab mats come in solid black with the company’s logo in color, but some are available with an accent color, such as blue or yellow. While the color doesn’t affect the mat’s performance in any way, you might want to match it to other exercise equipment you own, such as a yoga mat or balance ball.

Extension

Some ab mats come with a mat extension to help support and protect your tailbone. Instead of sitting on the floor against the ab mat, you can sit on the mat connected to the ab mat. This mat is shorter than a typical exercise or yoga mat, but it can cushion your tailbone and glutes. An ab mat with a mat extension may benefit anyone with lower back pain. 

Extras

Some ab mats come with resistance bands, which can be incorporated in your ab workout or used for stretching, flexibility, and balance exercises. Resistance bands can be affixed to doorknobs, doorframes, or a stable piece of furniture for an effective home workout.  

Expert TIp
Ensuring that the mat is against the arch of your spine, lay back against it, and bring your feet together. This ensures that you open up your hip flexors and engages the use of your abdomen, avoiding the use of your hips during a sit-up.
BestReviews Fitness Expert

Ab mat prices

Inexpensive

For $15 or less, you can find a decent ab mat that is comfortable, light, and effective.

Mid-range

Ab mats in the $15 to $30 range likely come from well-known companies in the exercise industry and may be more durable than cheaper options.

Expensive

Ab mats that cost over $30 usually come with extra accessories, such as resistance bands.

Be patient! There is no one exercise or device that will instantly give you a toned body. It takes time and dedication to reach your fitness goals.

STAFF
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Tips

  • Clean the ab mat after use. Keep your ab mat clean and safe by wiping it down after every workout. Even if no one else is using it, cleaning it keeps sweat residue, bacteria, and odors at bay.
  • Remember to stretch. Stretching before and after your workout helps your muscles perform their full range of motion and helps prevent injury.
  • Track your workouts. It’s useful to keep a tally of your reps and sets, as well as how long and how often you work out. A manual or digital tracker helps with monitoring and assessing your progress.
  • Practice good form. An ab mat helps position your hips, but you still need to pay attention to the position of the rest of your body to do an effective crunch. Keep your feet firmly on the floor and make sure you’re not putting any pressure on your neck. 
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You may feel like you’re struggling the first time you perform a sit-up using an ab mat. The ab mat helps you use proper form, and with consistent use you’ll soon get stronger.

FAQ

Q. Can I use the ab mat outside?

A. The ab mat can be used to exercise outside provided the surface is free of pebbles or anything that could be uncomfortable for you or damage the mat. In order to perform crunches safely and effectively, you also want to make sure the mat is on a level surface. A gym or yoga mat under the ab mat can help with any uneven or uncomfortable surfaces.

Q. What size ab mat should I purchase?

A. Ab mats are essentially one-size-fits-all. They’re mostly geared toward those who are already active and regularly work out at home. It’s worth trying to adjust the placement of the mat relative to your body. You want the exercise to feel comfortable, but it also needs to challenge your core and prevent you from using your hips to perform the exercise. 

Q. How do I take care of my ab mat?

A. Just like your other home exercise equipment, you should clean and dry your ab mat after each use to prevent the buildup of bacteria and odors. Ad mats don’t absorb sweat, but you’ll want to make sure your mat is clean and dry before storing it. Your ab mat should last through years of regular use if you take care of it.

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