20 most worthless pieces of junk: #4 -- Ab rollers and other six-pack devices

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Dunlop's diseaseI have a little problem. Well, to be more precise, I have a few little problems: my transverse abdominus, internal obliques, external obliques, and rectus abdominus muscles. Collectively known as my abs, these muscles help me stand up straight, twist and turn, bend over, breathe, and lift things. Perhaps most importantly, they seem to be extremely important when it comes to keeping me looking fit.

Nowadays, I am generally content to watch my diet and do regular ab exercises. However, a few years ago, when I first noticed my belly button migrating away from my spine, I desperately cast around for an exercise item that would help me with my ever-growing belly. My first attempt was the Ab Roller.Basically a huge lawnmower wheel with a handle on either side, the Ab Roller -- as well as its cousins, the Ab Wheel and the Ab Roller Slide -- seems ridiculously simple. While on your knees, you grab the handles and roll forward, then roll back. A little tough at first, the process is pretty easy to master, and the user quickly finds him or herself pushing back and forth on the damn thing like some kind of psychotic wind-up toy.

Admittedly, the Ab Roller can, indeed, help with one's abs. The forward and backward pushing motion works the transverse abdominus, the girdle of muscle that looks so good on Michelangelo's David. The thing is, though, that a barbell can do exactly the same thing, as can a rollerskate, a skateboard, or even a towel if one has a linoleum floor.

Disgusted with the Ab Roller, I cast my gaze for another miracle tool to tighten up my belly. One day, I saw Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, in which the martial arts hero uses an electronic shock system to tighten his muscles while he goes about his daily business. Being inherently lazy, I decided to follow in Lee's footsteps. After all, what could be better than effortless abs?

I have to admit that I was a little nervous as I applied a liberal amount of what appeared to be KY jelly to my midsection, followed by a foam-padded belt that was outfitted with a 9-volt battery. However, the machine was actually pretty comfortable: even at its highest setting, it only gave me a slight cramping sensation in my belly.

Over the following weeks, however, I noticed something: while the machine seemed to eat batteries like the Energizer bunny, my belly wasn't getting any smaller. I later found out that over-the-counter ab belts are useful when one has absolutely no abdominal muscle tone; however, for those of us who aren't bedridden, they are pretty much a waste of time.

On the bright side, when I started exercising regularly and eating well, I discovered that I did, indeed, have abs. What's more, I have to admit that they may have been partly due to the Ab Roller and Ab Belt. More likely, however, they were the result of crunches, rotations, side-bends, and other exercises that I started doing!
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