Best Ab Mat of 2022. Reviews and Buyer’s Guide:

Ab mats (also known as sit up pads) are useful in guiding the spine to perform a full range of motion in a safe and comfortable manner. Workouts that contain big number of reps such as Crossfit WOD’s or ‘Throwdown’ style workout challenges have sparked a growing popularity in ab mats over recent years. Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking of adding an ab mat to your home gym set up…

What is an Ab Mat?

Ab mats are a small, firm cushion that is used to support the lumbar spine and allow the user to extend backwards past neutral before performing a sit up. It is useful for guiding the spine in a safe and controlled manner and improves form when performing sit up exercises. It’s common (especially when performing large numbers of reps) for people to start pull on their necks or relying on hip flexors to complete the movement. An ab mat helps to keep you honest and safe, plus it forces you to work your abs through the full range of motion, so you get more bang for your buck with every repetition!

What are the benefits of an Ab Mat?

Everyone who is trying to improve their body composition is seeking a flatter, more defined stomach. You probably know that the biggest part of having great abs is losing the belly fat on top , so if you haven’t done so already, it’s time to cut the carbs, my friend. Like any muscle group, however, if you want more definition and strength, it’s reps, reps, reps that target the area you want to improve.

In order to gain maximum strength through any body part, the key is to work it in it’s full range of motion. Just like it’s better to use resistance bands to perform pull ups in a full range of movement, an ab mat is a tool to allow your spine to extend backwards and switch your abdominal muscles on for longer. A regular sit up with your back flat on the floor only requires you to contract your abs for the end range of movement. Once your back extends over the ab mat, you will be working your core even to get your spine back to the neutral point, where you regular sit ups begin!

Another benefit of using an ab mat is that is alleviates some of the load that can be taken on my your hip flexors. Pretty much everyone I know has tight hip flexors (myself included),l which is largely due to the amount of time we spend in a seated position (working at a desk, driving etc). When your hip flexors are tight, it’s common for them to switch on and compensate for your abs during sit ups. Its the reason why I don’t recommend having a friend hold your feet when performing sit ups or locking them under a barbell. Doing this only encourages you to use your hip flexors to get you up there, instead of your abdominal muscles. If you can’t do as many with your feet planted on the floor unaided, that’s fine, do less. if you can’t do any that way, do a smaller crunch and keep working on it!

benefits of using an ab mat

How do you use an Ab Mat?

Ab mats aren’t complicated to use, but the main thing to remember is which way is around it goes. To be honest, it’s pretty obvious when you have it wrong because it’s not comfortable if it’s the wrong way round!

Place our ab mat underneath you lumbar spine or lower back. The higher arching side should be facing towards your butt. Lay back with your back pressed against the pad. You should feel like your back is slightly extended, but supported comfortably. I suggest doing your sit ups in the ‘butterfly’ position, that is with your knees bent and soles of your feet together. It’s a great way of keeping your hip flexors out of the exercise and really forcing your abdominal muscles to do the work!

When you do your sit ups, you can increase the difficulty depending on where you place your hands. Beginners are best with their arms straight out in front of their chest as they come up, but if you’re nailing this, you can try crossing your arms over your chest. If you really want to feel the burn, do sit ups with your arms extended straight above your head!

You can use an ab mat to do more than just sit ups too. You can target your obliques by placing the pad under your side and performing side crunches.

The Best Ab Mats of 2022

There are a lot of abdominal mats available to buy, and it can be hard to know where to start. To save you time, I’ve narrowed down some of my favorite ab mat products available right now. Here’s a quick summary, but keep scrolling for a more detailed buying guide of each of these items.
Full disclosure, as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases that result from the information I’ve provided here.

NameDimensionsShipping WeightWhy I Rate It 
BalanceFrom Ab Mat15" x 12" x 2" (large)
10" x 12" x 2" (small)
1.7 lb
Super affordable and comes in 2 sizes
Athlos Fitness Ab Mat 14.7" x 12.6 " x 3.3"1.5 lbThe tailbone protector is a nice feature.
Power Guidance Sit Up Mat13" x 9.84" x 2.76"1.25 lbIt has 4 times as many good customer reviews as its' competitors.
Yes4All Ab Exercise Mat 14.45" x 11.8" x 2.68"1.54 lbAffordable.

So, what is the best ab mat for your needs?

As with all fitness equipment, there are factors to consider such as how much you want to spend, how much space you have, your size, weight and ability level and how much use the piece of equipment is going to get. Ab mats are pretty simple pieces of gear, so there isn’t as much to weight up as there might be with something like a treadmill or a pull up bar, but even so, there are differences between brands.

#1. BalanceFrom Ab Mat

The BalanceFrom Ab Mat is as basic as they come, but that’s not a bad thing. It means that it’s pretty much the cheapest ab mat you’ll find anywhere. There are some items I recommend investing good money into such as quality running shoes, but ab mats aren’t a complicated piece of equipment. The main point of difference with abdominal mats is sizing and that’s where I think BalanceFrom has nailed it, by created 2 different size ab mats. If you aren’t an ‘average’ size person, you might consider this product because you know that the mat you choose is more likely to be comfortable for you. A lot of brands just make one size fits all, which might cover 80% of the population, but not quite cut it for those at either end of the spectrum. If you’re particularly tall or petite, maybe you should consider an ab mat designed for a specific size category. The larger size BalanceFrom abdominal mat is more of a standard ab mat size – my friend is 5’2″ and finds the small one really comfortable.

One thing to note is that the BalanceFrom ab mat is quite firm, definitely made of firmer stuff than some other brands I’ve tried. This isn’t a huge issue, but means you might feel a little more instability than with a more flexible version.

#2. Athlos Fitness AbMat with Tailbone Protector

I really like the inclusion of the tailbone protector with this product. It doesn’t really take up extra storage space as it folds neatly back on itself, but it does make for a more comfortable experience if you’re doing high repetitions on a hard floor. There are a few other brands that offer abdominal mats both with and without tailbone protection too. If you do buy a product with the built in tailbone protection, it’s important to make sure there is an anti slip surface on the underside of the mat. It’s super annoying when your ab mat keeps sliding around while you’re exercising!

The tailbone protection is such a nice padded surface for using during other movements too, such as headstands or stretches where you are taking a lot of weight through your knees. If you have a particularly long torso, beware that the tailbone protector may possibly feel uncomfortable if it just doesn’t align with your body. If that’s the case though, you shouldn’t have any trouble arranging a return.

#3. Power Guidance Sit Up Mat

The Power Guidance sit up mat is a really safe bet when it comes to choosing an ab mat. Available both with and without the built in tailbone protector, it’s an affordable product with overwhelmingly positive feedback according to Amazon customers. The high density foam inside this product is more on the firmer side of abdominal mats, but it does soften a little once it’s been broken in and used a bit. A local Crossfitter friend of mine compared the Power Guidance mat to the ones used at his Crossfit gym and confirmed it is quite a bit harder. It comes down to personal preference I guess – I think if you’re a leaner individual, or a more petite frame, you might find the harder ab mats more uncomfortable when compared to a slightly softer brand. A quick eyeball over Amazon customer reviews show that the main dissatisfaction by far with this product is it’s level of firmness. With more than 74% five star reviews though, I wouldn’t be quick to write it off. It’s extremely well prices and the non-slip surface underneath should keep you from sliding around on smooth floors too.

#4. Yes4All Abdominal Exercise Mat

With a 30 degree arch, the Yes4All ab mat aligns nicely with the curve of your lower back. It’s a budget friendly option for a basic piece of equipment. You can buy the Yes4All ab mat with or without tailbone protection.

Best Pull Up Assist Bands of 2022

One of the most effective exercises to build upper body strength and muscle is the humble pull up. Pull up assist bands are an excellent tool in both working you way towards being able to do full unassisted pull ups, or for improving your technique if you can already get your chest up to the bar. The most common mistake I see with pull ups is people who only execute the movement in a small range and don’t allow themselves to lower fully before coming back up to the bar. This is generally due to a lack of strength in the end range, or limited mobility through the shoulders.

How to use pull up assist bands:

Like all fitness equipment, it’s important to regularly inspect your gear for signs of wear or damage. We’ve all seen the home gym fails on YouTube and all jokes aside, you can suffer some really serious injuries if some of this equipment goes wrong during a workout. Pull up assist bands can sustain wear over time, especially if they’ve been looped over a rough edge or surface.

Before every workout, give your pull up assist bands a visual inspection and do not use if you think they’re damages. This is a relatively inexpensive piece of gear, so it’s not worth risking injury if you think it needs replacing!

Always complete a general warm up for 5-10 minutes before starting your workout and do some light mobility work through the shoulders and back to get the right muscles activated. It’s important to keep your core switched on during any exercises and remember to breathe! Exercises using a resistance band should be performed slowly, in a controlled manner. Your focus should be on getting the full range of movement, not maximum weight or reps.

Pull up assist bands come in different thicknesses / resistance levels depending on your needs. I suggest buying a pack with several different resistance levels in it so you can increase or decrease the level of resistance / assistance as required. These bands can be used for a huge range of different exercises, not just pull ups, so a variety of resistance levels will mean you can do more with them.

Using Resistance Bands for Pull Ups:

To attach your band to the pull up bar, fold the band over the bar, then pull one side through the other to create a choke knot (see image below). Your band should sit firmly on the bar and have a long loop dangling down in the middle.

best pull up assist bands 2022

Depending on how high you can lift your leg, you might find it helpful to stand on a box or step to get yourself into the band to begin with. Stretch the band down and place one or both feet (or your knees if you prefer) into the loop of the band. Grip the bar in your desired grip position for pull ups / chin ups and get yourself centered

Maintaining a stable body position with your core activated, pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar. It’s important to focus on proper technique, so you are using the correct muscle groups and getting the maximum benefit from these exercises. Your shoulders should be down away from your ears, your chest should be out and shoulder blades squeezing together. At the top, pause for one to two seconds and then lower yourself back to the start position, maintaining control. The eccentric part of this movement (that is, the lowering back down) is super beneficial when done slowly and controlled. If you can fight against gravity and make this movement as slow as possible, you will get much more bang for your buck with your pull ups!

Using pull up assist bands for beginners:

So, what if you can’t pull yourself up to the bar yet? A thicker resistance band will provide more assistance in getting you up to the bar as it will support more of your weight, so adjusting the difficulty level of your resistance band is an obvious place to start. If you’re just starting out, or recovering from injury, you might find that even the thickest resistance band you have available is still not enough support to get you all the way to the bar. A good way to work around this is to perform eccentric pull ups only. This means you only do the lowering portion of the movement, but do it as slowly as you can to fight against gravity. You will need to start on a box of some sort so you begin each rep with your chin already at the bar, then use the resistance band to help you slowly lower all the way down until your arms are extended. Place a foot back on the floor, climb back on the box and repeat.

resistance bands for pull ups 2022

Choosing the right size pull up assist bands:

As I mentioned previously, a multi-pack of resistance bands is a great way to give yourself versatility in how you can incorporate pull up assist bands into your workouts. You can also adjust the level of resistance of a single band to gradually increase or decrease the level of difficulty.

Adding Resistance

By wrapping your band around the bar an extra time, you can shorten the length of the band from the attachment point.

Providing Assistance

By starting with the band wrapped around the bar more, you can then increase the length of the band on exercises such as pull ups to increase the assistance given. If you only have thinner assist bands available, you can always combine bands together to provide extra assistance. As your your strength increases, remove each band.

What do the different colors mean?

Different manufacturers use different color ratings to identify their resistance bands. They are generally categorized by weight, so it’s important to check the specific brand your looking to purchase to make sure you pick the assistance bands that are right for your needs. Visually, a thicker band is usually more resistant that a thinner one,but it all comes down to the tension in the rubber, so make sure you look at the specifications.

You might consider what exercises you want to perform with your resistance bands too. I find a thicker, wider bands more comfortable to stand or sink a knee into for pull ups, but I like a thinner band for exercises where I’m gripping on to it. You do you.

 Pull up assist buying Guide

Here’s my 2022 pick of the best pull up assist bands to get your fitness goals firing. Just a reminder that as an Amazon Associate, I can earn from qualifying purchases that result from this website.

LEEKEY 4 Pack Resistance Bands

This multi pack from Leekey is a great starter kit that should meet all your resistance band needs. It’s affordable and comes with thousands of positive reviews on Amazon, so you can feel confident spending your money on a product that has had that many satisfied customers. The bands in this pack include:
Red Band (15 – 35 lbs)
Black Band (25 – 65 lbs)
Purple Band (35 – 85 lbs)
Green Band (50-125lbs) .

The red band in this pack is a little stronger resistance than some of the lightest bands in other multi-packs, so if you want something super lightweight, make sure this isn’t going to pack too much punch for you. These bands can snap eventually and there are several reports of snapping occurring, but you should be seeing evidence of aging through cracks in the rubber before any major failures occur. As I mentioned above, it’s important to inspect your gear regularly! The thinner bands are the ones most prone to failure.

WODFitters Pull Up Bands 5 Band Set

From as light as 10lbs up to a heft 175lbs, this five pack of pull up assist bands will have you covered for exercises that target every area of the body. An excellent investment for a home gym set up, where you might be short on space or on a limited budget. You’re probably paying a slight premium because of the Crossfit flavor in the marketing here, but you can be pretty sure of a quality product. All these bands are 41″ in length, but the resistance level varies as follows:
Red Band: 10lbs – 35 lbs (0.5″ width)
Black Band: 30 – 60 lbs (0.75″ width)
Purple Band: 40 – 80 lbs (1.25″ width)
Green Band: 50 – 125 lbs (1.75″ width)
Blue Band: 65 – 175 lbs (2.5″ width)

As with many things in life, you get what you pay for. The WODFitter bands do come at a more premium price, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence from customer reviews that these bad boys are durable AF and will last whole lot longer than their cheaper counterparts. You need to weight up how much use you think you’ll be getting out of them when deciding how much to invest. I think that once you’ve had a 40″ rubber band snap on you once, that you’ll be looking to the more expensive versions to minimize your chances of that happening again!