When you walk into the gym you see people of all ages doing all sorts of exercises from free weights, to machines, to body weight exercise all with one target and that is to accomplish a specific fitness goals. Many of those goals consist of becoming better at running, increase your fitness level, compete in a particular sports, or even reduce certain body parts such as the stomach.
Lots of people do ab machines to help with targeting there stomach muscles, some change their diets, and others do a combination of both. If you want to strengthen your stomach muscles then you should learn to activate those muscles while you are working them out. One technique that I use is the “mind/muscle connection” which allows me to feel a particular muscle group as I’m exercising. Here’s an example: try flexing your bicep muscle during the concentric (contraction) and eccentric (relaxing) phase of the exercise as you are doing a bicep curl. It’s a lot harder isn’t it? Doing this while you are working the stomach muscles acts the same way. Too many people take pride in the adding tons of weight on the weighted ab machines as they do countless reps for an hour and a half in the gym. You may be sore in the stomach for the next couple of days, but you also may be sore in other parts of your both too like your arms, neck, etc.
What I try and teach people is to reduce the weight on the weighted ab machines or even just do body weight exercises as you try and contract your stomach during both phase of the exercise. This technique is really effective and will help with reducing injury, keep the focus on the stomach, reduce unwanted strain in your spine, and you can even do this at the comfort of your own home. Once you master this technique you are that much more effective in having that much more control with the muscles in your stomach.