- This is a guest post by Erica Chapman -
And now…for a fitness Bag-O-Tricks!
Sure, if you really wanted to get toned, you’d develop a regular jogging routine accompanied by some time with the weight machines, and maybe toss in a little yoga for good measure. But what if you're dying for a quick fix? Are any of those gadgets out there that claim to make your abs and glutes glisten like Jessica Biel's really worth the cash...or the hassle?
Well…I can’t exactly answer that, having tried none of these toys myself. But what I have done is hours of internet research! I’ve looked at pictures, read reviews, and closed my eyes to visualize BOING-ing and Fitness-Disc-ing. OK, maybe not that last one.
Here’s one woman’s take on a crop of newfangled thingamajiggies claiming to speed your body towards goddess-dom. Experiment at your own risk!
THE VIBRATION CRAZE
I suppose it can’t really be called a craze when its potential health benefits were discovered in the 1960’s. Russian scientists looking for a way to stave off bone-density loss in their astronauts hit upon the technology--today, though, a vibration machine’s greatest claim to fame may be cellulite reduction (something I doubt Russian astronauts were too concerned with). Basically, you get up on a plate and start doing your lunges, squats, or tree poses, and all the while the ground shakes underneath you, causing your muscles to involuntarily contract at a rapid rate. This is apparently good for muscle tone, strengthening ligaments, improving circulation and blood flow, and most importantly, cutting your workout time in half.
The main venue for this workout is a gym-style machine called the Power Plate that you can purchase for your home to the tune of $1500 and up. Why spend the cash? Find a spa or gym near you that has one if you’re dying to test it out—Manhattan’s Station Fitness offers 25-30 minute classes on the machines for $35. These vibration classes are small and concentrated with women who don't seem to mind the price tag. But vibrate carefully: some studies have indicated that too much shaking can cause back and joint issues, and even scarier problems like retinal tears. My take? Try it for novelty’s sake (I admit, I’m curious), but don’t overdo it. The high-powered shaking can send jarring waves through your head and rattle your brain--yikes!
However, if the vibration thing’s got you intrigued, you may want to check out the Flexi-Bar which sells for $86 on Amazon. It’s based on the same technology, but it’s human-powered, meaning you control the vibrations, and you use your own muscles to stabilize the bar. Knowing this was developed as a physiotherapy tool gives me more confidence in it as well—it’s widely used to alleviate certain back pains. Devoted users cite the noticeable difference in their core. That, and the fact that it looks cool to work out with makes me want to give it a shot.
FRANK SEPE'S FITNESS DISK
Celebrity Trainer Frank Sepe has invented one of the most useless-looking pieces of exercise equipment I’ve seen. However, when I did more research on the Fitness Disc, which is a big flat piece of plastic and a pole, I noticed some rave reviews from satisfied customers. A few also pointed out knee pains from using the disc, which makes sense since the point is to rotate the pounds right off your body (it’s probably tough on the back, too). But all that twisting is great for core definition, and the bar gives you a bit of an upper body workout as well, so they say. For those of you who can be entertained doing nothing but twisting for an hour, go for it! But this is an in-front-of-the-TV workout for sure. I’ll be passing, especially after I read one reviewer gripe that the same workout could be achieved by waving a broomstick over your head while hula-hooping.
PHYSICAL THERAPY THINGAMABOBBIES
The company OPTP (Orthopedic Physical Therapy Products) specializes in equipment for muscle rehab and PT (think foam rollers and stability balls). But they also have an awesome selection of gizmos to keep by the couch for that 3-minute blast of motivation. The B.O.I.N.G (Body Oscillation Integrates Neuromuscular Gain—yep, it’s a mouthful that doesn’t even make sense) is one such gizmo. A bendy wand with a ball on the end, the B.O.I.N.G is meant to be shaken to tone wrist, arm and shoulder muscles. Jessica Biel-like results? No. Slightly less flabby triceps as a result of absentmindedly shaking this while you watch The Bachelor? Possibly.
Another OPTP gadget that gets me nerdily
excited is their wide range of hand exercise balls. The hypochondriac in me can already feel the carpal tunnel developing in my hands from a lifetime of trackpad usage. The easy fix is not to get a mouse, but get a Handmaster Plus! Slip your fingers into the rubber-bandy loops, and alternate between squeezing and stretching. It's way better than a normal ball or EGG, which you can only squeeze. Then there's the PowerWeb Jr—yes, it looks like a rubber shower drain cover, but it also looks like it would keep me entertained for hours.
SHAKE IT LIKE A POLAROID PICTURE
The B.O.I.N.G. isn’t the only tool for shaking your way to sculpted arms. Along the same lines is the XCO-Trainer, a hollow dumbbell with “loose particles” inside that claims to use the propulsion of the “oscillating mass” to strengthen everything from your arms to your core to your lower body, in the same vein as the very phallic Shake Weight (using inertia to get more out of the weight). I’m not convinced. But then again, I’ve never understood running with dumbbells either. If you’re dying to test this theory, fill a water bottle with sand and hit the trails. Voila!
YOU CAN NEVER LOOK TOO STRANGE
And finally, for my favorite, most ridiculous yet absolutely worthwhile invention yet: the ElliptiGO. The world’s first elliptical machine bicycle was designed by a former Ironman triathlete forced to give up his sport for low-impact exercise. Combining running and cycling into one amazing activity, the ElliptiGO looks like serious fun. But it’s also a serious workout—combine the physical exertion of the elliptical machine with the mental effort of piloting a moving vehicle around town without crashing and you have a great, sweaty afternoon. I’m a big fan of the outdoor workout, and the elliptical machine has always chained me inside—until now. ElliptiGO founders: you’re genius! Now find me a way to get one for less than $2000.
About the Author: Erica Chapman is a connoisseur of team sports, gourmet food and the ocassional body cleanse. She lives and works out in New York City.