Category Archives: Equipment

12 Days of Fitness 2018: Day 2 – 10 Pieces of Equipment Everyone Needs to Work Out at Home

(This is part 2 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

With the New Year quickly approaching, some of you may be thinking about your new workout routine and how to stay as consistent as possible to hit all your fitness goals. Perhaps you’re going to join a gym or start working towards that first 5K. But have you ever really considered training at home? For one, it’s incredibly convenient. Two, there’s no need to know how to use all of that equipment. Three, it’s your house, your rules. I could go on and on about the benefits of exercising in your own home but one thing is for sure, with the small purchase of a few essential and cheaply priced items, you’ll have more than you’ll ever need. And for one more, they’re also highly portable which means you can take them wherever you go.

  1. Stability Ball I can not say enough about the effectiveness of stability, or exercise balls. This item is first on the list for a reason. It acts as a serious core training device but can also be used as a bench/seat for a multitude of exercises. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MYSFUVZ/?ref=exp_loc_pl_jeffreysharrison
  2. Resistance Bands Resistance bands are an excellent way to get a full-body resistance workout in without ever touching a dumbbell. These bands address an important component of resistance training, the eccentric movement, and help make the possibilities of your workout endless.  https://www.performbetter.com/First-Place-All-Purpose-Exercise-Band
  3. Medicine Ball Medicine balls are a great mode of resistance for building core strength and coordination. There is a wide range of exercises that can be done with one and come in many varieties. (i.e. those that bounce) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00R3N0BDS/?ref=exp_loc_pl_jeffreysharrison
  4. Exercise Mat Exercise mats are absolutely essential to your home workout collection. The exercise mat allows you to do endless floor exercises comfortably and travel really well. https://www.performbetter.com/First-Place-Folding-Gym-Mat
  5. Jump Rope Simple and basic, the jump rope is great for conditioning and coordination, and can be an amazing tool for high-intensity interval training. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07881CYCK/?ref=exp_loc_pl_jeffreysharrison
  6. Kettlebell Kettlebells are unique and simply amazing. They are a great tool for functional exercise that combines strength and cardio. Kettlebells recruit more stabilizer muscles than dumbbells and barbells because of their off-centered weight. An absolute must-have for your home gym. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0061ZLTYY/?ref=exp_loc_pl_jeffreysharrison
  7. Foam Roller Foam Rollers are a great tool for self-myofascial release. The foam roller helps break down lactic acid, aids muscle soreness, increases flexibility and mobility, and helps you recover faster to get back to training. https://www.performbetter.com/search?keywords=foam%20roller
  8. Pull-Up Bar Pull-ups are the best exercise for building overall upper-body strength and quite possibly the hardest bodyweight exercise to build up to doing with no assistance. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Pure-Fitness-Multi-Purpose-Doorway-Pull-Up-Bar/26909661?wmlspartner=wlpa&selectedSellerId=0&adid=22222222227019597489&wl0=&wl1=g&wl2=c&wl3=40331928872&wl4=pla-78294396392&wl5=9007392&wl6=&wl7=&wl8=&wl9=pla&wl10=8175035&wl11=online&wl12=26909661&wl13=&veh=sem&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI18K9tJPu3gIVE-DICh2X0QzGEAQYASABEgK72vD_BwE
  9. Dumbbells The quintessential piece of resistance, dumbbells provide a much greater workout let alone selection of possibilities than any barbell. https://www.performbetter.com/First-Place-Rubber-Encased-Hex-Dumbbells
  10. Ab Roller Wheel Quite possibly the best method of training the abdominals. There are many spin offs or alternative options but don’t be fooled. This one is the best. https://www.performbetter.com/Exercise-Wheel

BONUS: 11. Weighted Vest

I’d feel odd if I didn’t throw the weighted vest on this list as an honorable mention. The weighted vest isn’t for everyone, but those looking to add hands-free resistance and a lot of difficulty to their workouts will enjoy this. https://www.performbetter.com/Uni-Vest-Weight-Vest

See you tomorrow for Day 3 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Weight Loss Once and For All

 

Which Is Better – Free Weights or Machines?

Get-started-with-free-weights-for-a-better-physiqueFor the greater part of my career, I worked in gyms and thus had the convenience of being able to work out where I worked.  Every once in a while though I would visit a local competitor anonymously  to just workout without interruption but more so to see what other types of equipment they had to offer. Could there really have been much difference? Aren’t all gyms essentially the same when it comes to equipment? Cardiovascular equipment is relatively the same with a few added features and types here and there. With the exception of colors, manufacturers, or may be some slight modifications in design, free weights (plates, barbells, dumbbells, etc.) are essentially free weights. But where a lot of gyms would try to differentiate themselves would be in the amount and types of weight machines (aka resistance machines, strength machines, Nautilus, etc.). Over the years that grew into a greater, more prominent argument as opposed to just being the gym with the mostest. What were these resistance machines and were they superior to free weights?

In The Beginning

Resistance machine training has its origins dating as far back as the early 1900s, but it wasn’t until the late 1950s through the 1970s where companies like Universal and Nautilus began a movement of adding horizontal resistance by way of cables, pulleys, and cams to move weight stacks where it really took off. Nautilus became a household, generic name to describe all resistance machines when in fact Nautilus is the name of a particular company and product, much like Kleenex is used to describe tissue. The ease of their use and user friendly appeal launched a rise in their production and use through the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. But as they say, what was old is new again and despite all of the technology that has created some amazing resistances machines, free weights still reign supreme when it comes to developing muscle. Or are they?

Building It Up

The primary reason anyone should be doing resistance training of any kind (free weights, resistance machines, body weight training, bands, balls, etc.) is for the maintenance and growth of lean tissue, a diminishing factor as we age. Sure, training with weights can be used to increase muscle size, strength, and power – and those are all positive results – but at its root, it’s about being stronger against the constant forces of gravity. In that essence, any external resistance on the muscles will do. But when it comes to building quality or functional (term that is used to describe mimicking or relevant carryover to daily living) muscle, free weights are superior. Here’s why.

King of The Mountain

Aside from their Neanderthal, caveman-like reputation, free weights are unattached, free movable objects that translate well to applied human movement, much like we encounter in real life. Free weights address and simultaneously train multiple planes of movement; teach how to deal with gravity in every and all positions; and teach how to manipulate physical elements, such as inertia, momentum and impulse.  Training with free weights can do all of that and due to its strong neurological component, it sometimes can provide result within minutes!  This is a very hard combination for any training methodology to live up to or compete with. Since resistance machines are generally fixed, unnatural positions, does that make them ineffective? Of course not and for certain populations (bodybuilders, rehab patients, etc.) they can be used as mode of training that isolates a muscle and provides a different stimulus to stave off physical and mental boredom. But in the real word, no muscle works in isolation and through free weight training proper lifting technique and stabilization mechanics are gained– both very important when it comes to moving through this life.

So are free weights superior to resistance machines? Yes. Does that make them a bad exercise choice? Absolutely not. Resistance machines have become an invaluable part of the strength, fitness, and conditioning fields and are what I like to call just another tool in the tool box. Remember, there is no such things as a good or bad exercise; just the application of the exercise.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Is The Treadmill All It’s Really Cracked Up To Be?

imagesWithout a doubt that if you were to walk into a gym or health club today (possibly even yours), the number one piece of exercise equipment in both number and popularity is the treadmill. What I like to refer to as the human hamster wheel, the treadmill is an easy, user friendly exercise device that requires little ability (you walked into the gym, didn’t you?), is generally a cinch to operate (push start to go), and doesn’t require any major instruction in technique. (Again, you can walk, you’re good.) But just like any type of exercise, just because it’s popular doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good for you. In fact, it could downright be the wrong exercise of choice for you depending on what your goal is leaving you like the hamster, aimlessly moving your legs to nowhere.

The Obvious Advantages

First and foremost, the treadmill is a weight bearing activity. That is, you’re standing upright on two legs while supporting your entire bodyweight. Just from the vantage of being a weight bearing activity, the muscles work harder, thus burning more calories, thus capable of doing more work in a shorter period of time. But I’ll come back to that one in a shortly. As stated previously, it’s easy to use and there aren’t many people from the novice to the professional athlete who can’t use it – physical incapacities aside. The decks (belt surface) are generally more forgiving than the outdoors and provide less impact to the joints. The treadmills of today are like high performance sports cars with all of the bells and whistles you could possibly want and the comfort as if walking on air. Its best feature however is that it can provide a workout indoors that is very similar to one that can be completed outdoors, especially during the winter months or stormy weather. The treadmill becomes a solution when there’s simply no excuse to get a workout. (Again, you can walk, you can use a treadmill). And if you have a home gym, a treadmill provides the greatest return on investment since you and the whole family can use it. Home models never see the volume of use that a commercial health club sees either. But if a treadmill has such obvious positives, how could there be any negatives other than of course falling off?

The Not Always Apparent Disadvantages

To the novice exerciser, a treadmill (or dreadmill as I have heard a neighbor call it) can be inviting and intimidating at the same time. Sure it’s easy to get started but there’s always the inherent danger of falling off while the treadmill is running or worse, getting a loose shoe lace tangled in the belt. (I’ve seen it…and pants too but that’s another story). No one wants to look like a fool, especially on one of the most popular pieces of exercise equipment that in some gyms require a sign-up sheet. To the seasoned exerciser, using the treadmill may just be another day working out thinking that the treadmill is the best way to lose weight (more still to come on that). And to the running enthusiast, the treadmill is an essential part of their training, especially when weather conditions and/or daylight become factors. Aside from the novice fears of having technical difficulties, the major disadvantages of the treadmill fall in between the realm of false belief and potentially more harm than good.

A False Belief

If weight loss, more specifically fat loss is the goal, the treadmill is not the best choice. It is a choice but it’s not the best. Why? Because no one piece of exercise equipment is the best when it comes to fat loss. The method or choice of exercise you choose has little to do with your success. It’s the intensity (how hard you work) you use on the treadmill that matters most. Going back previously where I stated that the benefit to the treadmill is the fact that it’s a weight bearing activity, it’s easier to work harder when you’re supporting all of your bodyweight as opposed to a sitting (non-weight bearing) position, such as with a bike or rower. But, I challenge you to find an out of shape, overweight, or deconditioned cyclist or rower because after all, they’re sitting down for their selected exercise. The point here is that when it comes down to exercise selection, the intensity of the work is more important than the mode in which it is done. Can you have great success using a treadmill to reach your goals? Absolutely, but give credit to the work you do and not to the treadmill.

 

Potential Harm

A running purist scoffs at the idea of running on the treadmill for exercise. No matter the weather or terrain, they make no excuse about it and they’re outside running in the elements. But not everyone needs or wants to be the extreme so the treadmill provides an outlet when some other things just don’t line up in the universe.  There is a slight problem here though and it involves the mechanics of the body, your running gait, and the treadmill as a machine. Because a machine powers the treadmill belt, the mechanics of your running stride differ from when you run outside. When running on the treadmill, you use your quads to push off. But, unlike outdoor running, where you would typically rely on your hamstrings to finish the stride cycle and lift your leg behind you, the propulsion of the belt does much of that work for you. This means your hamstrings aren’t firing as much and don’t get worked running inside as they would outside. The extra effort demanded of your quads is also a factor to keep in mind. While not always initially obvious, this phenomenon can be blamed for affecting your gait and foot strike patterns which can ultimately lead to a host of knee, ankle, and Achilles injuries.

Furthermore, when running on a treadmill, it’s easy to just lock into a target pace. (i.e. 6 mph). Unfortunately, this doesn’t teach you how to properly find and maintain pace on your own. As a consequence, you stunt the development of your internal effort and pacing instincts. Overall, research is inconclusive when it comes to determining whether or not treadmills are better for your joints than track running. However, if you plan to run outdoor races and your primary mode of training is the treadmill, you’re not achieving optimal development and potential.

The treadmill can be a great training tool and like everything in life, should be used in moderation. As with any training program, have a plan and know the reason why you’re using it. If it’s fat loss you desire, understand it’s all about the intensity. If you want to run, use it sparingly and take your runs outside. And if you’re just looking for the health benefits, well, get on the wheel and spin. Just know and appreciate that you have lots of other options.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Successful Resistance Training 101 2013 – 12 Days of Fitness: Day 9

(This is Part 9 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

weighttraining1As someone who has spent a lot of time in the gym, I can honestly say that no reality TV show has anything on the things I’ve seen in the weight room. There are those who think they own the gym and consequently there are those who don’t go in there because of them. The novice needn’t be intimidated or afraid though because there is a vast difference between those who think they own the joint and those who really know what they are doing. Of all the exercises that one can choose, nothing will strengthen and reshape the body more effectively than resistance training. For that reason, it’s not something to be taken lightly or time spent wasted with minimal or no results.

For Resistance Training To Be Successful….

  1. Use Proper Form – I’ve seen it all. Legs flailing, rounded backs, flared elbows, bouncing bars, etc. You aren’t doing yourself any favors using bad form. The greatest chance for injury occurs towards the end of the set when form begins to waver. Do yourself a favor and do a little research before attempting an exercise. Hire a trainer, read a book, etc.; just don’t make the mistake of trying to be so macho you injure yourself. It’s not how much you lift; it’s how you lift it.
  2. Don’t Compare to Others – I think a lot of the boneheaded mistakes people make in the weight room are ego related. They want to know how much you lifted. They’re afraid of people watching them work out. They’re afraid of doing something wrong, so they avoid it. They’re afraid of not looking very strong, so they sacrifice form for more weight on the bar. You are only in competition with yourself. Don’t compare your numbers to others. Resistance training is about personal development; there is no room for ego.
  3. Mix It Up – The body is a very adaptive machine. Do the same thing over and over again, and it will become very efficient at that movement. That sounds good, but not if you want to make progress. I used to think Mondays was international chest day because everyone would bench on Monday and with that, the same exact sequence of exercises, sets, reps, and weights. Motor neuron adaptations take place very quickly. A large portion of your strength gains are not only from muscle growth, but better motor neuron recruitment too. Change your routine up every few weeks.
  4. Take Time For Recovery – The real result of the workout comes from the recovery; the workout was just the catalyst. You grow when you rest, not when you work out. Working out tears down your muscles so that you can build them up bigger and stronger while you’re resting. If you don’t allow enough time between workouts, you’ll be limiting your strength potential come workout time.
  5. Use Compound Movements – Compound exercises involve the movements of several joints. They allow for maximum muscle fiber and motor neuron recruitment. I see this a lot in what I call “charmers”. They work their chest and arms (biceps) only with using the bench press as their sole compound exercise. They don’t do squats, deadlifts, etc. so they have nicely developed upper bodies supported on toothpicks. For 90% of fitness individuals, compound exercises will be all they need to be successful. Isolation exercises are fun but not completely necessary in most cases.
  6. Work Out With Intensity By using compound exercises, you’re already on the right path towards boosting your intensity. Recruiting a large majority of muscles forces you to work harder. In doing so, you stimulate the release of all kinds of favorable hormones that will help you build muscle and lose fat. Another even simpler way to boost your intensity is to take less time between sets and exercises. I can’t tell you the number of people over the years who take credit for spending three hours in the gym for doing 20 minutes worth of work.
  7. Chart Your Progress – You need to provide a stimulus to your muscles if you want them to grow. More weight on the bar, an extra rep, or more work in a given time, all are ways to make progress. If you went to the gym and lifted 135lbs for 10 reps, and then did the same exact thing the next workout, or even 3 workouts later, why would your body think it needs to adapt? It already has the strength it needs to perform that activity. If you want to grow, you need to better your last workout.
  8. Man (Woman) Up – If you want the result and you’re going to invest in the time and energy it takes in the gym, you better understand that your nutrition is the biggest determinant of your success, not your exercise. Building muscle requires calories, and unless you’re eating an excess of them, you aren’t going to grow much at all. And no plastic tub of powder is going to be the only solution.

See you tomorrow for Day 10 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

 

The 10 Best Fitness Apps 2013 – 12 Days of Fitness: Day 4

FitnessApps_677-02406950d_n_lg(This is Part of a 4 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

What’s one piece of technology that most just can’t seem to live without? From Ipads, to tablets, to GPS, no one needs to worry about ever finding an answer or have to pick a map up again. But one device that can do all of those things AND seems to be attached to everyone every minute of every day is the smartphone. Smartphones put vast amounts of information at our fingertips which also makes them such good fitness and health companions. Fitness apps really have revolutionized the ways in which we keep an eye on our health and stay fit. Whether you’re looking to lose weight, work out more often, track your food intake, or just increase your total amount of daily movement, an app that’s always with you and always connected to a network of supportive people can do wonders. Following is a list of 10 of the best fitness apps and their highlights as well as cost. Some are free, some cost just a few bucks but in the end it will all come down to personal preference.

  1. CountEat. Calories – helps you estimate, rather than count, how many calories you consume at each meal, and helps you find a range, rather than a precise target, for how much you should eat. The innovative approach is worth a try for anyone trying to lose a lot of weight, but too imprecise for dropping two or three pounds.  Cost: 99 cents  Available for: iOS
  2. Cyclemeter – it collects a wealth of data, is very accurate, contains several well thought out features, and appeals to fitness enthusiasts who participate in more than one sport. Despite the name, you can use Cyclemeter to track walks, runs, and other activities. It does not include a calorie-counting component, however.  Cost: $4.99  Available for: iOS
  3. Fitbit.com – used for counting calories, recording exercise, logging your weight, and tracking other personal metrics (including heart rate, glucose levels, sleep, and blood pressure) although you don’t need to own a tracker to use the app. If you do own one of the Fitbit gadgets, you can sync it so that the data it collects automatically appears on your account. On its own, the Fitbit site gives you the ability to record your personal data to keep track of your fitness goals. Its food-tracking system could be better, but you can use another, such as Lose It!, and integrate that data in its place if you prefer.  Cost: Free to $49 per year for Premium  Available for: Android, iOS, and Web
  4. Fitocracy – uses game-like stats to spur on friendly competition and increase your dedication to working out. The apps and website feature social interaction prominently. Post a status, whether it’s your success story of going to the gym or the reason you skipped a workout, and you’re likely to find a wealth of support from the community. It also has plentiful resources for all kinds of fitness enthusiasts, from weightlifters to swimmers.  Cost: Free  Available on: Android, iOS, and Web
  5. Fitsby – uses a combination of gaming and betting to push you and your friends to reach a desired goal for exercising. You and your friends decide how much money you want to wager, and the person who checks into the gym the most in a given period of time wins the pot. Betting real money is optional, so you can use Fitsby for friendly competition without any monetary stakes if you prefer.  Cost: Free  Available on: Android (iOS reportedly coming soon)
  6. Livestrong.com – Calorie Tracker (a.k.a. MyPlate) – another calorie and exercise logging tool. It requires more work than others in its class, but it manages to get the job done.  Cost: $2.99  Available on: Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Windows Phone, and Web
  7. Lose It! – is designed for counting calories and logging exercise, can help you lose weight, especially if you tend to eat name-brand American foods. Avid home cooks and those with a more international diet may feel stymied by its database of foods, and they should try MyFitnessPal instead. Lose It! does have a strong community of supportive people to help you stick to your goals, though.  Cost: Free  Available on: Android, iOS, Kindle, Nook, and Web.
  8. Map My Fitness also known as Map My Run or map My Ride. The app has settings that let you track different sports and workouts. In other words, you only need to download one of the apps, and you can use it for almost any activity. Unfortunately, there are some features that require a fee subscription starting at $5.99 per month. As with most fitness apps for running, walking, cycling, etc., MayMyFitness uses GPS to track the routes you travel, and shows you a map of the ground you covered when you’re done. It also displays length, in both time and distance, as well as pace, maximum speed, and a few other statistics.  Cost: Free; optional $5.99 per month membership required for some features  Available on: Android, iOS, Windows Phone
  9. MyFitnessPalone of the best all-in-one calorie counter and exercise trackers for the iPhone. Using the app is a quick chore rather than a fatiguing project, which is essential to its success. It has an expansive database of international foods, including U.K. brand name packaged food, international cuisines, and much more. MyFitnessPal also has an active and supportive online community.  Cost: Free  Available on: Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Windows Phone, and Web.
  10. Nike+ – specifically a running app, it tracks your distance, pace, time, and calories burned while you run. It uses GPS to map your route and has audio feedback built in—including real-time cheering every time one of your friends from Facebook or Path (a private social network) “likes” the post where you’ve noted you’re going out for a run.  Cost: Free  Available on: iPhone, Android

Give the gift of health to a family member, friend, colleague, or yourself this holiday season and have another level of accountability to keep you on track.

See you tomorrow for Day 5 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment – #1 The Shake Weight

(This is the final in a 10 part series in which I am reviewing some of the products sold as exercise equipment, fitness solutions, etc. on infomercials, magazine ads, and cable shopping networks.  Unlike most of the ads for these products, this isn’t based on a double blind, major university backed study.  It is simply my professional opinion based on my fitness experience and knowledge in the hopes that it will save you some time, aggravation and money.)

Get Sexy, Toned Arms & Shoulders in just minutes per day using the Shake Weight!!The Shake Weight

Well, we have reached the end of My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment.  Mind you, this list was for the gimmicks sold on TV, not the abundance of useless equipment that fills health clubs; that’s for another time. I could have created a Top 20, 50, or even 100 list of the most useless pieces of exercise equipment and it still wouldn’t have covered it all.  Aside from the equipment, such as the Hawaii Chair, the Ab Doer, and the High Tech Ride Ijoy, there are also the useless gimmicks such as the Sauna Belt, the AbTronic, and countless others that could make a book all their own. I see a new one just about every other week and as is proof from my list, abdominal gimmicks seem to proliferate the market the most.  But when I first saw the Shake Weight I thought it was a joke…really, like some kind of twisted Saturday Night Live skit. (actually, SNL did do a parody skit, click here to see video parody) To my utter amazement, the Shake Weight (over $40 million in sales) is for real.  How gullible has society become and where does it ever end?

Just For the Women

It is the fear of far too many women that resistance training will bulk them up.  It is a completely unfound fear when in reality resistance training will do more to change the shape of a woman than just about anything she will do exercise wise. There are too many factors, such as the amount of circulating testosterone, total volume lifted, rate of protein synthesis, calories consumed among other things that have to be present in order for women to show much muscle hypertrophy.  A small percentage of women have higher than normal circulating testosterone levels (yes, even women have testosterone naturally occurring in their bodies as do men have levels of estrogen in their bodies) and the grotesquely enormous muscular women got that way artificially. I have always been amused by the woman in the weight room standing in front of the mirror while bicep curling a 5 lb. dumbbell because she only wants to “tone” her arms and not get manly arms. What she doesn’t understand is that she would tone her arms more effectively and noticeably with a heavier weight done correctly to muscular failure.  This woman is the target consumer of the Shake Weight manufacturer.

By merely shaking the Shake Weight, it is guaranteed to tone, trim, shape, and flab blast the arms and shoulders through what the makers of Shake Weight call “dynamic inertia”, which is nothing more than describing the forces moving back and forth from the momentum caused by the Shake Weight’s motion.  The result: the muscles of the upper extremities (arms, chest, and shoulders) are contracting quickly to decelerate and create more momentum.  Will the muscles burn and get tired? Probably.  Will it be enough to strengthen and tone the muscles of the upper extremities? Hardly.  And yet again, the Shake Weight is sold on the promise of spot reduction (eliminating fat from a body part by working that body part) and spot toning (defining a desired muscle by working that muscle). It may work the targeted muscle, but not enough to elicit the change that is sought.

Just For the Men

The popularity of the women’s Shake Weight was so pronounced that someone at Shake Weight HQ decided it would be a good idea to promote a men’s only Shake Weight. When you watch the ads for the women’s Shake Weight it promotes toning and sculpting and not increased size and strength.  The men’s Shake Weight promotes size, definition, strength, and will build muscle.  Wait a minute.  Isn’t that what most women don’t want? Isn’t that what the men would want? What makes the men’s Shake Weight so different? Nothing, except that it’s a little bit heavier (women’s is 2.5 pounds; the men’s is 5 lbs). Hmmm. Do you see now why these things are so ridiculous? They think the average consumer won’t notice or care to notice the difference because they’re too emotionally wrapped up in why their arms are so flabby.  Well, sadly it was enough to generate over $40 million dollars in sales. May be four years of college and 16+ years of real world practical experience have taught me nothing.

Here’s My Answer to That

Wake up people! There is not one single exercise, device, supplement, or diet that is going to make you healthier or more fit than you currently are all on its own.  It requires a lifestyle; a lifestyle of moderate, consistent exercise; healthy and balanced nutrition; stress reduction and plenty of rest.  It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just needs to be better more times than not. It requires a discipline that doesn’t necessarily need to be a hardship, but it needs to be automatic.  For some, it will take more work than others, but no matter how hard the effort or path you follow, the end result undeniably outweighs the journey.  Take responsibility for your own health for ultimately in the end, you have no one to point the finger at but yourself.

My Conclusion to This Series

I hope you enjoyed this series of My Top Ten Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment. I have a lot of pride and a lot of passion for my profession and it is not only my duty but my honor to educate and touch as many people as I can who seek true health, real fitness, and the knowledge they not only need, but deserve to hear.  So as I’ve ended all of my posts and til I post again….

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

In case you’ve missed them, here are My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment so far:

#10 The Jump Snap
#9 The Thigh Master
#8 The Ab Roller
#7 The Red Exerciser
#6 Leg Magic
#5 The Ab Circle
#4 The Bender Ball
#3 6 Second Abs
#2 The Ab Lounge

 

My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment – #2 The Ab Lounge

(This is a 10 part series in which I am reviewing some of the products sold as exercise equipment, fitness solutions, etc. on infomercials, magazine ads, and cable shopping networks.  Unlike most of the ads for these products, this isn’t based on a double blind, major university backed study.  It is simply my professional opinion based on my fitness experience and knowledge in the hopes that it will save you some time, aggravation and money.)

abloungerThe Ab Lounge

I confess.  At times, I enjoy doing nothing.  When it comes time for vacation or just those few (and I mean few as the father of a toddler) moments, I’m content doing absolutely nothing.  Vegging out, perhaps some reading, or just catching some zzz’s. But never, ever, would I consider not remaining active or consider exercise and lounging to exist concurrently. Let me introduce to you the Ab Lounge.

Not Your Typical Lounger

When I think of the word lounge, I think of putting my feet up, sitting back perhaps with a beverage, or just laying around doing nothing remotely physical. When you say lounge, the farthest thing from my mind is exercise. At first glance, the Ab Lounger looks like a state of the art lounge chair more for the beach, pool, deck, or campsite. Actually looks quite comfortable.  Throw some cup holders on it and we’re good to go.  But exercise on it? Are you kidding me?

Exercise and Lounging Simply Don’t Mix

Yet again, the deception and mockery of fitness to the public continues. The concept of spot reduction is a recurrent theme in all of these “poor excuses” for exercise equipment, and sad to say it doesn’t make a difference because it just doesn’t nor will it ever happen. It doesn’t matter how much you train the abs, feel the burn, or create so much soreness you can’t laugh for days, the abdominal fat will remain right there insulating your midsection.  The good news however is if you’re dedicated and successful at eating well, follow an intense cardio interval and weight training program, you just might find some success. But lounging, or “crunching more effectively” or as the TV personality says in the video “go faster in the fat burning zone” as what the Ab Lounge promises, might as well enjoy a pint of ice cream while you’re there because the result is going to be about the same. I’m waiting for the Ab Couch to come out that burns calories while you watch TV cuddled in your Snuggie.  Truth be told, for the believers of the “fat burning zone” (that magical heart rate zone where you burn fat) sitting on the couch fits right into their mentality. I challenge you to see how far that gets you.

My Advice

I try to not be so cynical when it comes to these things.  Obviously, someone put a lot of money into the development of this product and consequently I imagine made a lot of money too.  That doesn’t make it right and it makes the concept of exercise and fitness just that much more confusing to the people who would benefit from it the most.  Mom always said, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Take home message: Don’t buy into the gimmicks; buy into the mindset that fitness is a lifestyle and unless it becomes that for you, you might just as well lounge because the result is going to be the same.

So we have come to but one left on my list and I have a little proposition for you. If you can correctly guess what my number 1 Most Useless Piece of Exercise Equipment is before I post it, I will happily send you a free copy of my e-book, “How to Read Food Labels”.  No catch, just some good clean fun.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

In case you’ve missed them, here are My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment so far:

#10 The Jump Snap
#9 The Thigh Master
#8 The Ab Roller
#7 The Red Exerciser
#6 Leg Magic
#5 The Ab Circle
#4 The Bender Ball
#3 6 Second Abs

My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment – #3 6 Second Abs

(This is a 10 part series in which I am reviewing some of the products sold as exercise equipment, fitness solutions, etc. on infomercials, magazine ads, and cable shopping networks.  Unlike most of the ads for these products, this isn’t based on a double blind, major university backed study.  It is simply my professional opinion based on my fitness experience and knowledge in the hopes that it will save you some time, aggravation and money.)

images6 Second Abs

One of my favorite comedies of all time is the hilarious There’s Something About Mary. No many how many times I’ve seen it, there are lines and scenes from that movie that still make me laugh like I’m witnessing them for the first time. But as a fitness professional, one that stands out in my mind of course had something to do with exercise, and not Mary.

A Genius Idea is Born?

Ben Stiller’s character, Ted, is on his way to Florida to seek Mary and along the way picks up a hitchhiker. Unbeknownst to Ted, the hitchhiker is a serial killer with an entrepreneurial mind and in their conversation, he discusses his idea for an exercise video called “7 Minute Abs”, in retribution to the already famous ‘8 Minute Abs”.  Ted goes along with the idea but then challenges his awkward passenger by saying, “That’s good.  Unless of course somebody comes up with 6 Minute Abs.  Then you’re in trouble huh?”  The hitchhiker convulses and of course thinks that’s just ridiculous. That scene always makes me laugh not so much for the acting, but the lunacy that abs are sold on a time factor.  Case in point, 6 Second Abs. (Ted’s passenger would have truly lost his mind on this one.)

A Genius Idea is Bad?

The basic premise behind 6 Second Abs  is that the abs can be worked more efficiently when crunches are performed properly. By leaning into the “jack hammer looking” apparatus and listening for the three clicks in the positive, or concentric phase, and the three clicks in the negative, or eccentric phase, you’ll get a much more result yielding crunch than traditional abdominal exercises. OK.  Without getting overly technical and discussing tension load and time on muscles, working any muscle in the body deliberately slower is going to yield a different response on that muscle than if the repetition was performed at normal speed. Is that relevant to this exercise? Depends.  Bottom line is, there is no doubt that it could potentially lead to a stronger abdominal muscle, but that in and of itself has nothing to do with leaning up the midsection.

Just a Bad Idea

Yet again, the abdominals are the easy target to sell product to the emotion driven consumer:  I deserve a flat stomach (then get up off of the couch and do something about it); ab training should be easy (anything worth having doesn’t come easy); abs can be trained quickly (depends, but chances are they’re the least of your problems); abs can be worked efficiently in 6 seconds (you can create a burn in 6 seconds but that’s hardly considered efficient); this is the answer to my flabby belly (you’d be better off putting the device between you and the dinner table).  7 minutes, 8 minutes, 6 seconds – the time doesn’t matter.  As with any training, consistency, intensity, and proper progression are the variables that are going to lead to the greatest result.  Any thought process otherwise and you should stop before you ever begin.

My Advice

It goes without saying: abdominal devices are gimmicks. Do any of them work? To an extent, some may have very little merit. But none of them are necessary and will leave you broke, financially and emotionally.  And if Ted really wanted to be with Mary, he didn’t need to be Brett Fav…ruh or any of the other goons that were drawn to her.  He needed to be true to himself and that’s where the best abdominal training begins.

 

Stay tuned for future posts with the remaining 2.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

In case you’ve missed them, here are My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment so far:

 

#10 The Jump Snap
#9 The Thigh Master
#8 The Ab Roller
#7 The Red Exerciser
#6 Leg Magic
#5 The Ab Circle
#4 The Bender Ball

 

My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment – #4 The Bender Ball

(This is a 10 part series in which I am reviewing some of the products sold as exercise equipment, fitness solutions, etc. on infomercials, magazine ads, and cable shopping networks.  Unlike most of the ads for these products, this isn’t based on a double blind, major university backed study.  It is simply my professional opinion based on my fitness experience and knowledge in the hopes that it will save you some time, aggravation and money.)

Bender-Ball-300x300The Bender Ball

I stated in an earlier post in this series that I could do an entire series on abdominal gimmicks alone. At number four is yet another one and with only three more remaining, two of which are also abdominal gimmicks, it may make you wonder if all abdominal equipment is junk or is there any abdominal equipment ever worth buying. I will answer both of these questions before this post is finished, but first things first.

Let’s Play Ball

The Bender Ball  is the creation of a “master trainer” by the name of….? You guessed it – Bender.  The Bender Ball is a small, 9 inch ball that is placed in the lumbar curve (small of the back) to make abdominal crunches 408% more effective by increasing flexion and extension of the torso. 408%? How exactly do you quantify that? You can’t but that helps sell product. What they won’t tell you about are the legitimate studies that examined the effectiveness of the Bender Ball on abdominal muscle activation. What did those studies find?  That the Bender Ball was only slightly more effective (less than 50%) than some traditional abdominal exercises such as the basic floor crunch, bicycle crunch, or crunches performed on a foam roller.  The only slight differences (more than 50% effectiveness) were found in the varying levels of extension that could be achieved in certain individuals. The amount of extension however is the biggest concern with this small ball.

Put Your Back In To It

Most of us are born with an “S” curve in our spine.  It varies from person to person but a normal healthy spine begins at the base of the skull, bends slightly forward, bends back slightly again in the torso or thoracic region, and bends forward again in the abdominal/hip region, thus causing a concave curve in the lower back (lumbar) region. This “S” essentially functions as a spring that keeps us upright against the ever present forces of gravity.  The lumbar region is notoriously associated with low back disorders of all types, from muscle spasms to herniated discs. The reason? Among other things: not enough or too much curve, tight psoas muscles that cause an anterior hip tilt (sitting too long) and convex (flat with very little curve) low back, weak abdominals that do not balance the strength required to oppose the back muscles, etc. Any one of these scenarios can lead to an already compromised muscle imbalance, thus making normal flexion and extension difficult or painful.  Throw in a ball designed to increase extension and subsequent increased flexion and you have a spinal disaster in the making.  And all for what? A flat, chiseled midsection that could be obtained much safer and more efficiently by much more effective and cost friendly means.

My Advice

Abdominal devices are plentiful because their demand is so high. However, rational thought is thrown out the window when emotions are running high so be smart about how you train your abs and what you use if anything at all – devices are not necessary. Remember, the flat stomach look has less to do with the amount of abdominal exercises you do or how much they burn the muscles and more about what your overall approach to health and fitness is. Want a flat stomach? 1) Stop buying into overhyped, unproven methods and gimmicks 2) pay more attention to what you eat and drink 3) get moving hard and fast 4) resistance train.  Failure to do ALL of these things and a flat stomach you will never have – guaranteed. Plus, your back will remind you in due time if you don’t.

 

Stay tuned for future posts with the remaining 3.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

In case you’ve missed them, here are My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment so far:

#10 The Jump Snap
#9 The Thigh Master
#8 The Ab Roller
#7 The Red Exerciser
#6 Leg Magic
#5 The Ab Circle

My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment – #5 The Ab Circle

(This is a 10 part series in which I am reviewing some of the products sold as exercise equipment, fitness solutions, etc. on infomercials, magazine ads, and cable shopping networks.  Unlike most of the ads for these products, this isn’t based on a double blind, major university backed study.  It is simply my professional opinion based on my fitness experience and knowledge in the hopes that it will save you some time, aggravation and money.)

AB_Circle_Pro1The Ab Circle

Abdominals are what it’s all about I guess.  Forget about the decreased blood pressure, decreased risk of diabetes (among the hundreds of other diseases exercise improves the chances of not succumbing to) decreased chance of depression and anxiety, increased energy….I could go on with the real benefits to exercise.  Perhaps it’s that they’re not as glamorous as the appeal of a chiseled six pack. Unfortunately, the real problem with that line of thinking is that the ultimate cost to dealing with the multitudes of maladies that could have been prevented as a result of an active lifestyle fails largely in comparison to the small satisfaction of having a mostly unattainable bit of vanity. Case in point, I present you the Ab Circle.

Going in Circles

To me, watching infomercials is like watching a bad train wreck.  I can’t stand to watch but I can’t look away either.  As a result, I either laugh hysterically or am so amazed that people actually fall for this junk that I get fueled to write a series such as this one. I wholeheartedly believe that it is this constant spewing of fitness junk that has the masses so confused about what real exercise is all about that whatever comes out next is going to be the answer everyone’s been waiting for. Oh boy!

The Perfect Ingredients

Let’s face it.  Nothing sells fitness more than a scantily clad man or woman strolling or working out by the beach.  Add a widget and you have yourself a top selling product.  If you’ve been following the previous posts, you should understand by now how the abdominals work, what their true function is, and the deceptive concept of spot reduction.  With the exception of a really bad commercial, the Ab Circle does nothing more than provide a ride the whole family can enjoy; or at least the average beach bum.

My advice.  Anything that is sold to make abdominal training more fun and easy is like saying you can eat healthy at a fast food restaurant.  Who are you kidding?

Stay tuned for future posts with my top 4-1.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

In case you’ve missed them, here are My Top 10 Most Useless Pieces of Exercise Equipment so far:

#10 The Jump Snap
#9 The Thigh Master
#8 The Ab Roller
#7 The Red Exerciser
#6 Leg Magic