How We Chose the Best Workout Tools
Meet the exer-stars who gave picks and pointers.
- Amy Bento Ross, instructor and costar of the 10 Minute Solution: Best Belly Blasters DVD
- Jay Blahnik, fitness expert and author of Full-Body Flexibility
- Jeremy Cheung, owner of Twisted Twilight fitness studio in San Francisco
- Joe Dowdell, founder and CEO of Peak Performance gym in New York City and FITNESS advisory board member
- Jeanette Jenkins, president of the Hollywood Trainer and FITNESS advisory board member
- Michelle Lovitt, celebrity trainer in Los Angeles
- Harley Pasternak, celebrity trainer and author of The 5-Factor Diet
- Jonathan Ross, owner of Aion Fitness in Bowie, Maryland
- Jackie Warner, celebrity trainer and FITNESS advisory board member
Basic Workout Tools for Less Than $100
1. In a Jamb
Loop your resistance band or tubing through the Xergym Door Attachment to anchor your rows and other reps. ($4, spri.com)
2. Feather Weights
The GoFit Flat Band Kit includes three bands of varying resistance — light (equivalent to a 5-pound dumbbell), medium (10-pound), and heavy (15-pound) — as well as a clip to attach, lengthen, or shorten them, so you can sculpt at every level. ($20, store.gofit.net)
TIP: "This is a good move to start with if you're new to bands," trainer Michelle Lovitt says: Stand with feet hip-width apart on the center of the band, holding the band's ends in each hand, arms by sides. Bend elbows by sides, curling hands up to shoulders, palms facing you; then turn palms forward and press arms overhead. Lower hands to shoulders. Repeat press. Do one to three sets of 12 to 15 reps.
3. Pump. It. Up.
For the best flat-belly workout you can get, do your ab exercises with the Firm Core Stability Ball. ($17, including a workout DVD and a pump, gaiam.com)
TIP: Pick the right size stability ball (in centimeters) for your height.
4'8" to 5'5" = 45-cm ball
5'6" to 6'0" = 55-cm ball
6'0" to 6'5" = 65-cm ball
4. It's a Stretch
Whether you're doing push-ups or yoga poses, get a grip with this PVC-free Natural Fitness Eco Smart Yoga Mat. ($30, including a free yoga workout download, naturalfitnessinc.com)
5. Cardio Dynamo
Melt 10 calories per minute with the nine-foot Spri Speed Rope. It won't kink or get tangled up while you jump your booty off. ($6, spri.com)
6. Easy Glider
Celeb trainer secret weapon: Reusable 9-1/2-by-5-3/4-inch Furniture Sliders that act just like exercise disks. These work especially well on carpet and are available with foam padding to cushion hands and knees. ($15 for a set of four, bedbathandbeyond.com)
TIP: "To really work your core, do walking planks across the floor with the gliding disks," trainer Joe Dowdell suggests. Start on the floor in full push-up position with the balls of your feet on the foam side of the disks. Walk hands forward a few inches, then, keeping legs straight, drag the disks forward.
Home Gym Equipment for Less Than $500
1. Thigh Roller
This space-saving NordicTrack 3-in-1 Foam Roll combines two rollers and a massage stick, each great for working different muscle knots. ($30, including an instructional DVD, sears.com)
TIP: "After every run, lie on top of the foam roller on your hip and slide up and down it along your leg," trainer Jackie Warner says. "Do this for two or three minutes on each side to target your IT band and help prevent knee pain."
2. Winner's Circle
Shore up your core with the Xerball rubber medicine ball. Its easy-grip surface and solid bounce help you perform all kinds of sports-inspired moves. ($45 for an 8-pound ball, available in other sizes, spri.com)
3. Floor Bored
Try your planks, squats, and other moves on this EVA foam VersaBalance Pad to build your balance and net extra core toning with every rep. ($43, power-systems.com)
4. Well Armed
Jillian Michaels' Ultimate Dumbbell Power Set, which includes a pair of 3-, 5-, and 8-pound weights, is incredibly user friendly: We love the ergonomic neoprene grip and easy-to-stash storage tray. ($34, walmart.com)
TIP: "When working with dumbbells, my rule is if you can do more than eight, add more weight," trainer Jay Blahnik says.
5. Spin Doctor
Why spring for a stationary bike? Hitch your road or mountain bike on the Travel Trac Fluid Trainer; it's sturdy, so you won't wobble as you pedal and move between levels of resistance via a handlebar-mounted shift lever. Fold it up for easy storage. ($150, performancebike.com)
TIP: Add speed bursts to burn big calories on your bike, Dowdell says. Do a three-minute warm-up, then 30 seconds at an all-out sprint, followed by 60 seconds of recovery at an easy pace. Repeat the cycle nine times and then end with a three-minute cool-down.
6. Ready for Liftoff
The TRX Suspension Training Pro Pack is every trainer's current It tool: Slip your hands or feet into the stirrups to do more than 300 different strength, cardio, and stretching exercises. ($190, including a workout guide and a DVD, trxtraining.com)
Pro Workout Tools for Less Than $1,200
1. Tread Cred
If you're looking to burn calories, it's hard to beat a treadmill. The Gold's Gym CrossWalk 570 — named a Best Buy by Consumer Reports — features a wide extra-long belt, swinging arms, a straightforward console plus a built-in fan and iPod port. Pick from 16 preprogrammed workouts. ($577, walmart.com)
TIP: "For a fat-burning boost when you're on the treadmill, sprint for one minute, hop off the machine and do one minute of total-body strength training," Warner says.
2. Triple Threat
The just-released CoreBody Reformer goes beyond Pilates moves. Stand, sit, or lie back on the foam cylinder as you do your sculpting exercises to flatten your abs as they work overtime to stabilize you. ($249, including four exercise DVDs from celebrity trainer Jennifer Galardi, a nutrition guide, and an instructional workout chart, corebodyreformer.com)
3. Flex Benefits
Work the kinks out of your back, shoulders, neck, hips, glutes, calves, and feet in no time with the two springy massage balls in the Yoga Tune Up Full Body Therapy Ball Program. ($45 includes two workout CDs and a guide, yogatuneup.com)
4. Maximum Firming
Make push-ups, lunges, squats, and strength-training moves more challenging on the Bosu Pro Balance Trainer. Translation: You'll tone more muscle fibers and build a hard core. It has all the benefits of a stability ball, but it's easier to stow. ($150, including a pump, a book. and an instructional DVD, performbetter.com)
TIP: Try this go-to lower-body toner on the Bosu from instructor Amy Bento Ross: Stand with both feet on the center of the Bosu, elbows bent by sides, fists in front of chest. Lunge back with right leg, bending both knees 90 degrees, and then press through left heel to return to standing, bringing right knee up toward chest and then kicking right leg forward. Return to start. Do 10 reps, alternating legs.
5. Strength in Numbers
Trainers love trading dumbbells for kettlebells to add swings and other functional moves to strength training. This Universal Kettlebell Kit includes 5-, 7.5-, and 10-pound vinyl sand-filled bells on a space-saving stand, so you can start out small and move up as you get the hang of them. ($89, bowflexcatalog.com)
TIP: "When using a kettlebell for the first time, start with a weight that's about half of what you normally use in dumbbell form and perform your biceps curls and other moves as usual," trainer Jonathan Ross says.
High-Tech Workout Tools
1. Go Big
Feel like you're actually in the workout DVD with the 42-inch Panasonic TC-P42ST30 plasma TV, featuring 3-D imaging technology that makes people and objects appear to be coming out of the screen. It also has Internet streaming capabilities, so any videos on your computer can be watched on your TV. ($800, panasonic.com)
2. Central Command
Work out to your latest digital issue of FITNESS with Samsung's new Galaxy Tab 10.1. With 4G connectivity or Wi-Fi along with Bluetooth, you can check e-mail and surf the Net between sets. Bonus: The Galaxy is preloaded with the Amazon Kindle e-reader. (Starting at $500, samsung.com)
TIP: FITNESS is now available as a digital subscription! Watch each issue's workouts come alive on video with our new tablet app.
3. Beam Us Up
The Garmin FR70 heart rate monitor tracks your exercise, time, beats per minute, and calories burned and wirelessly sends your workout data to your computer. ($130, garmin.com)
TIP: "Set your heart rate monitor to beep whenever you slip out of your target heart rate zone," Jenkins says. "That way you won't constantly check your wrist monitor mid-workout."
4. Weight Watcher
Start your own Biggest Loser competition: Step on the Leifheit Soehnle Easy Control Digital Bathroom Scale to get an accurate reading of your weight and body mass index on its large LCD screen, then let your workout buddy take a turn. The scale recognizes up to five people and can hold up to 330 pounds at a time. ($40, leifheitus.com)
5. Perfect Player
With the palm-size Apple TV gadget, you can rent or buy movies or TV shows, stream your favorite workouts from Netflix or laugh-out-loud clips from YouTube, and take anything from your iPad, iPhone, iPod, or Mac straight to the big screen. ($99, apple.com)
6. Now Hear This
Blast your workout playlists on the iHome iP3 Studio Series Audio System. Place your iPod or iPhone in its dock or plug your computer directly into the streamlined stereo unit. ($230, ihomeaudio.com)
TIP: "For motivating music, check the Hot 100 and Dance/Club Songs charts at billboard.com," trainer Jeanette Jenkins says. Her current fave: Kelly Rowland's "Motivation," featuring Lil Wayne.
Originally published in FITNESS Magazine, October 2011.