Health & Fitness

Time-Saving Workouts: 3 Effective Exercise Tools

With time and money in short supply, using your own body weight and changing up your exercise routine are top fitness trends according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). 48% of ACE professionals surveyed predict that gym memberships will decline in 2009, so it’s time to look at what you can do at home to get fit quickly and inexpensively.

The last home workout article, Homegrown Muscle: Building a Home-Based Gym, focused on the essentials and recommended simple budget-friendly add-ons. From paper plates to stability balls and kettlebells, we ran the gamut with options that kept you motivated and on the path to weight loss success.

This time around we’ve found some “break-out stars” to supplement, or even replace, your home gym. Below each item you will find a “Trainer’s note” with my observations and comments.

[Trainer’s note: I do not receive endorsements for any of these products. They are items I actually use myself or with my current clients. ]

Burn More Calories

Using your body weight engages more muscles, which in turn burns more calories. Two of this year’s products do exactly that: The Gravity Bar from GoFit, and the Perfect Pullup from BodyRev.

Use Gravity with Gravity Bar

Use Gravity with the Gravity Bar

$99.95 – or Dick’s Sporting Goods stores

With the Gravity Bar you utilize your own weight to work virtually your entire body. Almost any exercise imaginable can be performed with the Gravity Bar’s pull up bar and adjustable straps with handles/harnesses. Angling your body at different degrees makes the exercises easier or more difficult, allowing you to adapt to your changing fitness level. This system also encourages you to focus on keeping your balance, engaging more muscles overall.

In reality, the Gravity Bar could potentially be all the strength training equipment you need. It mounts fairly easily in any standard doorframe and, while similar in function to the TRX® Suspension Trainer® (read review here), it has the added benefit of a pull up bar and ab straps.

[Trainer’s note: I love a challenge and the Gravity Bar gives me one. It’s fairly inexpensive and I have discovered many more exercises than the DVD or handouts show. It’s amazingly versatile and very effective. The only drawbacks are its lack of portability and its visibility in my doorway. It took about 15 minutes – for a guy – to install. Despite warnings not to swing and climb on it, the unit has held up to well to mistreatment from kids. ]

Perfect Pullup

Perfect Pullup Builds Strength

From $59.95 – and major online retailers

The Perfect Pullup joins the Perfect Pushup (read review here) in leading the home fitness equipment pack. With these two items in your house you may have a complete home gym, provided you are creative with exercises. The Perfect Pullup is close to perfect now that they have replaced the plastic hooks with metal ones (the old plastic clips tended to break after just a few uses). The Perfect Pullup comes with the famous rotating handles that hit your muscles from different angles and the challenging ab straps.

What makes this product more multifaceted than the average pull up bar is the unit’s swing-down arm, which allows a whole other range of exercises, from triceps presses to single leg squats. Again, many more exercises can be done than the ones shown.

The Perfect Pullup installs in any standard doorway and is easy to make virtually unnoticeable.

[Trainer’s note: I had a client install the Perfect Pullup in his home in about 20 minutes and tested it there. It did everything it was supposed to do and more. Much more innovative than originally imagined. My client uses it religiously along with the Perfect Pushup and has already seen results. I would recommend some self-sticking felt on the doorframe when bar is in “down” position to keep it from scraping.]

For Fun and Fitness

Hoop Girl Hula Hoops

Hoop Girl - Hoop for Fitness

$29.95 and up –

Hula hooping may seem to be a silly, ineffective endeavor, but a few minutes with a Hoop Girl hoop may change your mind. Hula hooping is both stimulating and relaxing, leaving you feeling invigorated and in a better mood. The Hoop Girl hoops are made of heavier weight and friction tape, which lets even the most uncoordinated person hoop after just a few attempts. Hula hooping burns calories, strengthens the abdominals and releases tension in the low back.

Available in a variety of weights and colors the hoops, created by Christabel Zamor, are designed to be fun and easy for adults to spin. An instructional DVD is included, though some of the music and clothing are a little odd. You will be surprised at how easy it is and how fun hula hooping can be.

[Trainer’s note: I take five minute “hoop breaks” when I am working at my desk. It helps me think and be more creative. I’ve used it in my circuit training classes and the participants, after their initial resistance, loved it. It’s a fun, heart-rate raising, pressure-relieving add-on to many fitness programs.]

Helen M. Ryan is an ACE-certified trainer, certified Spinning® instructor, author and speaker. She specializes in helping people fit weight loss and exercise into their busy lives. Read Helen’s story or download her free LA’s the Place Fit Life e-book.

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