If you want hours of entertainment, type "the most bizarre fitness products" into YouTube. And yet, amidst the uncomfortable infomercials and equipment that looks a bit like torture devices, there are surprisingly genius fitness products that personal trainers swear by. The real challenge is discerning what actually works from what will end up collecting dust in the reject pile of your basement.
When it comes to meeting your personal fitness goals, a trainer or a gym membership can be an incredible investment. That being said, when I first decided to be a little less sedentary, both of those things intimidated me. Some well-researched home equipment made a huge difference in my fitness levels, as well as my motivation levels. However, if I hadn't consulted a close friend who happened to be a trainer and yoga teacher, I never would've known where to start with my purchases.
For this article, I reached out to seven personal trainers from all over the world to ask which surprisingly genius fitness products they recommend, and why. Some of their answers are shocking in the "What is that and what does it do?" kind of way, and some are just surprisingly simple and more affordable than you ever would've guessed.
1. A Fantastic Tool For Upper Body And Core Stabilization
Ki 'Tini' Jones — Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) and creator of TrapFit With Tini — recommends the Bodyblade, which is a lightweight and portable blade that offers a smooth and variable workout. According to Jones, "[It] was originally designed for people in PT/rehab for shoulder injury/surgery. Just so happens to be a fantastic tool for a burnout upper body workout and well as core stabilization! It is lightweight and portable and sends your heart rate soaring in no time. Using short-pulsing movements gets the muscles firing and contracting in ways a dumbbell simply cannot." This set comes with the blade, a workout DVD, and a wall chart.
2. This Durable Ring For Arm, Leg, Back, Butt, And Ab Work
According to master pilates teacher and fitness trainer Lynda Lippin, "A Pilates Magic Circle allows for arm, leg, back, butt, and ab work, and can be added to a mat or other workout." It's a durable fiberglass ring cushioned in rubber, and it's ergonomic molded handles provide comfort for any body part. It also comes in five colors, each with a drawstring bag for easy travel.
3. Strengthen Your Core With A Stability Ball
"Core is so important and yet so overlooked during exercises. As we age, having a strong core and strong stabilizing muscles becomes more important for strength and balance," wrote Mark Larose, CPT. Larose recommends a stability ball, like this one from Pavandeep. "This single piece of equipment can work 90% of the muscles in your body. On top of that, it allows the user to increase core strength while working other muscles." It's made without harmful chemicals, can support up to 2000 pounds, and comes in several different colors. It even has a free foot pump.
4. This Travel-Friendly Suspension Kit That Fits Easily In A Suitcase
Studio Owner, personal trainer, and certified strength and conditioning specialist Richard Wilcock calls the TRX GO Suspension Trainer Kit, "One of the best bits of kit that can be used at home. It has a variety of uses, making bodyweight exercises either easier or more difficult. It can be easily packed away and taken on trips making working out in a hotel room simple." It allows you to do more than 300 exercises wherever you happen to be, and it comes with a get-started guide.
5. This Simple Yet Really Versatile Recommendation
For a particularly affordable resource, fitness trainer and best-selling author Julia Buckley recommends resistance bands. "Bands are a really effective strength training tool because the muscles are forced to work harder against the resistance through all phases of the exercises." These from Fit Simply come in five varying resistance levels, are extremely durable yet light, and come with a lifetime guarantee. "Bands can be used for strengthening the whole body for the price of a coffee. They're also great for traveling as they hardly weigh anything and take up virtually no space," wrote Buckley.
6. This Strange Device That Helps With Chronic Back Pain
The Pelvic Clock Device is another recommendation from Lippin. It was invented by a former Olympic coach and activates dormant core muscles to improve posture, relieve chronic back pain, and strengthen your abdomen. According to Lippin, "It helps align the pelvis and sacro-iliac joints, and also offers support for strength training."
7. Add These Sliders To Any Workout To Engage Your Whole Body
Group fitness instructor and personal trainer Diana Mitrea is a big fan of "Gliders," and recommends these Elite Sportz exercise sliders. "They are absolutely one of my favorites and you'll see me post videos about how to use them. I love them because they're simple and small and can be tucked away anywhere — even if you want to travel. They also really challenge you — especially your core. They're extremely versatile; you can do so many things with them. Some of my favorite moves: Pike ups with your feet on the gliders and side lunges with one foot on a glider."
8. This Water-Filled Medicine Ball You Can Customize
Jones also recommends the Kamagon Exercise Ball. "This is a new take on a medicine ball with handles-but with water. I LOVE out of the box equipment and this one fits the bill. Unlike a medicine ball YOU can make it as heavy or light as you wish by adding as much water as you'd like. By using hydro-inertia (fancy way of saying the water sloshes around on you) it forces muscles to engage by waking up more muscle fibers than using traditional weights. It also can be used as a kettle bell and dumbbell. Can't be slammed around like a traditional medicine ball but it is durable and the handles are easy on the hands." This one can be adjusted from 10 to 50 pounds.
9. This Genius Activity Tracker That Also Helps You Improve Your Posture
"I also urge people to get a Lumo Lift," wrote Mitrea. It's an all-in-one fitness tracker that notes your steps and distance, but because it's worn on the inside of your shirt, it also tracks your posture. It records the angle of your body and gently reminds you to straighten up whenever you start to slouch. "This is also super helpful for people to keep their posture upright and in the correct position."
10. This Portable Product That's Great For Warm Ups, Mobility, And Core Work
"We used to use Val Slides for a lot of our personal training sessions," says Kris Petersen, a trainer at Bodymass Gym. "They are great for warm ups, mobility exercises, lunge variations, and core work. They are easy to pack in a suitcase and can be used on carpet so are great for our clients who travel and want a workout they can do in a hotel room or gym." This set comes a pair of Valslides in your color choice, a pair of booties, a manual, a workout DVD, and a mesh carrying bag.
11. This Cool Ball That Builds Up Momentum To Feel Like A 20-Pound Dumbbell
"Useful for grip strength as well as wrist, elbow and shoulder stability training," says Wilcock about the NSD Power Essential spinner. It has a computer balanced inner gyroscopic rotor that spins to feel like a 15 to 20 pound dumbbell while it builds up momentum. Pull the string to get it started and easily work out your arms, hands, and shoulders while jogging, watching TV, or sitting at work.
12. This Weird But Versatile Bubble Thing That Can Work Every Muscle
"At first glance, a Bosu may seem weird but is versatile," wrote Larose. "Bosu work when used correctly to challenge core muscles, but can be used in conjunction with medicine balls and dumbbells, to work every muscle. Isometric squats while standing on the soft side are challenging to many. Standing on the flat side and performing alternating dumbbell curls is another way to make this piece fun." This one comes with everything you need to get started, including the Bosu balance trainer, multiple workout DVDs, an owner's manual, and pump.
13. An Exercise Mat To Create An Ideal Environment For Home Workouts
It might seem like a trivial thing, but Lippin claimed, "A good mat will allow you to perform Pilates, Yoga, and floor exercises, as well as stretch!" Lippin directly recommends an Airex mat ("Airex is the best"), because it allows superior cushioning while remaining lightweight. It's made with a closed-cell structure that resists water and prevents slippage, and reviewers love it because it's long, comfortable on joints, and doesn't have that gross chemical smell that other mats have.
14. This Simple Foam Roller To Stretch, Relieve Stress, And Work Out Your Core
Larose recommends a foam roller: "Not only is this so important in relieving stress on muscles and for dynamic stretching, but you utilize your core for many of the movements. I own one, I use one on every client I have, except for those with slipped discs. They are inexpensive yet highly effective when used correctly." This one is made with quality materials that won't lose shape or break down over time. It's got a hallow core to make it less bulky, and it features multiple textures to work out muscles and stimulate pressure points.
15. This Genius Gadget So You Can Exercise While You Answer E-Mails
When it comes to people looking for a low intensity workout, Lippin recommends "an under the desk portable pedal system with variable resistance that also allows for hand peddling," The DeskCycle is specifically designed to fit under your desk for cardio you can do while sitting. It uses magnetic resistance to offer you eight calibrated settings, and it has a display that shows speed, time, and distance.
16. This Awesome At-Home Workout DVD Kit That Trainers Swear By
"P90x is one of the best programs for at home," claims Jones, and this base kit includes 12 workout DVDs with diverse moves and routines, a comprehensive nutrition plan, a workout calendar, fitness guide, and an overview introduction DVD. "Great for those getting their feet wet, for those who are gym shy, or on the fence about getting a personal trainer. Not matter what your fitness level is this program rocks! I remember the first time I tried the program and it put me through the paces!"
17. A Stable Exercise Ball To Strengthen Your Core While Working
"If you have space, a 55 or 65 cm exercise ball is great to sit on and move on," says Lippin, "plus it can be used effectively for strength, balance, and core training." This Trideer ball chair is the exact size that Lippin recommends, and because it's sturdy, extremely durable, the right height, and comes with a stability ring, it's an awesome way to work your core while sitting at the computer. It also comes in 11 colors.
18. This Cooling Vest To Keep You Safe During Summer Workouts
"Perfect for working out on hot days," says Wilcock about vests like this TechNiche HyperKewl cooling sport vest. "Ice vests will keep you cool, help prevent heat stroke and keep you performing at a higher level for longer." It's lightweight, comfortable, provides up to ten hours of cooling relief per soaking, and it comes in tons of colors and sizes.
19. A Weighted Jump Rope That You Can Customize To Suit Your Workout
Buckley is a "big fan of skipping" and likes to alternate between a speed rope and a weighted rope, like this Valeo weighted jumprope. "The weighted rope works the upper body harder, which is great for fat burning because muscles across the whole body are powering up all at the same time which requires a lot fuel." It's got an adjustable ten-foot length, cushioned handles for comfort, and weights that you can add or remove to customize the challenge levels.
20. Strengthen Your Lungs So You Can Reduce Breathlessness During Workouts
"No one thinks about training their lungs" says Wilcock, "but that’s what POWERbreathe does." It's a revolutionary and versatile respiratory muscle trainer that "boosts lung power, improving cardiovascular ability." It's made with airflow dynamics, an ergonomic design, and a comfortable antibacterial mouthpiece that helps to reduce breathlessness during workouts. Reviewers even say, "This works! Stronger breathing after just 2 weeks."
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