Workout Gear: Reviews and Alternatives

Ads for at-home workout gear catch you at your weakest—on the couch, watching late-night tv, eating Cheetos. Some of the devices are useful tools to help you train more effectively. Some of them will be hard to move at a garage sale. We separate the utilitarian from the useless.

Insanity, $120

The Claim
Reverse the work-to-rest ratios of ordinary interval training and you push yourself to your limits and maximize caloric burn.

The Lowdown
A 60-day, 10-DVD home-workout program emphasizing body-weight-based, high-intensity interval workouts.

Bullshit or Bull’s-eye?
People can tolerate more high-intensity interval work than we give them credit for, but usually only with coaching. This works.

Low-Cost Substitute
Calisthenics plus willpower. If you can a yourself, you can do this on your own.

Ab Lounge Sport, $130

The Claim
“Because you are up off the floor, you receive a total range of motion for ultimate results.”

The Lowdown
A raised folding chair with a range of motion that opens from the jackknife position to beyond 180 degrees.

Bullshit or Bull’s-eye?
This takes the crunch to a new level. Too bad the crunch—an outdated routine that damages the spine—is a pointless exercise.

Low-Cost Substitute
To get a six-pack, do planks instead—they don’t isolate muscles, and they engage your entire core.

Bowflex Home Gym, $2,999

The Claim
Resistance exercise without the inertia and joint pain of free weights.

The Lowdown
A universal strength station that utilizes cables and bendable steel rods.

Bullshit or Bull’s-eye?
This promotes the same batch of seated muscle-isolation exercises created by bodybuilders that are quickly going out of style.

Low-Cost Substitute
Get a set of dumbbells and get off the bench. When you sit or lie down, you shut off half your muscle systems.

P90X, $140

The Claim
“Muscle confusion,” or the idea that you will not experience a plateau if you keep mixing up the exercises.

The Lowdown
A wildly popular set of 12 training DVDs offering a 90-day, at-home, multi-modal, high-intensity set of workouts and a diet plan.

Bullshit or Bull’s-eye?
A well-packaged smorgasbord of familiar workout modalities like plyometrics, yoga, calisthenics, and kickboxing.

Low-Cost Substitute
Crossfit workouts are free online and have similar intensity. But you won’t be able to tell everyone you are on Day 87…

Perfect Push-Up, $19.95–$39.95

The Claim
“Designed to work with the natural motion of your arms and shoulders to maximize results and minimize stress on your body.”

The Lowdown
Rotating handles let you unload your wrists and internally rotate your hands and arms as you push. Pricier versions fold for travel.

Bullshit or Bull’s-eye?
It creates greater muscle tension and stiffness, and that adds up to moakes this a smart piece of gear.

Low-Cost Substitute
Push up with your hands on basketballs, rotating hands as you do. Careful, though—the balls might pop out from under you.

TRX Suspension Training, $189.95

The Claim
“A world-class workout in a minimum amount of space.”

The Lowdown
Strong nylon bands that let you do decline-pulling or incline-pushing exercises in places with no bars or ropes.

Bullshit or Bull’s-eye?
It’s the simple tools that offer complex results. Suspending your body weight on ropes, as TRX requires you to do, is a killer workout.

Low-Cost Substitute
You could do most of these exercises at a playground, although you might have to kick some kid off the swing set.

Shake Weight, $29.95

The Claim
“Increase muscle activity more than 300 percent compared to traditional weights.”

The Lowdown
A five-pound dumbbell that slides back and forth against springs within its handle.

Bullshit or Bull’s-eye?
It imposes much of its stabilizing workload on the triceps, but a better tool would impose that work on more muscles.

Low-Cost Substitute
Bounce a rubber medicine ball off a wall or fill a jug of water halfway and shake. Vigorously.

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