Home Gym Equipment: The Bad, the Ugly, and the Just Plain Terrible

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I spent a majority of my childhood glued to professional wrestling. We’re not just talking Hulk Hogan here; if there were a small time promotion on some obscure channel at 2 am, I watched it. The explosion of wrestling in the late 90’s meant that the jig was up. Promoters of companies came on national television and admitted that everything was fake (which we knew), but they also gave away their secrets to how they rigged stuff (which we didn’t know).

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I was bummed, but this revelation meant every single wrestler cashed in on telling their stories in print. I digested every book and was fascinated about the origins for each wrestler, which consisted of them watching wrestling on television and deciding that they wanted to get in great ‘ring’ shape. In order to get in shape, each wanna-be-wrestler asked, begged, and pleaded for a weight set for Christmas.

When’s the last time some skinny kid asked for a weight set? When’s the last time you saw an infomercial for some weights? Anyone ever beg their dad to pass over the reigns on his old dusty weight and bench set?

Instead we have a massive influx of infomercial nightmares. These products have abandoned the basics and now have to resemble more of a gadget from a James Bond movie than a product meant to get you in shape. However, many of us have made some impulse buys or we at least know one person who may be buying the hype. So we here at UEFP thought we would compile a short list of some of the best and worst home gym equipment…

1. Bands

There two types of bands: those used to build speed in the squat and bench press, and those bands with handles that you can buy at a convenience store. We’re talking about the dinky bands with the handles. The ones with handles are marketed as providing an all resistance workout, but there are a few problems here. First, bands work in direct opposition to our muscles. This means that when our muscles are at their strongest, the band is at its weakest (1). Furthermore, bands don’t overload the spine like a barbell squat would. That means that working out with bands doesn’t give your body any form of hormonal and metabolic boost you would find doing a traditional movement like a deadlift.

Save the bands for a warm up or trying to recover from an injury.

2. AB Blaster 9000

AB training devices were all the rage in the 90’s, and you still see them once in a while. Direct abdominal training is of little use if your diet is not under control and you don’t have an actual training program set up. The body functions as a whole unit and chopping it up in parts is not the best method for getting in shape. In fact some of the strongest abs can be seen on people who rarely train their abs, such as strongmen or Olympic weightlifters.

This can be seen in research as well. A 2011 study done in which subjects trained abdominals for six weeks had zero change in body fat levels (2). The program involved them training three days a week and focused entirely on core strengthening and direct abdominal exercises like crunches and sit ups. Eighteen workouts later and these poor subjects had no change whatsoever in their physiques.

Cleaning up your diet and getting on a solid conditioning program are the surefire ways to some washboard abs. And it doesn’t cost you three payments of $19.99 either.

3. ‘Cardio Climber Gizmo’ Thing

Treadmills, cycles, and skiers clutter basements across America. Infomercials sold them as a way to get in shape, but you use them as a dry cleaner to hang your delicates. In modern times, companies have tried to combine methods of movement; for instance, a treadmill that has handles so you can try to “ski-run” or…..”run-ski.” Whatever the case may be, companies make big bucks selling their cardio machines to the general public.

Regardless, you realized that staying in your stuffy basement and trying to workout was boring and not very inspirational. Nothing will replace human movement performed outside where you are solely responsible for making your body move. If you don’t have any intention of competing in a race, there are far better ways to get in shape besides plodding away on a treadmill or elliptical machine.

For those with children or who are simply confined to staying home, UEFP has published multiple forms of workouts that you can perform in the comfort of your own home without having to take a loan out for a treadmill.

4. The Home Workout DVD

Later on in my career I realized that people buy coaches, not coaching. This is the problem with the home workout DVD – most people simply like the instructor who wears a headset and screams out motivational quips. Maybe it’s a celebrity or a relatable fitness figure, but unfortunately, your loyalties do little for your fitness. Jumping around your living room isn’t actually a great way to get and stay in shape.

In order to meet sales quota, the DVDs need to incorporate simple isolation movements (think a biceps curl) for an easy learning curve. The problem is that these rather simple movements do very little for your metabolism. Other DVDs will instill complex and contrived movements for the sake of variety, but these rather zany and fun moves don’t follow functional anatomy and have a better chance of injuring you than getting you in shape.

Personally, I believe that if you’re that willing to work hard early in the morning before you work, you deserve better.

If you’ve been a victim of some of these products don’t feel ashamed – my room as a teen was littered with hundreds of fitness magazines promising to pack 30 pounds of muscle on my skinny frame. I just wish there were someone around then to give me an honest rundown of all these products that dominated the industry and at one point, my pocketbook.
[toggle title=”References“]

1. Bachechle, Thomas R and Earle, Roger W. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Champaign, Ill: Human Kinetics. 2000, page 47

2. Vispute, S., Smith, J., LeChiminant, J., Hurley, K. “The Affect of Abdominal Exercise on Abdominal Fat.” (2011) Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.25;9, 2559-2564 [/toggle] Originally written: August 5, 2014


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