Gym Gadgets: The Good, The Bad, The Truth

Turn on the TV and you’ll see commercials selling you the latest and greatest workout device that’s going to shape your body in 9 minutes a day.

This is just straight up marketing at it’s finest. The problem is that many of these items you see on TV make their ways into fitness clubs and gyms around the nation.

America is falling for these gimmicks.

I’m here to tell you which of these gym gadgets are worth including in your tool box, and which ones are a complete waste of your time.

The Good

1) Suspension/TRX systems

trx row

Photo credit Syatt Fitness

Over the last few years, devices such as the TRX have become wildly popular. They’re a big hit with the “functional” crowd, and rightly so. The TRX is definitely one piece of equipment that is versatile as well as portable for on the go training.

One thing I really like about the TRX is that it’s great for all levels of trainees. Personally, I use it more with people new to the gym setting. I like it as a teaching tool to learn proper movement patterns. Assisted squats, trx rows, lunge variations, elevated pushups, and plank variations are all excellent teaching tools for someone less experienced.

Truth is, you can do some extremely challenging variations of exercises using the TRX. I kind of prefer loading the weights more with barbells and dumbbells but the TRX is portable so that’s a positive.

If you’re using the TRX, try sticking to the basic exercises and learn those movement patterns so that you can progress to heavier loads via barbells and dumbbells. There’s really no need to try a bunch of circus tricks with the TRX,  save that for Cirque du Solei.

2) Ab Wheel

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sixpacknow.net

The ab wheel has been around for quite some time now. I was probably 15 years old when I first saw one of these things. I loved gizmo’s that were sold on TV so I bought one of these:
ab slide

Remember this one?

I now prefer just the ol’ standard ab wheel. It’s simple yet brutally effective. It’s also very inexpensive as you can buy one for around $10.

The ab wheel is definitely one of the more useful gadgets in the gym.

Try including 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps towards the end of a training session.

One day I hope to be a boss like this guy:

If you’re interested in learning how to perform ab wheel rollouts and how to incorporate them into your own training, head over to my online coaching page to apply for a spot in my 1-on-1 coaching program.

3) Kettlebells

Kettlebells (or kettleballs as some like to call them) have become tremendously popular over the last several years. There are now entire clinics and seminars dedicated to kettlebell movements where you can become certified to teach kettlebell training.

Much like the previous two tools, kettlebells are another useful item in the gym “toolbox.”

I think these balls of steel (pun intended) can serve many different purposes for people of varying goals.

They can be excellent teaching tools for someone learning to goblet squat for the first time.

They can also be used to develop explosive hips through kettlebell swings.

There’s a time and place for any of these tools. They’re great for mobility and warmup drills, soft tissue work, movement patterning, and portable training.

Here’s a double racked kb squat, just one of the many exercises you can do with kettlebells:

The Bad

1) Bosu Balls

bosu ball

I’ll be honest.

I don’t like bosu balls.

Actually, I kind of hate them.

I get fired up when I see someone turning a good ol’ regular exercise into a death wish by standing on a bosu ball.

If your goals are anything more than being good at bosu ball tricks, I don’t recommend using one.

Just about the only instance I could see a bosu ball being useful and serving purpose is in a rehab/physical therapy setting.

However, for fat loss, muscle gain, sport performance, bigger biceps, tighter glutes, the bosu ball will not get you the results you are looking for.

Many people think wobbling all over the place is getting them results because it feels tough. Of course it feels challenging. You’re standing on a squishy piece of rubber.

The fact is, you’re actually hindering your progress by using the bosu ball.

You cannot present a significant amount of overload during a squat for example, if you’re standing on top of one of these things.

Your body recognizes how unstable the surface is, and will actually prevent you from using any appreciable amount of weight on a particular excercise. It’s almost like your body’s built in safety mechanism.

A lot of people rant and rave about needing stability and how using a bosu ball will work great for unstable surface training. This is the biggest load of garbage I’ve ever heard.

Last I checked, we don’t walk around on marshmallows all day.

Want to work on stability?

Try doing a bodyweight lunge. It’s a basic exercise, but also one that a lot of people struggle with because believe it or not, is pretty challenging on flat ground.

Here’s a photo of one of my online coaching clients:

Oct 2014 121 July 2015 125

Oct 2014 121 July 2015 125

How many bosu ball squats did I have her do?

Zero of course. But her training does consist of plenty of barbell squats 🙂

2) Balance Boards

Since I ranted enough about the bosu ball, I won’t do the same about balance boards. Their “appeal” is pretty much the same.

wobble-board

 

I really wouldn’t recommend using them unless in a structured rehab setting or for a specific reason like regaining ankle mobility after an injury.

The Truth

The good news is there are more “tools” on the good list than the bad list.

There are applications for every one of these pieces of equipment. Some may be more useful than others depending on the individual’s goals.

While there are many different tools in the toolbox, picking and choosing ones that are specific for your goals is important.

A balanced program is the key to long term results. If you’d like to learn more about structuring your training to get the best results, you can apply for a spot in my 1-on-1 online coaching program here.

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