Do TV Fitness Gadgets Really Work?
Are sleek new fitness devices the quick fixes they claim to be? We take a look at the science behind some of the most recognizable ones.
Shake Weight for Men
$30 + $10 S&H
You hold. And shake. Ads say it causes up to 240 muscle contractions per minute and gives you a complete upper-body workout in 6 minutes.
What's the science say? Muscles don't grow just because you contract them; they need the challenge of added weight, says Mark Peterson, Ph.D., a University of Michigan exercise physiologist.'
Gym alternative: Moves that target multiple areas, such as the bench press or the bent-over row, grow muscle faster, Peterson says. Start your workout with a weight you can lift only 6 to 8 times, and do 3 or 4 sets of each exercise. As you become stronger, add weight.
Push Up Pro
$10 + $6 S&H
These discs allow wrist rotation during pushups, which the ads say means less wrist stress, natural shoulder movement, and extra power.
What's the science say? Rotating your wrists eases some strain, but that doesn't improve the effect of the pushup, says Eric Cressey, M.S., co-owner of Cressey Performance.
Gym alternative: Place a pair of dumbbells on the floor and perform pushups while gripping the handles. When you do pushups this way, your wrists won't fold and strain under your body weight, Cressey says. Once you master the technique, place your feet on a bench to increase the difficulty.
Brookstone Inversion Table
$300 + $65 S&H
It flips you over, which the maker says stretches muscles, improves posture, and eliminates back pain.
What's the science say? Temporary pain relief may come, but other benefits aren't backed by science. "Your muscles aren't working, which is what you need for a long-term fix," Cressey says.
Gym alternative: To improve your posture and ease back pain, build the muscles that support your spine, says Peterson. Activate your abs, hip flexors, glutes, and lower back with planks, side planks, and hip-extension holds. Do 3 sets apiece, holding each for 30 to 60 seconds.
The Flex Arms
$200 + $16 S&H
Strap this device to your upper arms, and electric shocks will "tone, tighten, firm and strengthen" your muscles in 4 to 8 weeks.
What's the science say? Your muscles grow when you stress them just enough to cause micro-tears in the fibers. Lifting weights does this, but small electric jolts probably won't, says Cressey.
Gym alternative: Body-weight exercises can challenge your arm muscles with more weight than curls or bench presses ever will—and you need that extra weight in order to grow muscle. Add 2 or 3 sets of pushups and pullups at the end of your workout, says Martin Rooney, P.T., C.S.C.S.
Ab Circle Pro
$200 + $35 S&H
You kneel on it, grab onto both handles, and rotate your body from side to side, strengthening your core, according to the ads.
What's the science say? The extreme rotation from the Ab Circle Pro may put dangerous torque on your spine, and its effectiveness as a cardio workout is questionable, Peterson says.
Gym alternative: Kettlebell swings combine cardio and resistance training, which allows you to safely lose weight and build core muscles, says Mike Robertson, C.S.C.S.