The holidays are rapidly approaching and it soon will be gift-giving time. And really, what can be better than giving the gift of fitness? The good news is that you don’t need to spend a lot to get a lot. This is one of the primary messages in my new book, Women’s Home Workout Bible. Here are three value-priced items that are sure to help your favorite guy or gal shape up and get healthier.
Stability Ball: In case you don’t know, stability balls are nothing more than large, inflatable rubber balls that can be used to perform a wide array of seated and prone exercises. Pretty much any exercise that can be done on a chair or a bench can also be done on the ball. What makes a stability ball unique? By placing your body in an unstable environment, it forces your core to assume a stabilizing role during exercise performance. This makes the ball an excellent option for developing the abdominal and lower back muscles. It’s particularly beneficial for direct ab training, where studies show abdominal muscle activity to be significantly higher than when similar moves are performed on a stable surface. Stability balls come in varying sizes. A simple test is to determine a good size for your body is to sit on the ball. A good fitting ball will allow your thighs to remain parallel to the ground: If your thighs slope down, the ball is too big; if your thighs slope up, the ball is too small. One important training consideration to keep in mind: training large muscle groups such as the chest, upper back, and shoulders on a stability ball will significantly decrease force output, so it’s not ideal if your goal is to increase muscle development or strength in these target muscles.
Resistance Bands: Here’s one of the most useful items for any home gym. Resistance bands are light weight and versatile, and allow you to perform dozens upon dozens of exercises. Using them is a snap: Simply attach a band to a stationary object (or, alternatively, hold one end or stand on it) and you create resistance at the opposite end of the band. The less slack in the band, the greater the tension and, hence, the more challenging the exercise. Best of all, you can perform exercises in all three planes of movement, making bands a highly functional modality. As an added bonus, you can take them with you on vacations and business trips—just pack them in your luggage and you’re ready to go. A good set of bands will run you around $50. This will provide five different levels of resistance—enough for even the most hardcore exercise enthusiast. They’re a terrific bargain considering the numerous applications for use.
Selectorized Dumbbells: Never heard of selectorized dumbbells? If not, you’ve probably seen them. While the exact shape and structure can vary from one model to the next, a basic selectorized dumbbell consists of a handle attached to a series of nested weight plates. To choose a weight, simply turn a knob or insert a pin on the nested plates and – voila! – you’re ready to go. Why go with a selectorized dumbbell rather than the standard “fixed” type of dumbbell? The biggest reason is space efficiency. A pair of selectorized dumbbells can take the place of a dozen or more pairs of the fixed variety. Storage is a cinch – just stick them in a closet or tuck them away in a corner and they’re out of sight. This is especially beneficial if you have a small workout area in your home. Prices vary depending on make and how much poundage you need. A pair of 12-pounders go for around $70 while a set of 50-pounders will run a couple of hundred bucks.