Five Pieces of Fitness Equipment You Need
by our Health Guru

If you've ever taken a peek at the strength-training section of a gym you've seen quite a few toys - sort of looks like the Polar Bear cage at the zoo. While you may not be a big fan of buying stuff for exercise - most stationary cycles in people's homes turn mysteriously into clothing racks - some strength toys can be useful for working on those hard-to-reach and long-neglected-muscle groups.

  1. Bands
    Basically massive rubber bands that come in different tensile strengths to provide resistance. Hold the bands in front of you, core engaged, and stretch the ends of the bands in opposite directions to exercise the triceps and upper back muscles.

  2. Balls
    You can pimp your push-ups with an exercise ball. Push up with your hands on the ball to improve balance, or with your feet on the ball and hands on the floor, core engaged, to really ratchet up the level of difficulty. Sitting on a ball and trying to remain stable while doing any exercise - such as moving hand weights - engages the core, improves proprioception balance, and intensifies any exercise.

  3. Weights
    Handheld weights are still the standard for strength training. But I'm not taking about hulking up a 50-pound weight, which is invariably done with horrendous postural adjustments. Simple one- to five-pount hand weights are perfectly adequate training tools. I prefer exercises that mimic normal activities. Take a two-pound weight and, with your your core fully engaged, simply go through the motions of loading the car with groceries - lift and reach - or of putting away a carry-on bag in the overhead compartment - lift the weights from shoulder height to up over your head.

  4. Balance boards
    These add the element of balance to your strength training. New to the scene are microelectric balance boards, which provide a nearly infinitesimal electric vibration that requires your nervous and muscular systems constantly to work for balance.

  5. Jump ropes
    The sine qua non of aerobic and resistance training - jumping rope provides aerobic, core, and upper body training. But skipping rope is extremely rigorous - most people new to aerobic training will be exhausted after a couple of minutes.

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