Before I go into the highs and lows of exercise equipment circa 2012, I want to start with the yoga mat. A recent New York Times article points out " How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body ." The subject of the article, Glenn Black, almost certainly knows more about yoga that you do, and he says, 'the vast majority of people-- students and teachers-- should simply give up yoga altogether.' In a related Huffington Post article , Black says the Times article got some people so made that he's received death threats. Thumbs down on yoga. Yikes!
Speaking of "fit to be tied," what's up with all the straps, ropes and cords for sale in the exercise equipment market ? Are these really for exercise, or do folks just keep them in the back seat of the old Honda Fit so they have something to help pull them out of the ditch ? Thumbs down on straps. Why ? Because calisthenics rule.
I suppose kettle bells sound better than dumb bells; but they're not a lot smarter. People think the body should be exercised in linear, hinged motions. But the body twists and rotates, so thumbs down on dumbells too.
An emerging trend is to purchase a " Rack " or sled-type piece of apparatus. These again work the muscles in linear, isolating movements. By isolating the muscles, you shorten the tendons, and reduce your natural ability to mobilize the joints across three planes, or rotationally. Think about the range of motion of your shoulder and your hip. How are you ever going to use a Rack to make circles with either ? Thumbs down.
Shake Weight ? Come on. This is the dumbest thing I've seen. Well, okay, it might TIE for the dumbest thing with the BodyBlade . What will people think of next ? I'm just guessing someone will create a device that turns masturbation into a full workout.
Most people don't know that "core strength" exercise typically overworks the upper abs and neglects the lower abs. So many of these kinds of exercises are damaging to the lower back and will eventually have to be abandoned. Ab roller units: thumbs down.
Another really dumb piece of junk is the breathing exerciser, like UltraBreathe or BreathBooster. If you really want to learn how to breathe, practice Tai Chi. If you really want to strain your breathe with a plastic piece of junk, try to inhale with a grocery bag in your mouth. That's a joke, son. Don't do it.
A Swiss Ball or fitness ball does get high marks in my book. First, you can sit on it and practice your posture. Second, it can be used like a medicine ball to assimilate whole-body movements. Third, it is probably one of the top two balance trainers. When you can stand on one, you'll have the balance of a cat.
The other balance trainer I like is the bongo board . These are not easy to stand on; so if you practice, it can really improve your balance, especially for sports that require balancing on a moving platform.
I do see some merit in the foam rollers hitting the market. If you insist on exercising in traditional ways like jogging, weight lifting, or using crap mentioned in this blog, you will no doubt have super-tight IT Bands like everyone else. These foam rollers allow you to stretch. Once again, Tai Chi stretches the IT Bands without the paraphernalia.
When they hit the market, a lot of people went out and bought shoes like Sketchers ShapeUps . I thought they were stupid, and asked my friendly pedorthist what he thought. To my surprise, he liked the idea. Now, many moons have passed, and the lawsuits are piling up sky high against all the manufacturers of stupid, round, rocker-bottom shoes. Thumbs way down.
If you were thinking about buying P90X, don't. Sure, you might survive one 90-day torture-- just enough to take pictures of your body and get them on P90X's next informercial. But this is too hard, and you'll quit soon; certainly you won't stick with it, and your body will trend back to a healthy level of fat. Remember people, six-pack abs are a clear indicator of unhealth because the body needs more body fat for energy reserves, immune function and warmth. If you want to understand this better, read my Race Horse Fitness blog.