Experts reveal the truth about seemingly ridiculous exercise gadgets
Suzanne Somers' Thigh Master
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Claims: "Firms and tones your inner thighs, shapes and tones your stomach and abdomen, and tightens your upper arms."
Expert Opinion: According to Nicole Palacios, a certified personal trainer and fitness pro, the Thigh Master actually does target and tone the thighs as it promises. If used for the chest, it also hits the chest area, Palacios says. But you can also work the butt and thighs in a number of different ways, such as with squats, lunges, or plies. "As a trainer, I always try to incorporate exercises that work a variety of muscles simultaneously so you're not in the gym for hours doing individual muscle groups," she says. "If you're using this device with the idea in mind that you will work your thighs and they're going to get tighter/smaller by doing just one exercise, you are mistaken. Spot reduction is a myth—you cannot remove fat from one area of the body in isolation by doing exercises targeting that area alone."
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Claims: "Get strong, sexy, sculpted arms and shoulders... Work out your entire upper body in just 6 minutes a day!!!"
Expert Opinion: "Shaking a two-pound, spring-loaded weight for minutes at a time is not necessary for firming, shaping or building muscle versus lifting free weights," says Sandra Hahamian, PTA global certified personal trainer. "It is more challenging to hold proper form while shaking around a device like the Shake Weight instead of properly setting up the body before you put a weight in motion." But is it better than doing nothing at all? Maybe, Hahamian says. "My advice is to save your money and use the free weights you have," she adds.
Gaiam Balance Ball Chair
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Claims: "Patented design promotes correct posture and improves circulation... Adjustable padded back adds more comfort and ergonomic back support while the ball cushions the spine."
Expert Opinion: Compared to a standard chair, this Gaiam Balance Ball Chair is way more functional due to the three-dimensional stabilization and balance, Gilles says. "By adding the balance component, you will engage more muscles and create more blood flow. When you engage more muscles, specifically your anterior and posterior core, you will strengthen the muscles that help with posture," he says. "Anytime you start using a new product that recruits more muscles, it is important to ease into it rather than use it for an entire day." But Gilles warns, this should not be the end all, be all. "Like anything you do over and over again, you will build up a tolerance, which means you should continue to do other workouts for your core and structural properties."
Hawaii Hula Chair
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Claims: "Brings you passive exercise while sitting indoors... Designed to give movement back to the body's center of mass, no matter how restrictive your lifestyle!"
Expert Opinion: Palacios can't even take this Hula Chair seriously. "[It] looks like something from a comedy sketch—I had never seen it before. I'm not even sure what they're trying to target, but it looks pretty silly. You would be better off standing and doing hip swings if you're trying to work your waist like a hula dancer. That's a great ab move, but sitting on a chair that undulates is not really going to do much for you overall. You may burn some calories because you're constantly moving, but you're not the mover [with this device], you are being moved.
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Claims: "Build your biceps and triceps, sculpt your chest and shoulders, light your forearms on fire!"
Expert Opinion: "Without trying the [Free Flexor], I would have to say it's a waste of money," Palacios says. "It's simply another gimmicky gadget that might seem like a great idea, but if you're trying to get the body of one of the guys on their infomercial, you will have to train much differently." Palacios adds that any one exercise is not going to train your whole body effectively enough to burn calories and build muscle. "It's imperative to use a variety of modalities when training, as well as using functional exercises (motions you would do in real life) in order to get in amazing shape, lose weight, and build muscle."
Ab Belt by Sport Elec
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Claims: "Firm and tone abs in 2 weeks! Keep your body fit! Perfect electro-stimulation for abdominal muscles..."
Expert Opinion: The Ab Belt is supposed to stimulate the nerves to contract your muscles and get them firmer and stronger. The first thing that you need to realize, personal trainer Patrick Gilles points out, is that there is no quick workout or piece of equipment for toned abs. "To even see a six pack, you will have to get your body fat below 12 percent. Thus, the best way to reveal toned abs is sticking to a healthy diet and working hard in the gym.
Your abs respond well to variety and any gizmo may work well for a while, but the same repetitive movement makes your body plateau," Gilles says. "The only thing I would recommend this piece of equipment for is recovery. The stimulation promotes blood flow that can stretch the fascia and muscle while releasing tension."
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Claims: "Takes inches off your waist to make you look slim instantly! And nobody can tell you're wearing it!"
Expert Opinion: The Slim Away says that it will help you lose excess water weight, provide back support, and that it smooths bulk around your waist for an instantly trimmer look., but how accurate are those claims?
"First of all, most people do not consume enough water throughout the day, so why do you want something that promotes dehydration?" Gilles points out. "I think depending on a belt to help protect your back gives a fabricated sense of security, and this in turn hurts an individual from developing the physical integrity that is usually the reason for working out in the first place." If you really want to get rid of that spare tire, Gilles suggests to clean up your diet and find an exercise plan that fits your lifestyle.
Ab Circle Pro
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Claims: "Lose your love handles... Get an intense cardio workout while sculpting your abs!"
Expert Advice: "This machine claims it uses the momentum of gravity to target your midsection. Swinging the body side to side does not create strong, functional abs," says fitness trainer Sandra Hahamian, who's also the creator of the Tech Tush fitness app on iTunes. "You also want to be mindful of such movements if you have a weak core and hip or back instability."
The makers of the Ab Circle Pro also claim it "burns fat in just weeks." "You will need to make significant lifestyle changes for fat reduction, including exercise to do that," Hahamian says.