Hello again, AFM readers! One of my favorite things about fitness is that it is constantly evolving as new research, tools, and training methods are introduced. With so many options out there and with so little time to test them out on your own, I am happy to have another opportunity to share my thoughts on a few new toys on the fitness block so that you can spend your valuable time working out with the right equipment and not trying to find it.
The Ugi ball is a well-known fitness tool throughout the barefoot training world and is often compared to Dynamax, which was the pioneer of a softer, more shock-absorbent medicine ball. Through functional movements and timed circuits, the Ugi ball barefoot training workout seeks to improve strength while combining a balance and cardiovascular component.
I gave the Ugi ball workout a try in my apartment and, while the manual looked nice, it didn’t offer any helpful exercise instruction, so I referred to the DVD and Ugi app instead. I expected the ball to be more of a bean bag consistency, but it was still fairly dense—just slightly less so than the Dynamax ball. After settling into a few exercises, I found the act of working out while barefoot a little jarring and, frankly, no walk in the park. As a big advocate of circuit training, I really liked how every minute of the routine was a different exercise, and I felt the effects of the workout from my head to my unusually sweaty and exposed toes.
Overall, I felt the exercise movements were fairly simple, so beginners or those lacking coordination could comfortably participate and work up to doing more advanced exercises requiring moderate balance. I think the Ugi ball would be a great fit for at-home fitness junkies, yoga or Pilates enthusiasts, or someone looking for a trendy new fitness challenge. For those of you looking to get a great complete body workout along with enough conditioning to burn off the calories from last night’s happy hour, the Ugi ball barefoot workout is a viable option to get your feet wet, literally.
• Minimal equipment required
• Well-made product
• Good for all levels of fitness
• Limited instruction in workout
• Can be a little rough on the
wrists during specific exercises
The Leg Magic X (LMX) is another option for the at-home fitness enthusiast. With a simple, retro design and easy assembly, the makers of the LMX assure users they will feel “healthier and stronger” after using their product. On first glance, the LMX appears to be a cross between an inline skate training machine and an adductor (inner thigh) machine, but it actually consists of lateral rails that slope at 9 degrees with foot rests that move freely. Because bodyweight is what determines the resistance level of the machine, people with knee injuries or sedentary lifestyles would not be good candidates to utilize the LMX.
As a test run, I cautiously gave the LMX a try for a few minutes to feel what muscle groups would jump in to take on the challenge. As I’d expected from looking at the movement pattern, I felt my adductors and glutes right away. After getting a good feel for the device, I jumped into a short workout and performed five 1-minute intervals with 15 seconds rest in between, which I came to realize may have been a bit overzealous for my initial use of the machine. Not knowing how fast my heart rate would jump and inner thighs would fatigue, I started to increase the rest period time between intervals. This exercise exposed my weak adductors, and the LMX truly gave my legs, glutes, and cardiovascular system a run for their money.
With that unexpected experience, I would say the claims are true about this infomercial product and its effectiveness. However, users should be aware of potential problems, including pressure on the medial (inside) area of the knees. For a product whose advertising seemingly targets baby boomers and older demographics, it sure did provide a challenging yet low-impact workout for me.
• Easy assembly and occupies little space
• Quick workouts
• Good for leg and core strengthening
• Difficult to mount and dismount securely
• Limited strength development
• Few setting options to fit individual needs
Adaptive Motion Trainer
The Adaptive Motion Trainer (AMT) brings together the biomechanical movements from the stair climbing, elliptical, and treadmill machines. The motions performed range from a stride height of 6.5 up to 10 inches, with a stride length capability of an astonishing 36 inches. Although these numbers may not draw your attention or make you itch to try it, with its unique capability to transition through movement patterns on the fly, AMT makes for an all-new cardio training experience.
After hearing rumblings from friends about the AMT’s wide range of movement options—including personalizing stride length—I was eager to try it out. From the rear-positioned deck, I comfortably stepped onto each pedal without any feeling of losing my balance. I first tried out the interval training program; it took me through a variety of stride lengths and height changes, and I found that I really liked the smooth feel of gliding through strides, almost simulating the feeling of antigravity. It offered a low-impact workout that kept my lower back happy and was very easy on the knees and hips. I cut loose for a bit, taking every opportunity to transition through all the range capabilities, and the workout just flew by. While an elliptical machine can be a safe place at the gym that may lead to complacency in workouts, the AMT is a great compromise for those who can’t give up the elliptical machines but want a higher caloric burn from their workout.
For those who may be tired of the same old elliptical workout but are a bit intimidated by the stair-climbing machines, the AMT may be your new lease on cardio. The smooth yet challenging workout had little impact on the joints and it seemed that with every movement I tried, I couldn’t go wrong. I recommend the AMT for anyone who wants something new in his or her cardio routine.
• Easy on lower extremity joints
and lower back
• Supported fluid movements
• User-friendly screen and
display (stride dial)
• Varied stride capabilities
(short stair climb to long
• Delayed transition time
between changing strides
• Not widely accessible yet
(only in select gyms)
• Occupies a lot of space for
It doesn’t seem that long ago when I was introduced to the classic stair- climbing machine. It was the favorite choice of my personal trainer at the time; he liked to use it to conclude a tough leg workout. As a teenager, it took me a while to understand he was not purposefully trying to impair my ability to walk back to the locker room! He explained that using this particular machine would help me gain the leg strength and endurance I needed to excel at football. So, with the eager drive characteristic of a high school sophomore aiming for a letter jacket, I became addicted to the machine. As a matter of fact, this stair addiction actually helped improve my athletic performance by leaps and bounds.
You can find a few different options for stair climbing at most gyms. Two of the more common choices are the stair stepper and the stair mill. The former simulates the action of climbing stairs while the latter mimics a movement akin to a vertical mountain climb. Either way, you are targeting your lower half by integrating your glutes, legs, and core muscles into your cardio workout. Since it does not demand a lot of coordination and balance to use either of these machines, they’reit’s a great “first step” (pun intended!) for gym novices. You may find that, although the stair stepper version requires a bit less coordination than the revolving stairmill, it is not uncommon to walk away from eitherthis machine thinking you wasted time in the gym. A common complaint that I’ve have heard periodically heard through the years involves knee pain when using a stair climber. If you have weakness or any serious issue with your knees, I highly discourage using this machine. Work to build strength in your major leg muscles, and, if you are advised not to use a stair climber by your physician, go with the appropriate cardio machine (or at least one that places a lighter load on the knees). As I have mentioned in previous articles, Ccardio machines are not designed to suit every person’s specific issues, although it is getting harder to argue that case with so many of the latest machines being ergonomically sound and designed to ease wear and tear on the joints.
I don’t think I am biased or stretching my opinion when I say that stair-climbing machines are underutilized and misunderstood, although I will admit they can be a bit intimidating to try out for the first time. When presenting a cardio challenge, stair-climbing machines are always a safe bet for anyone willing to give them a try (as long as the aforementioned caveats are followed). So, the next time you set foot in your gym and all of your favorite cardio machines are occupied, look no further than that stair climber. You may find that the path of highest resistance is what you’re missing in your fitness quest. Go ahead, step up to the challenge, and give this cardio dark horse a ride; it’s called a classic for a reason!
• Great cardio workout
• Good for leg endurance
• Good for building strength in the latter stages of post-knee surgery rehab
• Requires a moderate level of coordination and some conditioning; could be difficult for fitness beginners
• Can be rough on joints if not used properly (ankles, knee, hips)
• Intimidating to try for some