New Workout Equipment - the Pumpkin!?

All jokes aside about possibly even contemplating using a pumpkin as a piece of workout equipment, the Home Workout Guide has a unique take on how to get the most out of your pre-carved jack-o-lantern.

10 Killer Pumpkin Exercises Session 2 - Watch more free videos

TRX Fitness Anywhere

group-hip-hinge.jpgWhile having gym equipment at hand is a serious bonus to any workout, as I’ve mentioned before, the effectiveness of bodyweight workouts shouldn’t be underestimated. By performing seemingly simple bodyweight exercises, you can still have a very good routine while benefiting from the ability to workout at places other than a smelly gym.

Enter the TRX Fitness Anywhere system. What is essentially a nylon trap with handles on each end enables you to extend your bodyweight exercise repertoire and perform some neat exercises that would be probably be difficult to do without something like it.

The TRX Fitness Anywhere strap mounts on your door, over an I-beam, or over some other structurally sound mounting point. From there, either by holding onto the handles or strapping your feet through them, you can perform a variety of interesting suspension bodyweight exercises such as the “Atomic Press” (think pushup combined with a hanging leg raise). A bunch of demos of the possible exercises are available on the TRX website.

The TRX system was developed by Randy Hetrick, during his years as part of elite Navy Seals teams for use in quarters where sufficient exercise equipment was scant. As time went on and as it became more and more apparent that he had a good fitness product on his hands, Randy made continued modifications to the system, bringing it to where it is now.

According to a NYT article, the TRX Fitness Anywhere has “entered the mainstream”, becoming part of over 1,000 gyms throughout the U.S., being used by individual trainers and for group classes. TRX has also been used for pro Football training.

The Exercise Equipment Expert has a good review and video of the TRX Fitness Anywhere system and highly praised it for not only helping to give a good workout, but for its relative inexpensiveness as well.

The Power Plate

The Fitness industry is loathe with individuals out to make a buck on unknowledged suckers, most of whom would try anything to lose weight. Turn on the shopping channel and if it’s not jewelery or a home stereo component that they’re advertising, it’ll most likely be a “fitness” product. And for a while, these items sometimes garner the interest of dieters worldwide. Case in point, the Power Plate.

The Power Plate looks like a doctor’s scale with handle bars. Step on it and turn it on and it begins to vibrate intensely. The makers of the machine say that the machine is “the premium vibration device powering a new dimension in wellness solutions for all ages, lifestyles and physical abilities.” They cite benefits of using the Power Plate, including improvement in blood circulation, increased flexibility, bone density and strength as well as decreased cellulite. And they claim all of this in faster, less frequent workouts than you would typically do.

My initial gut reaction to this is that it’s bogus - yet another expensive workout gimmick. However, a quick search in Google reveals hundreds of sites and news articles all seemingly proclaiming the vibrating machine’s greatness. Some articles even go as far as describing how celebrities like Madona have successfully used it. But I just can’t believe it. How can a vibrating platform be a substitute for a normal workout?

I could continue to write about why I feel that the Power Plate isn’t worth its $10,000 cost and why it would be the biggest paper weight purchase anyone would make, but over on, Sal Marinello has written a pretty good article that pretty much sums up what I’d have to say.

Sure the Power Plate may have some health benefits. The blood circulation and flexibility claims seem within the realm of possibilities. But don’t get trapped in the hype of self-proclaimed super machines like the Power Plate. There’s a reason why the components of a good workout routine hasn’t changed much in thousands of years. Exercise unfortunately requires work. There’s no way around it. If you want to build muscle or lose weight, you’re gonna have to get sweaty at regular intervals and spend some time actually working out.

Workout on the Cheap

Working out can be expensive. A gym membership may cost $50 per month. A treadmill will set you back at least a few hundred dollars. Something like the Bowflex could cost thousands, plus interest on financing. Then there’s the countless unopened exercise DVDs and that spontaneous ab roller purchase that never really got used. It’s almost ridiculous how much money can be blown on fitness. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

A gym membership can be a great investment. They tend to have a lot of equipment, making it easy to get a good workout in. Some gyms even offer free group classes that you can join . It may be a recurring monthly cost, but if used to its fullest, a gym membership can be sublime. However, don’t be fooled by that brand new Super Mega Health Club that just opened. It may be big, but it will probably also be costly. Lower priced memberships can be found at other less lavish gyms and while the larger clubs may have the latest and greatest elliptical machines, there are some really great reasons to choose the less ostentatious abode. The smaller places are generally more accessible as their memberships are lower. You may find that you are less intimidated at a smaller gym and even though it has less equipment, the equipment that they do have might be free more often. It’s also far easier to get to know the staff at a smaller place and take advantage of some of the programs that they may offer. All of this will actually help keep you motivated and keep coming back.

But if you can’t afford a gym membership, there are alternatives. However, don’t fall for the infomercials and all the costly gimmicky equipment. You can easily get a good setup at home with low (or no) cost.

  • A great way to keep in shape is running or walking. And not on the treadmill. The only cost you will incur for taking this up is the price of a decent set of sneakers. Make your investment count, however, by visiting a shop that specializes in running, such as the Running Room.
  • Find some used weights. All you really need is a bench, a barbell and some plates. With just these few items, you can pretty much do any weight training you’d ever need to do. Check you local classifieds. Go garage sale hunting. Check out your local freecycle group - watch for equipment that someone just wants to toss. Scour around your parents place for some old weights that your Dad has long since stopped using.
  • Find a good workout video and use it. All sorts of people have gotten amazing results with the likes of Billy Blanks. Tonnes of Tae-Bo videos are available used from online sources like for as low as $5!
  • Get a skipping rope. You can find them super cheap, but a good skipping rope workout pays off huge. Jumping rope is a seriously great cardio exercise.
  • Work on body-weight exercises. Do circuits of situps, pushups, air squats, calf raises and lunges. If that gets boring, try adding in handstand pushups, dips and clappers.
  • Build some homemade equipment. Fill up a sandbag or get a heavy rock or object. Curl it, throw it, press it, put it on a sleigh and pull it.
  • Check out your local public swimming pool. It may offer free public swimming at certain times of the week.
  • Get a basketball and get your sweat on by shooting some hoops with a few buddies.

There are probably a billion other ways to keep fit, with either very little or absolutely no money down. What would you suggest if you were cash strapped and couldn’t afford the gym membership?

My Gym

I belong to a nice gym. It just went through a good renovation and acquired some more equipment (having another couple pullup bars is nice). It’s not a huge franchise like Golds but it tries to cater to a similar crowd with the machines and whatnot. Nope, it’s nothing special, but I like it and besides, it’s down the street.

Regardless of the proximity of the gym to my home, however, there are those nights where I just don’t get home from work in time to get there for a good workout before they close. Or maybe I’m just short on time one day and can only get a half an hour in. On these days, I’m very glad that besides my gym membership, I also have a great home gym.

At my home gym, I can do all sorts of exercises - squats, cleans, deadlifts, presses, jerks, snatches, curls, hit the core, the shoulders, the legs, the arms and the back all in the comfort of my own home. And how much did this home gym cost? Nothing. Wha?!?! Yep, that’s right.

You see, all my gym consists of is a 25lb barbell and about 50 lb’s in plates. All it cost me was a trip down to my parents’ basement where I knew my Dad had a few weights sitting around gathering dust since his days when he was my age. Sure I’m not going to be pressing my max or deadlifting hundreds of pounds, but even with this measly setup, I can whip off a few sets of high intensity, high rep sets of several full body exercises.

There is no need to have the latest bowflex machine for $20 per month for the next 50 years. No real need to get an elyptical or high cost treadmill. All anyone really needs is some inexpensive weights (or possibly free for the lucky ones), a bit of empty space in the house (or the garage, or outside) and maybe a good outdoor route to occasionally run.

A good spot to find cheap weights are garage sales. Typically a good hunt early on a Summer Saturday morning will reveal some weightlifting equipment that was laying around in someone’s basement. Salvation Army and other second hand stores will also occasionally carry exercise equipment.