Everyone wants to look good; and in America this desire borders on obsession. Taking advantage of this, many savvy marketers and gyms push a wide array of exercises and “fitness” equipment, with tall claims that just a few minutes of use a day will give you washboard abs, or a tight butt, or whatever. Some of them have proved their usefulness, but a lot of them are clever gimmicks and the benefit they provide is more mental than physical. Let us look at a few of them.
- Seated inner/outer thigh machine
These machines are used, mainly by women, in the belief that they will lose fat around the thighs and hips. This is not quite true because, although the machines do palpate the stabilizer muscles, they don’t do it in the same way as we use them. The only effective way to have taut thighs is by reducing the overall fat in your body; and this can be achieved only through regular diet and exercise.
- Dumbbell exercises
Using dumbbells is a popular form of exercise because you can do it at home anytime and do not need to schedule a gym visit. Extending your arm behind you while holding a dumbbell, is supposed to get rid of skin flaps on upper arms. However, it does not achieve the twin objectives muscle growth and fat reduction. Triceps exercises such as dips in front of a step with palms extended backwards are more effective. Similarly, a popular aerobics exercise of holding dumbbells up and out to the side and bringing them in toward your chest works only for the shoulders. To have any impact on your chest muscles, you have to remember that gravity isn’t horizontal; and lie on your back while doing the exercise.
- Calf-raise equipment
Gym equipment that places weight on your shoulders as you rise up and down on the balls of your feet is helpful in developing shapely calves, but it can also cause spinal compression. You can achieve almost the same result by placing your hands against the wall, leaning in towards it and raising yourself up on the balls of your feet.
- Leg-extension equipment
Lifting a weighted bar with ankles as you straighten the legs in front of you is meant to meant to strengthen your quadriceps – and it does – but it also puts a lot of stress on your knees, which could cause problems later on. Squats and lunges are just as effective in strengthening quadriceps and hamstrings.
- Ab-strengthening equipment
The problem with those seated ab-curl machines at the gym that you have to climb into, is that it is effective only if it is adjusted perfectly for your anatomy. This requires time and knowledge, which are usually in short supply. You can achieve quite satisfactory results using planks, side planks and ab-curls.
The long and short of it is that the gym and aerobics classes are fine for socializing, but if the objective is to keep fit, you can save a lot of money by doing exercises at home with simple equipment.