Save Your Cash on These 5 Fitness Fads

In this day and age, you encounter something new almost every day; a better version of this, an upgrade to that; products that most often promise to guarantee you amazing results with minimal time investment and sweating involved. (Yes, we are living in the era of instant gratification, investing time and hard work into something feels like an old fashioned way of doing things nowadays). Some of  these new inventions are quite revolutionary and can truly help you achieve your goals faster; on the other hand however, they may be nothing more but a pricey piece of equipment failing to deliver their promise.

Over the past couple of years, I have had the opportunity to test a number of different gadgets and equipment or at least study them as an observer. I have to say I am very surprised some of these items are still sold widely and are actually bought by people.

I have listed below the top 5 worst fitness gadgets that are definitely not going to give you much bang for your buck:

1. Abs Trainer Pro

This equipment promises to be “the most effective exercise equipment for training your abdominal muscles without straining your neck and lower back. There are various abdominal exercises which can be performed with these products to help develop your ‘6-pack.” Whilst I have no doubt this gadget provides support for the neck and back, I have to admit I am struggling to imagine what other exercises you can perform on this item, apart from the traditional ab crunches.


Besides, I am also struggling to see why people should be using a support gadget – what is wrong with working on correcting poor technique which can cause strain or modifying an exercise to suit their ability level? Models made of better quality, durable material can cost over £100.

2. 0.5kg – 2kg dumbbells

I just call these Barbie-dumbbells and I personally think these are best used as book weights on your shelf. There was a time when a number of women used to be seen in our parks jogging with them and even though their numbers are in decline now, I still occasionally see ladies in a Body Pump class hoping to tone up using these pink Barbie-weights. A lot of women still believe in the myth that if you work with heavier weights, you are going to get big and masculine. That’s why programs like  the Tracy Anderson Method are successful, promising the development of lean, sculpted muscles.


The myth about gaining a masculine physique from using heavy weights is in my opinion is extremely dated and completely unfounded. Neghar Fonooni, one of the founding members of the Girls Gone Strong movement says it all:

“Let me go ahead and allay these fears. If you lift heavy, you will develop a musculature that is in line with your specific genetics (…) So, why won’t you get big, you ask? The answer is testosterone; the hormone most frequently associated with the development of muscle mass. This hormone, often referred to as the male sex hormone, is actually produced by women as well. However, women produce, on average, about 1/15th the amount that men do (…) So it stands to reason, that if women produce significantly lower amounts of testosterone as compared to men, and of that testosterone, an even smaller amount can actually help increase muscle mass, the likelihood of a woman bulking up by just lifting heavy is astonishingly low. If it were that easy to get big, men wouldn’t spend so much time in the gym trying to do so.” In fact, she goes on to saying that lifting heavy is what is going to guarantee you a sculpted physique and fat loss: “The more muscle, or lean mass, you possess, the more calories you will burn at any given time. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue that is critical for fat loss. The bigger you lift, the more lean mass you will gain, resulting in a lean, fat burning machine.” Who needs more convincing?

3. Mini stair-stepper

This gadget’s greatest appeal seems to be providing a workout you can do “in small apartments, condos, or even offices at lunchtime. It helps to burn calories, increase cardiovascular endurance, and improve your metabolism and flexibility. It’s small enough to easily store out of sight when not in use and simple enough for anyone to use”. I don’t know about you, but I can think of better ways to spend than the £30 – £75 this gadget costs. How about a nice walk in your lunch break instead or regularly using the stairs instead of the lift at work? Besides, activities such as running or cycling can be more sociable, fun and ever so efficient.


4. Electro Fitness (aka “Electro Muscle Stimulation”)

Now this thing seemed to be quite big in Hungary when I left the country. When I first saw this on the list of services my old gym in Budapest provides to their clients, I first thought it was a joke. What we are talking about here is the elicitation of muscle contraction using electric impulses.

EMS has received increasing attention in the last few years, because it has the potential to serve as a strength training tool for healthy subjects and athletes; a rehabilitation and preventive tool for partially or totally immobilized patients and a post-exercise recovery tool for athletes.

The impulses are generated by a device and delivered through electrodes on the skin in direct proximity to the muscles to be stimulated. The impulses mimic the action potential coming from the central nervous system, causing the muscles to contract. Subjects are required to wear a special suit in order to provide maximum comfort and to keep the electrodes in place. Everything is controlled using a so-called electrical muscle stimulator unit which the subject is attached to.


In theory, I can see that the basic idea is similar to the Power Plate’s – muscles receive an external, artificial stimulus which causes them to contract multiple times as they would do normally, which then will eventually lead to better toned muscles. Now, my only question is why the heck would I willingly attach myself to a machine which looks like an execution device and then subject myself to electrical shocks when there are dozens of more fun, more cost-effective and at least equally effective ways of achieving a sculpted look?

Secondly, I would always need to go to a place where this service is available, it is not as if I can just do it at home or in my local park at my leisure.

Thirdly, I am really struggling to see how can this method give me any functional benefits, I mean how will this carry over into everyday activities (i.e. will it improve my balancing skills, my ability to lift heavy stuff, or reach things from the top of the shelf etc.)?

My verdict is therefore that this is more applicable for the hospitals’ physio departments and the super-elite athletes who truly need all that modern technology can offer to give them a competitive edge.

5. Speed Chute

I could not control my laughing when I first saw this on the Physical Company website (popular seller of fitness equipment in the UK). This product “allows you to train using both resistance and over speed running without the use of a partner. Improves stride length and frequency so developing acceleration, speed and stamina. Features a velcro waist strap for quick release.” As a runner, I am always interested in ways to improve my technique, become faster and more efficient, however there comes a certain point where you just need to draw the line between training seriously and looking plain stupid. I honestly don’t know who in their right mind would bother fidgeting with this chute and no doubt subject themselves to the staggered looks of curious spectators.


I do not expect everyone to agree with me on the above, and it would be interesting to discuss differing opinions – especially if you swear by one of the above gadgets! I would also welcome your additions to the above list with an explanation on why you think they are useless or futile.

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  1. January 5, 2013 / 7:13 am

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