Home Gym Accessories

Popular fitness accessories

Here's a bit of irony - as fitness research methodology becomes more sophisticated, much of this high-tech research indicates that a low-tech, back-to-basics fitness program can produce superior results to a fitness plan based on high-tech equipment. This enlightening revelation has inspired a growing interest in fitness activities such as Pilates, jumping rope and aerobic stepping. These activities use fitness accessories that are affordable, portable and versatile, which gives them the distinction of being must-haves for many home gyms. Here are some guidelines for choosing them.

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Jump Rope

Not only is jumping rope an excellent aerobic activity, but it's also fun. Plus, jumping rope improves agility and coordination.

Depending on your weight, jumping at a moderate speed of 70 to120 turns per minute for 15 minutes can burn between 150 and 200 calories. Make sure to choose a rope that is appropriate to your height. When the rope is folded in half, it should just about reach your shoulders. While a jump rope is certainly small enough to fit in even the smallest apartment, it's not without its drawbacks. Jump ropes are inappropriate for homes with:

  • Cats
  • Downstairs neighbors
  • Fragile antiques
  • Low ceilings

Foam Roller

Unbelievably simple yet astonishingly effective, foam rollers can be used for flexibility training, balance, core exercise and Pilates. Need a massage? Use a foam roller for a technique known as self myofascial release, which releases muscular knots without adding excessive muscular length. For this reason, athletic teams use foam rollers for warm-ups in lieu of stretching.

Foam rollers are available in various lengths, widths and thicknesses. You can use a half roller for balance training that's similar to a wobble board. However, half rollers can't be used for massage, so they're less versatile. Although standing on a full foam roller is more challenging than standing on a half, with practice, it's an attainable skill.

If you decide to go with the full foam roller, remember that size matters. When lying on the roller, it should be long enough to support both your head and your tailbone.

Pilates Equipment

Here are some guidelines for purchasing Pilates exercise equipment:

  • You get what you pay for. Cheap equipment is flimsy, and "easy assembly" is a matter of opinion.
  • Choose equipment from companies that specialize in Pilates equipment.
  • Take classes from a certified Pilates instructor before using the equipment on your own.

If Pilates equipment isn't in your budget, consider this: Before he invented the reformer, Joseph Pilates used the springs of a hospital bed to create physical therapy exercises. Many of the Pilates elders, who studied with the master himself, claim that Joe could make a piece of exercise equipment out of just about any household product. For example, rumor has it that he created the Pilates ring by using the ring of a keg.

Be creative! You can perform Pilates exercises on a stability ball, in conjunction with resistance bands and a Pilates ring. Pilates rings are composed of flexible metal or rubber. The flexible metal rings are more durable. Choose rings with padding on both the inside and outside.

You can also use an aerobic step on either an incline or decline, in order to mimic the movements of the Pilates reformer. The aerobic step can also be used for step training and strength training. Be sure to choose one that is long enough to support the entire length of your body.

Home fitness accessories make it easy to adhere to your workout. Go for it! You have nothing to lose but your excuses!

by Lisa Marie Mercer Sub Channel Steward Winter Sports

More Home Gym Accessories

Exercise Balls

Exercise balls are among the best pieces of exercise equipment you can buy for your home gym or home fitness center. Gym balls can be used in weight loss, yoga, Pilates and muscle toning exercises. Exercise balls come in two basic forms: stability balls and medicine balls.

Stability Balls

Using a stability ball should help to improve coordination and balance. It will also strengthen and tone abdominal and lower back muscles.

Some stability balls come with an instructional DVD, which will demonstrate the best ways to use the ball in core strengthening exercises and for burning calories.

This type of gym ball is easily inflated with a compressor or a small hand pump. It is important to buy the recommended size of stability ball for your height and weight.

Medicine Balls

A medicine ball is a multi-purpose exercise ball. It will help improve movement and coordination. Exercising with a medicine ball can also increase strength, endurance and muscle power.

It is better to begin with a lighter-weight medicine ball, and then progress towards using a heavier one. Look for club-quality medicine balls with a textured, slip-resistant surface.

This versatile type of gym ball can be used alone or with a partner. It is important to check that the room you are using has enough space and height before performing any exercise that involves throwing a heavy medicine ball.

by Ruth Belena

Exercise Mats

Choosing the right exercise mat is essential to a good workout to provide comfort, traction and support, and to prevent injury. When buying your exercise mat, the main things to consider are its size, its thickness and the material it's made from.

Gym mats need to absorb the shock of aerobic exercise and provide comfort for sit-ups, push-ups and repetitive movements. The better the mat, the more shock absorbent it will be, so look for a firm rubber or fabric. While the mat needs to be long enough for full body extension and wide enough for a range of movement, a depth of 1 centimeter is ample. Standard gym mats are usually between 100 and 200 centimeters long and 50 to 60 centimeters wide.

Yoga mats need to provide your hands and feet with traction to avoid slipping and to create a cushioned surface for stretching. A standard yoga mat is 60 centimeters by 172 centimeters, but longer and wider mats can be found. Since it is important to be able to feel the floor in standing poses, 4 millimeters is plenty deep. Better-quality mats are usually made from a blend of natural rubber and jute, but many other synthetic and organic materials are available.

While similar to yoga mats in size, a Pilates mat needs to be thicker to offer more protection from the floor, and firmer to support balance and alignment during a session. Look for denser foam or rubber mats, as low-quality foam is often too soft and squishy.

by Amy Lewis

Exercise Bands

The biggest misconception about exercise bands is that they can't give you a good workout. Actually, exercise bands offer resistance during the entire exercise motion, while free weights, with a similar exercise, are not performing resistance to gravity through the whole lift. At the other end of the spectrum, you can't get the benefits of maximum weight lifting with exercise bands. A combination of resistance band and free weight use is optimal.

To receive the most benefit from your exercise bands, choose a variety of sizes. They come in light, medium, heavy and extra heavy, with color coding to correspond. Various levels of resistance will be required for different muscle groups. If you're a weight-resistant beginner, choose at least two of the light, medium and heavy sizes.

Bands with permanent, padded handles are most comfortable. Anything that makes exercising easier will ensure more use. Resistance bands that offer exchangeable handles just mean you will have to stop your exercise routine and change them out. Also, some handles are made from hard plastic, which may not be comfortable.

When starting out, purchase basic long tube bands with handles. Although other styles are available, such as circular bands, figure-8s and double bands, it's always best to start with the basics. After you've exercised for a period of time, you'll know better what additional equipment to buy.

The nicest advantages to exercise bands are their affordability and their mobility.

by Karen Ellis

Heart Rate Monitors

Professional athletes and personal trainers typically recommend heart rate monitors to all types of exercisers. Heart rate monitors act as an EKG by measuring how hard your heart is working during exercise, which can help prevent you from overdoing it. Remember that the heart is a muscle, and it can be strained if overworked, just as any other muscle in the body. A monitor will help prevent complications, as well as help you burn the most calories effectively.

Traditional heart rate monitors have a strap that goes over the heart, and a wrist attachment that receives signals from this strap. In 1977, Polar developed a revolutionary monitor, the Polar heart rate monitor, which doesn't require a strap at the heart. This wristwatch monitor has revolutionized the use of heart rate monitors by making it even easier for all exercisers to measure how hard they are working.

The cost of heart rate monitors depends on how many features you want. They range anywhere from $40 to $400. Typically, athletes spend more, since they use them the most, while an average exerciser may spend much less. Choosing the right monitor also depends on what type of exercise you are engaging in. If your workouts are more intense and/or you exercise very often, then you may consider spending more on a higher-quality monitor.

by Kristeen Moore

Body Fat Monitors

There are various methods and tools available for measuring the percentage of body weight that can be attributed to fat. BMI (Body Mass Index) uses a ratio of height and weight to determine body fat percentages. Simple BMI measurements are useful for gaining a general indication of health, but can be less than accurate for very athletic bodies.

BMI calculators provide a more reliable method of determining body fat percentages because they use a series of body measurements. The more measurements that are taken, the more accurate the body fat calculation will be.

Body fat calipers are a special tool that measures the width of various folds of skin to determine the percentage of body fat.

There are also electronic devices available that are easy to use and provide accurate body fat measurements. These devices are also available with memory and settings for multiple users.

Body fat scales are scales that measure body weight, but at the same time discharge a harmless amount of electrical current into the body and then display body fat percentages digitally. Body fat analyzers use the same general principle, but the newest ones are handheld, making them convenient and portable.

Maintaining lean muscle mass and reducing body fat are essential to achieving good health and should be a key component of any health or exercise regime, with or without a weight loss goal.

by Heidi Attir

Punching Bags

You've just completed your dream home gymnasium, but there's something missing; a punching bag would fill the gap nicely. Why should you buy a punching bag? What are the health benefits and what type of punching bag should you buy?

First, punching bags provide an excellent cardiovascular workout. A good three-minute sparring session will really get your lungs working.

Second, punching bags are very beneficial if you are getting on in years and your bones aren't what they used to be. Light jabbing exercises will strengthen bones and improve bone density to ward off diseases like arthritis.

Third, after a hard day at the office, pummeling a punching bag can be a great way to get rid of frustration and improve your mental health.

What type of punching bag should you buy?

Heavy bags - If you're interested in boxing and want an intense workout, a heavy bag is recommended. Typically, heavy bags are 3, 4 or 5 feet in length, cylindrical in shape and between 25 and 100 pounds.

Due to their large size and weight, heavy bags require secure fixing. This can be done using either a ceiling hook or metal chains suspended from a bracket mounted at right angles on a wall.

Speed bags - Speed bags are smaller, spherical punching bags that improve speed and hand-eye coordination. A speed bag is air-filled and suspended from an overhead platform.

Speed bags - Speed bags are smaller, spherical punching bags that improve speed and hand-eye coordination. A speed bag is air-filled and suspended from an overhead platform.

by Christopher Chatterton