10 Most Worthless Pieces of Exercise Equipment

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You want to lose weight? Eat right and exercise. That's really it. It takes work, but the plan itself is so basic that most people look for alternatives that promise quick results. As a result, dozens of new machines are made and marketed every year to desperate people willing to pay high prices in the hopes of finding an easy way to drop pounds and firm up. But as the man said, short cuts make long delays, and most of these gadgets are wastes of time and money. The ones on this list, though, are the worst of the worst. They're weird, uncomfortable, overpriced, and they don't deliver on their promises. Most importantly, they're slick attempts to replace tools and activities you should be doing with cheap versions that aren't nearly as effective. They're just plain worthless.

  1. Shake Weight: "Ladies, listen up!" So begins the grating video on the home page for the Shake Weight, a big plastic dumbbell that you're supposed to shake in order to tone your upper arm. Leaving aside for a moment the issue that this is such a bizarrely specific body part to target, what happened to just doing push-ups? They're, you know, free. The Shake Weight has the same problem as most of the other devices on this list: it's trying to replace something you can already do without any special equipment, and it's not doing it very well. Originally targeted at women, there's now a Shake Weight for men, too. The biggest problem, though, is that using the device means miming some pretty suggestive sexual acts. Everyone from Saturday Night Live to South Park has made fun of what the Shake Weight looks like. I mean, try not to laugh:
  2. iGallop: Speaking of exercise and creepy sexual tension: the iGallop is about as subtle as that scene from Career Opportunities. The tool is meant to strengthen your abs and legs by making you rock suggestively back and forth, presumably in the privacy and shame of your own living room. Why do sit-ups when you can pay several hundred dollars to look like an extra in an Akon video? All the superficial sizzle, none of the actual benefit of just exercising like a normal person. Upside: it's hilarious to put your cat on it.
  3. Sauna Belt: Losing weight means working out, and that means sweating. So making yourself sweaty must be a shortcut to losing weight, right? That's the kind of logic behind the sauna belt, a cheap device you strap to your midsection in order to make your stomach sweaty and, somehow, flatter. The tool seems to be especially popular with home-shopping networks and infomercials in other countries; maybe U.S. citizens are still playing with their Shake Weights.
  4. Dumbbell Phone: Even for a gimmicky device, this strains the limits of credulity. Who wants to talk on the phone while they're exercising? Who wants to exercise while they talk on the phone? The creators were apparently trying to come up with a way to trick people into working out, reasoning that people talk on the phone all the time, so why not strap a dumbbell to the phone's handset and have them build muscle while they chat? This Japanese gadget could also be used to talk to personal trainers, who, for an additional fee, would call you at regular intervals, thereby forcing you to pick up the dumbbell phone and so some minimal exercise. Real dumbbells are helpful pieces of equipment. This telephonic version is just a joke.
  5. Ab Lounge: The first red flag is the presence of Tony Little, an athletic but unsettling man best known for hawking equipment like the Gazelle. The Ab Lounge is basically an extended camp chair with a hinge in the middle and no support, prompting the user to sandwich their body open and closed to use it. If that sounds like a sit-up, congratulations, you've figured out the secret. Only the Ab Lounge takes the sit-up process and makes it surprisingly complicated and almost dangerous by draping a person's back across an open space and relying on them to pull themselves out of it. It's entirely possible to lose control and snap backward on this thing and overextend your body in a way that you can't when safely on the floor for legit sit-ups. Save your money and your back.
  6. Brookstone Back Stretcher & Ab Trainer: Even worse than the Ab Lounge, in its way. As a back stretcher, this Brookstone device totally works: you sit and lean against it, push off with your legs, and get a nice stretch for your back. However, there are much more effective ways to strengthen your stomach and core area, especially if you've got a bad back or have experienced injuries that this device could unintentionally aggravate. Risky, bulky, and just not worth it.
  7. Master Disk: It's a piece of wood. It's a circle about 11 inches in diameter, 2.5 inches high. You stand on it to work on your balance or calves or whatever. It's a piece of wood. This isn't a home gym that requires assembly but that can be somewhat justified for the workout options it provides you. This is a hunk of wood. Period. Calling it a "master disk" doesn't make it any more impressive. Worse, the full set also includes a "focus bar," which is — you guessed it — a stick. So for $100 (!), you get a couple DVDs, a piece of wood, and a stick. There really is a sucker born every minute.
  8. Vibrating Belt: These are in every clip you see of early-20th century technology, particularly those clips designed to get a laugh, and with good reason. From the old-school models that held a person in place with a belt attached to a stand, to the new models that completely wrap around the belly, vibrating belts have always been designed to goad people into thinking they're losing weight, working out, and generally doing something better for themselves than just shaking their bodies for a few minutes.
  9. Ab Coaster Pro: Not to be confused with the amateur's ab coaster, the Ab Coaster Pro is a machine built around "constant core contraction" that aims to build your core strength in all new ways. It's the same as sit-ups and crunches, but with the added benefit that you're swinging your legs on a stool on a greased track, and you might fall off at any moment. Nothing like the lingering threat of injury to make working out more exciting, right? Seriously, though: the machine is a big, ungainly thing that's no replacement for just getting on the ground and working.
  10. Jump Snap: Almost daring in its utter pointlessness, the Jump Snap is a paired set of handles that you swing while jumping. It's designed to mimic the motion of jumping rope, only without the rope. Is it better for you than jumping rope? No; at best it's the same, but most of the time it's worse, since one of the things that makes jumping rope such a good workout is that you actually have to keep the rope moving and clear from your feet. No such worries here. Is it helpful? Not particularly; a readout tracks your jumps, in case you are unwilling or unable to count by yourself. There's not even a price cut to entice you, since the package runs about $40, which is twice what even high quality jump ropes will run you in a store. It's worthless because it's totally unnecessary. There's no good reason to buy it. At all.
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