For those times when you can't get to the gym — or don't feel like breaking out your credit card to pay the membership fee — home workout equipment is essential. But as these innovative, lightweight and very portable devices show, a home gym doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg or take over the entire living room. They don't even have to stay at home anymore.
FOR THE RECORD:
GFlex Portable Gravity Gym: Simple clip-on, strap-and-pulley suspended bodyweight device that turns any door, tree or solid structure into a hard-core, all-body strength-training apparatus.
Likes: A true gym in a bag that allows you to do dozens of exercises, ranging from basic presses and pulls to plyometric lunges and hack squats. By incorporating a simple pulley, the GFlex takes the effectiveness of suspension/gravity training up a notch, increasing the difficulty of bodyweight exercises by allowing for single-arm efforts. A superb DVD includes 10-minute all-body beginner, intermediate, advanced and cardio routines that lead you through a wide variety of challenging exercise. Efficiently designed (it secures in place between a door and door jamb or cinches around any tree or fixed structure with a carabiner), the device stores in a 12-inch fanny pack that doubles as a cardio belt to support jumps and suspended body weight movements. It's ideal for hotel-room workouts.
Price: $59.95. (310) 310-0968; http://www.Gflex.tv.
Altus 4-Pound Weighted Leather Training Gloves: A pair of 2-pound MMA-style fingertip-open gloves studded with sand-filled compartments for running, shadowboxing and other activities.
Likes: Good idea, well executed. I punched a heavy bag, did push-ups and ran four miles with them on. Secured at the wrist by a wrap-around Velcro-strap, they definitely add upper body work to a run or walk without disrupting your form, as hand weights can. Enjoyed having full use of my fingers. A glove designed for women, the neoprene-suede Micro-load, offers the same idea with adjustable weight of up to 2 pounds per hand.
Dislikes: You can't hold dumbbells or kettle bells comfortably while wearing them, as a sand-filled ridge on the palm gets in the way.
Price: $19.99. (800) 654-9873; http://www.altusathletic.com.
Abs on a roll
Torso Ball: Designed to make the age-old ab wheel easier for women to use, inventor Jerry Abbott employs a 18-by-13-inch oval inflatable fitness ball that rotates around a handle speared through the center.
Likes: Practical, fun and effective for both women and men. Higher off the ground (8 inches) with wider handholds than a normal low-tech ab wheel, it provides a stable, challenging ab rollout — a fantastic mid-section exercise that stretches and contracts the core at once. Other exercises are possible, such as tough, unstable push-ups and dips, and doing squats against a wall by holding it behind your back. Although designed for beginners, even those who are very fit could get a workout from this. Air pump, knee pads, DVD and power-assist cords included. Deflated, it'll easily fit in your trunk.
Dislikes: Not cheap, and the website's promotional video is a turn-off. But it works.
Price: $99.95, plus $19.99 shipping and handling; http://www.torsoball.com.
Spin Trim: Two lightweight, 11-inch plastic rings that each rotate on a handle, working your wrists and forearms.
Likes: Although sort of rinky-dink and overblown (the video on the website touts its "complete upper body workout" and "gyroscopic technology"), there are some benefits. Whipping them around like a dime-store ninja, I began to feel some fatigue in my forearms and wrists in less than a minute. Doing this for five or 10 minutes while watching TV stopped me from reaching for the Cheetos and got some blood flowing. To push it, I tried it while performing squats, which made me feel like I was training for the circus. Also, seeing how uncoordinated my left hand is was a revelation. All in all, far better than doing nothing.
Dislikes: Pricey for being so low-tech. Won't make you fit or cause you to break a sweat.
Price: $19.95. (818) 859-7088; http://www.spintrim.com.
Wallack is the co-author of "Barefoot Running Step by Step." email@example.com