We all want to get ripped, but we don’t want to work for it. That’s the principle behind exercise gadgets, those infomercial-sold pieces of technology that promise perfect abs, bulging pecs and Paul Ryan-level body fat in just 15 days or your money back. Savvy salesmen have pitched a huge variety of these gizmos to the American public, and some of them have been pretty demented. Grab a towel and get sweaty as we work out with the 10 weirdest exercise gadgets.
For building muscle, nothing works quite as well as simple dumbbells. But there are only so many ways you can sell a chunk of metal with a handle on it, so people are always trying to improve on them. One of the most ridiculous in recent years was the Shake Weight, a modified dumbbell that features an oscillating handle that vibrates as you lift, allegedly to use a concept called “Dynamic Inertia.” In real life, the bizarre self-pleasuring motion involved in using the Shake Weight made it a worldwide joke.
Ab Circle Pro
The stomach muscles are one of the most common sets targeted by fitness gadgetry. That’s because to get rid of unsightly stomach fat and get that six-pack that everybody wants, you have to do thousands of crunches, and crunches suck. So there are dozens of devices out there that claim to get your abs in shape without the work. One of the goofiest is the Ab Circle Pro, a rickety contraption that swivels your torso around and claims to engage muscles that normal crunches don’t. The manufacturers got sued and had to pay out over $15 million in refunds to buyers.
If you’re really into fitness, you’ll want to make sure all of your muscles get equal attention. That’s the idea behind the Face Trainer, a totally bizarre piece of equipment from beauty company no! no, previously better known for their hair removal creams. This headdress, which looks like something from a bargain basement sci-fi movie, works your neck and facial muscles to tone and strengthen them in just ten minutes a day. It works by making simple facial movements more difficult, so it’s kind of like you’re making your face lift weights. Sounds fun.
Nitrofit Vibration Trainer
Vibrating has been a fitness gadget standby for decades, going back to those weird machines with the wiggling belts from the 1950s. The obtuse scientific principle is that the vibration will cause your muscles to tighten more and work harder, but there’s not much hard evidence that it actually works. One of the silliest modern incarnations of this concept is the Nitrofit Vibration Trainer, an electronic floorplate that you rest parts of your body on while you exercise. Needless to say, it looks totally ridiculous.
You’ll notice that a good number of these exercise gadgets claim that you don’t actually have to expend any energy to get fit – just let the machine do all the work. Obviously, this is total bunkum, but people still fall for it. Case in point: the Hawaii Chair, which takes inspiration from the motions of hula dancing to allegedly deliver a powerful core workout while you sit on your butt, “thawing and loosening redundant fat.” The bizarre rotating action of the chair is actually bad for your spine and there’s no proof you’ll lose weight while you look like an idiot.
Jumping rope is actually a really exceptional cardiovascular workout. The rhythm that swinging the rope creates gets your heart rate up and the amount of tension it requires to swing it and jump ensures a whole-body workout. But what if you live somewhere with low ceilings? Well, then you can buy the JumpSnap. It’s a jumprope – without the rope. An “onboard computer” claims to keep you honest by tracking how many times you spin it, but without the actual physical rope there’s nothing that’s actually “exercise” about this.
There are few things more pleasurable than getting into the sauna after a hard workout and sweating out all your accumulated toxins. So why not try to do the same at home? Welcome to the world where Sauna Pants exist. These rubberized jorts are wired for heat, bringing it to your lower body and making you build up sweat. The implication that sweating a lot and trapping that nasty sweat against your skin is good for you in any way is scientifically dubious – the reason the sauna works is because toxins can actually escape.
OK people, can we stop putting the lower-case “i" in front of our product names? We know they weren’t made by Apple so just cut it out. A particularly egregious example is the Osim iGallop, a mechanical chair that is billed as an exercise device for your abdominal and core muscles. The iGallop shares the lazy principle of many of the other items on this list that sitting down counts as exercise if some part of your body is moving, but the health benefits of sitting on this robotic saddle are doubtful at best.
The Shake Weight was bad enough, but it actually was trumped in 2011 by the introduction of an even more ridiculously phallic-looking fitness gadget: the Free Flexor. Unlike its predecessor, which at least sort of resembled a traditional dumbbell, the Free Flexor is just two weighted nubs on a wiggly rod that you use by spinning in front of your chest. It promises “unlimited torque and unlimited tension” that will “make your muscles cry,” but in reality it just looks like a device you’d use to beat somebody to death in Saints Row: The Third.
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SlimSlide Fitness Quest
The 80s marked a whole new era in fitness gadgetry, as millions of American women started looking for something a little stronger than aerobics to get their post-disco booties in shape. One of the most idiotic schemes was the SlimSlide, a cardio workout that used a piece of plastic called a “fitness slide.” You slipped nylon covers over your shoes and shimmied left and right along with a videotape, and since you weren’t picking your feet up and down there was less wear and tear on your cartilage. Needless to say, it didn’t work and quickly was relegated to the dustbin of history.