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Top 5 Items You Need for At-Home Workouts continued...

At-Home Workout Item 3: Balance Equipment 

What Is It: Equipment that challenges your balance while you perform other activities, such as lifting weights or doing crunches.

Benefits: Improves balance, strength in the "core" muscles of the trunk, muscle stamina, and posture. Also encourages better interaction between all muscle groups.

Choices -- $50-$150: Burst-resistant stability balls, soft foam exercise pads; wobble boards; gel-based balance beams.(Balls are sold by the height of the intended user, and range in size from 45 to 75 cm. Foam pads come in a variety of lengths, but are generally about the size of an exercise mat -- about 5 feet x 3 feet.  Wobble boards and balance beams require about 20 square feet of space. )

Choices -- Under $30: Non-burst-resistant stability balls; disc pillows; balance dome.

Trainers' Recommendations: "I like stability balls and the foam pads. They are inexpensive, don't take a whole lot of room, and can provide a variety of workout options," says Bottesch.  While she says both work best when used along with free weights or dumbbells, they can also be used to help increase the effectiveness of simple exercises such as crunches.

At-Home Workout Item 4: Flexibility Training Gear 

What Is It: Equipment designed to help increase muscle flexibility, which in turn may help you to use other pieces of equipment more easily and safely.

Benefits: Better muscle tone; better functional fitness; reduced risk of injury.

Choices -- $200 and over:Pilates machine; stretch machine. (You'll need 35 to 50 square feet).

Choices -- $50 and under: Slant board; stretching bands; foam rollers; mat and towel (10 to 20 square feet).

Trainers' Recommendations: "I personally love the foam rollers -- 4- to 6-foot-long rolls of extremely dense foam that you can lie on or use under your legs or arms to help break up adhesions and allow underlying muscles tissue to stretch ... to a greater degree without hurting yourself," says Bottesch.

At-Home Workout Item No. 5: Guidance 

What Is It:  Whether it comes from a personal trainer or a how-to DVD, instruction is an essential part of any beginner's home gym.

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