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The Best Exercise Equipment You're Not Using

These 12 underrated fitness machines and gadgets could give your workout a boost.

Strength Training Fitness Equipment continued...

Look for a low back extension machine like the Nautilus or the MedEx, in which you work sitting and strapped in so that your form stays intact. Westcott says this type of machine enables you to stay off of your hip flexors and instead use the muscles of your back to do the exercise.

Neck extension machine. "The neck has to hold up a 10-14 pound head all day," says Westcott. Though neck extension exercises are somewhat controversial, Westcott says that -- done properly -- strengthening the muscles of the neck and upper trapezius will help improve posture and avert injury.

"These have been around for decades, and all the football teams use them to strengthen their necks to avoid injury," he says. "People in sports realize how important it is to have a strong support for the head, but the average person doesn't."

Just make sure you get instruction on using this machine, and always take care to use proper form to avoid injury. 

Shoulder rotator machine. The shoulder rotator muscles are often ignored, and this is a good way to work them, Westcott says.

"Because so many people injure the rotator cuff," he says, "we need to work the external rotators of the shoulder."

Generally, he says, "we are not doing enough to strengthen the rotator cuff that holds that loose joint in place. Most everyone ignores the rotator cuff and builds the chest and biceps, but those aren't the ones that hold the joint together."

Wrist and forearm machine. Particularly for women, wrists can be very weak joints. Yet few exercisers work on this area.

With a wrist/forearm machine, you can work the wrist in all directions -- up and down and side to side -- while holding the forearms parallel to the floor, elbows bent at 90 degrees, says Westcott.

If you don't have the machine, Westcott says, there's another way. Simply attach a light weight or sandbag to a dowel with a strong piece of string about 3 feet long. Then practice holding the forearms level while you roll the weight toward the dowel and back toward the floor.

Elastic bands. "People don't realize these bands have benefits that machines can't provide," says Stoppani. "They provide linear variable resistance," he says, which means that as you continue through your range of motion, the resistance increases.

"Bands cause you to recruit more fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are the ones with the greatest potential for increasing strength and are the ones we tend to lose as we age," says Stoppani. "They also can provide resistance in any direction and are great for mimicking sports activities like a golf swing."

Ankle/wrist weights. "Just doing some traditional, old-school calisthenics with weights on your ankles or wrists can give you a great added benefit," says Moreno. "There's something really nice about feeling the whole body having to work to isolate that one area you're working."

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